As a software development company; CU*Answers is constantly moving its product offerings forward, while continually re-evaluating how its solutions stand up to the constant change of the financial industry and needs of current and future clients. This process is documented in our Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), which documents the rules and procedures for approving, tracking and communicating the status of software development as it moves through the CU*Answers production factory, from initial request all the way through final implementation for clients.
A big part of this direction comes from requests by our clients to enhance, expand, or improve features we provide to the marketplace daily. Balancing thousands of development projects we get each year from clients with our desire to be transparent and set our priorities to best serve our network can be a challenging task. But how best to balance those requests and the needs of the collective?
A democratic approach to prioritization
At one of our “Building Solutions in a Cooperative” Boot Camp, we introduced attendees from credit unions across the country to the SDLC. Many were very happy to learn more about the software development process and to gain a better understanding of why CU*Answers makes the decisions it does. But there was still an opportunity for credit unions to discuss the projects and ideas rolling around the factory, and to voice their opinions about which the cooperative should work towards.
To improve this process, CU*Answers and the boot camp attendees worked to develop a new product–Owner’s Voice. The participants created Owner’s Voice to give clients a say in the decision-making process at CU*Answers. The site details projects in different stages of the development pipeline and invites users to vote and help set their priorities. Users can do so by looking at three different categories:
- What To Do Next – This group of projects are approved and are currently waiting for development resources. A vote in this category lets CU*Answers know that the voters of this project think it should be next on the development pipeline.
- What To Stay Focused On – These projects are currently being worked on by a developer. A vote in this category tells CU*Answers to stay focused on this project.
- What’s On The Chopping Block – These projects have been started, but the project has not been worked on in the last 90 days. A vote in this category tells CU*Answers that this project is no longer a priority.
How it works
As a cooperative, client input ensures CU*Answers continues to move in the right direction. Every owner’s input allows the CUSO to shape its future as a collective. Discussion and voting within Owner’s Voice allows everyone to contribute to the process of guiding the priorities for the products and services offered at CU*Answers. Each month clients can help guide what projects to do next, what projects to remain focused on in the now, and which projects are no longer a priority and should be considered for cancellation.
Once the voting period has ended and the Monthly Voting Results Report is given to key personnel within the programming department. This report provides each manager with an understanding of how clients prioritize the work being done by CU*Answers as well as helps them in setting priorities as they assign projects to individual developers. The report is presented at the CU*Answers production meetings and used as a tool for project prioritization moving forward through the rest of the month.
The next big idea is out there, and Owner’s Voice is the vehicle to grow, prioritize, bring value, and complete these projects.