User Centred Agile Development

The Soil Tech Project team are collaborating to bring existing world class soil science to life in a suite of six digital soil management tools. Together, the tools will provide a new approach to soil management based on analysis of existing farm datasets and other publicly available data.

Led by Andrea Koch, we are using a design thinking approach with a process that moves through four questions: what is; what if; what wows; and what works? At each stage in the process we use a number of tools to focus on how people currently gather and manage soil information and ensure that we translate the science into applications that enhance and add value to that experience.

The Soil Tech Project will revolve around six agile development cycles starting in November 2018 and finishing in 2021. Each cycle kicks off with User Experience (UX) Design to ensure that what is built not only translates the science, but also solves real user problems. The process is iterative. User centred design usually tries not to pre-empt the solution that emerges from the design process, but in this case, we are marrying up the user experience with existing science. The key will be in understanding what the science delivers and where and how this fits in and enhances current practice.

 Our scientists from the University of Sydney and agronomists from ARGIVision Consultants will work closely with the Farmlab developers to design each soil management app, and then the coding begins. Each development cycle will involve three sprints, two to three weeks of coding followed by road testing in the field by AGRIVision and our team of Ground Truthers. How the app performs against user requirements will be fed back to the developers, who will use the information to refine and improve the app in the next sprint.

 At the end of three sprints, the final app will be loaded into the Farmlab platform for anyone to access and use, free of charge. The code will be made available on Github for any other software service providers who would like to integrate these tools into their offering.

 By the completion of the Project in 2021, the aim is to have a new suite of soil management tools that change and improve the way Australian producers and land managers manage soil.

A Novel Approach to Innovation

 We recognise that what we are doing, and how we are going about it, hasn’t been done before. One of the reasons we were awarded this grant was to test out this approach to innovation, with the partnering of scientists, technology developers and agronomists to translate science into new and innovative digital tools for growers and land managers.

 In order to capture the ‘how’ of what we are doing, Andrea Koch will observe and document the process as we go along. Based on the principles of action research, the development cycles will be imbedded within a broader cycle of ‘plan, act, reflect and observe’, with the express purpose of capturing the magic of the collaboration, and sharing it with anyone else who wants to give it a go.

Our Toolkit

 The Soil Tech Project team are located across two States, from Armidale in NSW to Horsham in Victoria. We have a number of online programs in our toolkit to help us to communicate and run the project virtually.

 So far, our toolkit includes the following apps:

Communication

 Zoom – Zoom is an online video conferencing app that we use to get everyone together for weekly project meetings.

Dropbox – all of our documentation is shared in a Dropbox folder

 Project Management

ASANA – We have used the ASANA project plan builder to build the project plan

Instagantt – a handy plug-in that pulls the data from ASANA and presents it in a user friendly gantt chart

 

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