Obeya, a Japanese word for ‘big room’ or ‘war room’ in this context is a visual form of project management, and all other aspects of visualizing project status. This leading car manufacturer uses Obeya practices with the purpose of continually improving upon efficiencies, reducing costs, and exposing risks. Large teams physically gather in a room to view paper reports on walls, discover if a critical issue has arisen, and be able to act on them instantly and consistently.
This manual process (that had not changed in over 50 years) had many limitations. They required a physical room, it was difficult to collaborate remotely, documents had to be updated and printed regularly and posted manually, and participants had to be physically present to get any value from the process. The locked rooms also contained valuable IP and were only accessible by specific people.
The customer wanted a custom virtual obeya application to leverage the unique value of modern technology for collaborative brainstorming, project storytelling, data visualization, and group collaboration, when they were physically together and when they were remote.
The Microsoft Surface Hub at the time was new on the market and was chosen as the primary display hardware. Using these new displays would allow for better use of shared meeting space reducing real estate costs. It also allowed for a rich interactive experience with remote capabilities, a primary project goal. The custom application also needed to be cross-platform for use on the Surface Hub, laptops, tablets and phones.
Imaginet was their clear choice as the development partner for several reasons. We have a proven expertise in developing visual control systems on the Microsoft technology stack, coupled with the ability to develop for the Surface Hub, which few companies have experience with.
The project was to develop a cloud-based .NET web application to run in Azure, and integrate it with SharePoint Online, Power BI, as well as other Custom Web Applications and Reporting systems.
Imaginet’s principal consultants met with the A/V team and the executives, who manage the hundreds of application users, to observe how they were using the physical project rooms.
Extensive interviews were held for requirements gathering. Through these sessions, it was discovered that no two teams manage their projects identically, which would greatly influence the feature set.
Imaginet conceptualized an MVP (Minimal Viable Product), which was to digitize an Obeya room. The team started with a virtual Obeya Proof of Concept (POC) – an app that adds value with only a basic feature set to start – then continued iterating based on feedback from users and stakeholders.
As part of the POC, Imaginet’s developers created basic functions of linking documents and assigning them a status. It was important to make the application flexible enough to handle the varied team requirements; therefore, mechanisms for voting and suggesting were integrated.
The development team looked for request patterns to be able to prioritize development, and then worked these features into the virtual Obeya app. Imaginet used an Agile approach, communicating daily and continuously testing new features throughout implementation.
Teams piloted the POC and shared their knowledge with other teams for continuous feedback. Remote users stated that it was challenging to use the web app over the phone because of the small screen size (that had to translate an entire room of data.) Imaginet created a better mobile experience by developing a native mobile app for both Android & iOS using Xamarin.
The customer’s teams are using the virtual Obeya application, now named Virbeya, across North America. It works with virtually any identity provider including Federated Authentication. There is also a ‘remote authentication’ option to login to a session via a mobile device (rather than entering credentials directly on the screen for the case when using a large touch screen device such as the Surface Hub).
Watch this video to learn more about Virbeya.
In all, Imaginet developed three versions of the application.
- A Web App accessible from any modern browser. It has an adaptive layout for iPad, and Android Tablets.
- A Mobile App with a subset of functionality such as notifications & alerts, and status viewing.
- A Windows 10 Universal App that allows for a full touch/pen experience on interactive displays and devices such as Microsoft Surface Pro, Microsoft Surface Hub, PPI and SmartSkype for Business.
Duration: Phase 1 – (MVP) 3 months, Phase 2 – Monthly feature releases over 2 years
- Benefits of Obeya practices without the physical space requirement
- Reduced real estate costs and requests for meeting spaces
- Solved manual deficiencies with real-time updates of underlying analytics
- Accessible by remote teams, on any device, from anywhere
- Used for Project Management, and Device and Data Management in any industry