Agile and responsive: Ottawa’s OPIN hired by B.C. health agency for digital transformation

Haida Gwaii Hospital
Norther Health is a publicly funded healthcare provider serving approximately 300,000 people in B.C.

It’s a trend that anyone with a smartphone can quickly grasp: mobile devices are overtaking desktop computers as the primary source of traffic to most websites.

For organizations that require a robust online presence, this shift can present a daunting challenge as their audience demands a responsive web design that seamlessly renders content on different devices and screen sizes.

This is where Northern Health needed help. The publicly funded healthcare provider for Northern British Columbia serves approximately 300,000 people, but the organization’s websites were not optimized for mobile phones and tablets.

In one month this summer, close to 73 per cent of its more than 92,000 online visitors accessed its website using a mobile phone.

“We needed to make some big changes to our public-facing websites,” says Rosemary Dolman, Northern Health’s regional manager for web services. “They weren’t keeping up with the rapidly growing mobile world.”

This is where OPIN Software, an Ottawa-based digital agency, stepped in. The healthcare sector is a market OPIN knows well after having worked with clients such as Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Cancer Care Ontario, the New Brunswick Health Council and Accreditation Canada.

"There are no surprises at the end."

For OPIN, it was also an opportunity to introduce another client to the Agile method of project management that’s used by the Ottawa firm. The methodology ensures the client has constant feedback during the project’s execution.

“The client sees progress every two weeks,” says Andrea Kvasnica, OPIN’s director of operations. “There are demos and small training sessions so that there are no surprises at the end of the week. And we know that by the time we get to the end of the project, we went in the right direction.”

OPIN switched to Agile in 2016 and now follows that framework in all its projects. The agency found it could deliver projects faster and, more importantly, with higher client satisfaction.

“With collaboration comes transparency. How time and money is spent is something the client is always aware of,” says Kvasnica.   

Accessible website

Northern Health needed its websites to be accessible to all visitors, regardless of any visual, auditory, cognitive or motor impairment. This wasn’t an optional feature: B.C. is expected to introduce new accessibility legislation in 2024 and Northern Health wanted to move early.

OPIN Software

“We want to be proactive and already provide accessible websites when the legislation comes in to place,” says Dolman. “Our old websites were not accessible to visitors with disabilities, especially our aging population.”

Updating the website to make it accessible required many upgrades, including larger font sizes, colour combinations that work for colour-blind visitors or those with aging eyesight, as well as backend coding that lets visually impaired users listen to the page using a screen reader.

Implementing these features required many pieces of information to be exchanged between Northern Health and OPIN at various stages of development – something that the Agile approach, with its two-week project “sprints” – facilitated.

“It helps OPIN keep on track with the project and sets clear expectations as to what is being worked on during each sprint,” says Dolman.

With another project successfully executed using the Agile framework, OPIN is keen to showcase its benefits to more of its clients.

“Agile helps to build teams, and allows the best ideas to surface,” Kvasnica says.

What is Agile?

In the traditional method of project management – often called the “Waterfall method” – the customer’s requirements are gathered at the start of the project. The development team then gets to work and presents the project at the end. This involves minimal interaction between the client and the agency during the execution.

By contrast, the Agile framework is based around relatively short work sequences called sprints. In the case of Northern Health, each sprint was two weeks.

One of the key advantages of the Agile approach over the Waterfall methodology is that it avoids unmet expectations and unpleasant surprises at the end of the project, thanks to the constant interaction between the client and the agency.

The agency gets the chance to continually understand the client’s objectives and receive feedback. The client gets to monitor the progress of the project and make changes during the project execution, rather than only at the very end.

The client is able to lay down the priorities for each sprint. This helps the project proceed in the direction that the client wants, removes confusion, helps the agency deliver a final product on time and within budget. It reduces the risks involved when handling massive projects. It helps deliver high-quality end-product that has been continuously improved based on constant client feedback.

Agile

Key advantages for clients using Agile over the Waterfall method

  1. Collaboration
  2. Transparency
  3. Fast results
  4. Consistent feedback loop
  5. No surprises

OPIN and the Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour

The Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour (GOAT) is the largest non-profit Agile conference in the Canadian capital region. The talks and workshops conducted during the event help industry professionals stay abreast with the latest Agile trends.

OPIN Software  is the industry leader in Agile. The agency works with clients that use Agile and those that do not. Both types of organizations benefit greatly from partnering with OPIN to leverage the benefits of Agile.

For the 2018 edition of GOAT, OPIN went a step further as the event’s platinum sponsor, creating the website and volunteering at the event.

For OPIN, the event is always a great chance to learn more about Agile and hear about the experiences of other organizations.

“We are always excited to learn more about Agile. There’s always room to learn and grow,” says Andrea Kvasnica, OPIN’s director of operations.

The event presents an opportunity to demonstrate the value of partnering with an Agile agency for enterprise digital projects. No matter where an organization is in their Agile journey, the event is a great place to share ideas and build expertise.