Agile development and how to succeed by adjusting priorities

  • Anina Angehrn

The project with Zurich Tourism began in autumn of 2019. The website needed to be migrated from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 in order to put the city back in centre stage.

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This meant a lot of investment in examining what the website needed to be able to do. Design workshops and architecture meetings were held to identify the needs of Zurich Tourism and its users. We were ready for kick-off and set the start date to February 2020, which was easily achieved. We started the first sprint and worked on tickets that resulted out of workshops and planning sessions. We were on schedule.

A smooth start followed by an abrupt change

In the first month, work packages, aka user stories, were started and completed. All issues that came up during the development process for these stories were successfully resolved. Zurich Tourism and our agile development team were very satisfied with the progress. Then came the pandemic! Both Liip and our customers switched from being in the office to working from home within just a few days. Our meetings were held from home, but this was not a major change for Liip. The transition was also hassle-free for Zurich Tourism in terms of infrastructure, so nothing hindered the switch from physical meetings to Google Meets.

COVID-19 hit urban tourism hard

As well as impacting infrastructure, a pandemic also has structural consequences. Tourism continued to face high levels of uncertainty. The budget was uncertain. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was not clear to anyone how significant the slump in turnover would be. Would hotels be able to welcome guests back soon? Would airports soon be bursting at the seams again with people streaming in from abroad? Could restaurants reopen? Would the pandemic be over by the summer? We thought so – at the time. To do as much as we can and support our customer, we reduced resources. Despite the complexity, we did our very best to keep every part of the project moving forward with a slimmed-down team.

Summer, sunshine and moving forward

The long-awaited summer arrived, and it was clear the website would be developed and on time! The difficulty was the migration to Drupal 9 without duplicating the old website – as duplications mean unnecessarily duplicated costs. And, of course, this is best avoided. The stories defined needed to be reprioritised, and in some cases, simplified. Fewer resources and a slower speed meant that we lost time, and it simply was not possible to pack everything in. The features all had to be re-weighted. This also meant that we could no longer implement some features. We simplified numerous stories by reducing their complexity. Some were even delayed to a later point, as the ambitious schedule remained in place. The go-live was planned for the end of 2020, and we stuck to that. This re-weighting also meant managing expectations for the client, as it was no longer possible to implement everything as initially planned. The website’s users were our key focus, and we knew that we would need a little longer for the full implementation. Nevertheless, we naturally wanted to go live with as many features as possible, providing the biggest potential added value for the users.

New priorities do not mean less success

We simplified requirements, stories were re-planned, and ultimately the deadline also had to be pushed back. Zuerich.com was launched on 02/02/2021. The attractive website contained nearly all of the planned features, but it was still missing a full sweep. We are currently developing the ‘nice-to-have’ features, to implement them in the early summer. However, this does not mean that users are restricted in their use of the website, simply that there is even more in the pipeline. We will continue working at full speed and with full resources until the entire scope of zuerich.com is available. We promise customer satisfaction and user-centred online worlds. Now, we all hope that tourists will be coming back soon, and that the new-look Zurich Tourism website will inspire a wide range of people to come and explore the city.


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