If you’ve survived successful software development without serious scars, 🎊 congratulations! 🎊 This is no small feat. Building new software is like running an obstacle course made of communications challenges. We’ve dodged, weaved, and surmounted all those development hurdles here at Gliffy, most recently while building Gliffy Project, our new Jira app that maps tickets to a visual plan. Gliffy Project is a tool that helps designers — and others working in development — make short work of obstacles.
Brian runs Gliffy’s design team. He helped successfully develop Gliffy Project and he used Gliffy Project to do so.
As Director of UX, Brian's focus is on product design and user experience. His top priorities include strategizing with product management about our new product, aligning with leadership groups on product vision, and then communicating that vision to the engineering teams that will build it.
This process (common enough in the software development life cycle) is full of hidden peril. Why? Because even with the three small teams that work closely together at Gliffy (product, design and engineering), product vision gets translated and diluted as it makes its way from person to person. It's a game of telephone. More often than not, by the time the game plan reaches the team members who actually do the engineering, it is pretty much unrecognizable.
Having experienced the highs and lows of software development, our team set out to build a product that leveraged what we’d learned from trial, tribulation, and our hard won successes.
But let's let Brian share his personal perspective on both building and using our new Jira app, Gliffy Project.
The Way it Was
Before Gliffy Project, Brian’s process when starting to build a new product was to get a group of people in a room around a whiteboard to talk about goals, problems, and potential solutions. Inevitably, those initial sketches would disappear and everyone would take away their own personalized version of what had been agreed upon. At best, the visual would be translated into some form of written requirements document that languished unread in some long lost thread.
One of the biggest pitfalls with the current way of starting out a new product build is that people’s memories are super fickle. As time goes by, that agreed-upon picture that people walked out of the room with tends to morph based on their own biases.
Wouldn’t it be great, he thought, if there was some way to capture those initial sketches and build on them as the product evolved. That way, everyone would have the same point of reference to jog their memories. And, working together with the Gliffy team, Gliffy Project was born.
So What is Gliffy Project?
At its core, Gliffy Project is a communication tool for different teams who tend to speak different languages, but have to work together to build software.
Today, more than ever, teams communicate across different languages. Engineers speak code, business people talk numbers, designers think in color. Gliffy Project, instead, uses the universal language of images to overcome communications barriers. Rather than sending teams in different directions to accomplish individual tasks, it gathers them around a unified vision of the product they’re all working to create — a big picture. Not only do they see the project top to bottom, but they also see where their individual work and that of their co-workers fits in and overlaps.
Gliffy Project uses interlinked diagrams and other images to create a 3D map of a progressing development project. Onto this map, people like Brian can add hotspots that automatically link to (or create) Jira tickets. You can see all your issues right there in Gliffy Project, including which are in progress and which are complete.
Once Brian started using Gliffy Project, he was able to leverage the visual artifacts his team was already creating,
Whether it was sketches on a whiteboard, or wireframes, or high fidelity mockups, we were able to put them at the center of the development process. Now, every piece of work was being done with that visual plan in mind.
Gliffy Project also helps people keep all the important elements in mind. By virtue of constantly having visual plans at the center of a team’s workflow, the entire team gets the plan and the vision constantly reinforced for them, so everyone stays on course.
As designers, Brian and his team are almost always in some form of a planning stage. They work with an eye towards what’s next for the product and for the user. With Gliffy Project, they have a place to keep all those plans available and accessible. Not only does this reduce the rate of miscommunication, but it also helps those working on Jira tickets to see their work in the larger context — including showing any overlap or dependencies.
Get Started with Gliffy Project in Three Steps
1. Sync your Jira board to Gliffy Project.
2. Upload a visual that represents what you're working on.
3. Create hotspots, then either map your existing tickets on to your visual or create new ones directly from your visual.
Gliffy Project gives teams a concrete, common goal to work towards — something failed projects lack.
Brian, Gliffy's Director of UX, says that the way he works has changed since he started using Gliffy Project. It has saved him time, kept miscommunication to a minimum, and allowed him to be more specific with both his team and the stakeholders he interacts with. It has also brought both him and his team one step closer to the product vision.
What Gliffy Project has done for our project team is given us a single place for the entire team to come in and see the latest version of the plan, so they can execute their work within the context of that big picture plan. It has really streamlined the ticketing process. Now, instead of having to write two or three paragraphs of text describing what I need, I just tag a ticket on top of a visual
Brian can now:
- short circuit conversations by referring back to visuals
- see how and when requirements change
- grasp the big product idea more quickly and spot problems earlier
- hang on to all comments that were made rather than losing them when a ticket is closed
- streamline and upgrade the hand-off to engineering, by showing instead of describing
Brian has gone from writing paragraphs of text in a ticket, to simple typing in 'change this thing here.'
Instead of figuring out ways to describe what he pictures, he supplies the picture itself!
Not only does having a visual point of reference give teams a common goal to work towards, it also helps them remember details better (because 65% of us are visual learners).
Gliffy Project has different benefits throughout the software development lifecycle:
At the beginning
- Gets teams together to create visual plan and work out any confusion
- Aligns teams to a common goal
- Gives multiple teams a single place to store all documentation
- Provides an overview of who is responsible for which part of the build, highlighting potential dependencies
- Ensures that there is less back-and-forth during hand-off from product, to design, to engineering
In the middle
- Gives instant visibility into changes to product requirements
- Reduces miscommunication
- Allows anyone to compare old visual with new so they can quickly see what's changed
- Clear audit trail for post-mortem
- Easy way to see where the blockers were and what went wrong
Gliffy Project is a flexible tool that lends itself well to different use cases. For those who manage large teams and need a quick, high-level overview, it can quickly show progress and dependencies. For those who need to keep track of daily tasks, it can show a granular view of what has been finished and what is yet to be done. Gliffy Project can be a visual checklist or a repository of bugs that need fixing. But whatever other purpose it serves, Gliffy Project ensures that teams are aligned around a single vision of success.