Custom Software Development and Engineering

People and Software: Developing LEADDR™ All the technology in the world won't help your company unless you understand the people using it

Develop a process that creates value for clients that is repeatable and measurable


LEADDR™, a process to help deliver people centric requirements, goals, and objectives for projects.

Driving down a backroad towards a manufacturing plant in Eastern Washington, Justin Ribeiro was prepared to discuss technology.

"I had it all worked out in my head based on the initial phone conversation", recalled Ribeiro in Stickman Ventures' corporate office in Oakdale, California. "I had the answer but it became apparent almost immediately that I had not been given the proper question."

From that meeting, Mr. Ribeiro, now chief executive officer at Stickman Ventures, begin to develop a different approach.

"Like a lot of folks, I studied Drunker, Deming, Boehm, and many others relating to management and software engineering. The takeaways are deep, but how do you distill that into a process that gives you a better grip on projects of various sizes? I set forth to find out."

Over the course of a decade, Ribeiro and Stickman Ventures refined and a custom process called LEADDR™, which defines how to approach not just projects, but people involved in those projects.

"LEADDR is really about connecting with and being empathic to people who are in the midst of change. You want to develop software, maybe a web portal that manages widgets, and you have then people factor internally of 'how do I even know this is the right way to go?' We're there to take the guess work out it."

What does LEADDR™ stand for and how does the process work?

L: Listen

Listening starts by focusing on interests and not the core positions of the personal involved. By using a mix of reflective and active listening with engaging questions that focus forward as opposed to looking back, we're looking to understand and develop trust.

"Listening isn't about waiting your turn to speak," said Gareth Coen, director of business development at Stickman Ventures. "Listening allows us to develop trust with the team on the other side of the table."

By listening and asking questions as opposed to offering direct off-the-cuff solutions helps us dive deeper with not only stakeholders but also ideally with the employees and daily users of the needed software.

"Getting to the point where people talk about the way they work and the problems and pain points they experience is going to help drive adoption in the long term", said Coen.

E: Empathize

Empathy is the capacity to understand the feeling of what another person is experiencing from within that persons frame of reference. Too often, it's simply ignored as part of the initial project phase, but at Stickman Ventures, we operate with it as a core part of process.

"Getting people to talk about problems or needs in an organization is at times difficult," said Justin Ribeiro, chief exectuive at Stickman Ventures. "You're asking them for trust and you need to empathize with not only their position, but also with the risk they perceive by stating it aloud."

By working with people side by side, surveying customers, and listening to a wide range of stakeholders, we're able to get a better idea of how your business works. Empathy during these initial stages of a project is key to discovering where the victories for a project will ultimately land.

"Doesn't matter the project or company size, if you're not stepping into the end user's shoes you're going to miss the mark," said Paul Perrone, a product manager at Stickman Ventures.

Ribeiro agreed, adding that too often people equate the problem and the person.

"Good person, bad process is our default. We'll be hard on the problem, soft on the person. Otherwise, you cannot succeed in understanding how a company operates."

A: Approach

As conversations and meetings occur, the approach for a strategy begins to take shape that's specific to the organizational need.

"The thing about listening and empathy is that you're on this mutual exploration with the client," stated Perrone. "That exploration leads to differing goals and victories that each stakeholder wants out of a process or piece of software and it's our job to determine the best approach to get there."

During the approach phase, we begin to define several key components to project success. From win-win senarios based on stakeholder feedback and define deeper project definition, to change processes and the economic impact.

D: Decide

The decide phase sets into motion a number of options for any given project.

"If you've captured the right information and defined solid win-win's and economic indicators for a project, the decision phase may still be hard", stated Ribeiro. "Our goal is to help clients decide what options are best moving forward."

The decide phase differs for many clients. In many cases the approach stratgy will define a business case with near and long term result projections and a trackable set of metrics. This along with additional documentation help create a clear line of justification for a project.

"We're not in the business of selling folks a project or custom piece of software they don't need", said Ribeiro.

D: Develop

As decisions are made the process of development begins. Unlike many projects, development has a deeper meaning within the Stickman Ventures process.

"We love writing code and building," said James Duvall, chief architect at Stickman Ventures. "The thing is, if all you're doing is developing on code, you've lost sight of the people in the process."

The develop process extends beyond code into other areas, from team building and training, to change management and organizational improvments. The development course for this items, like sprint items or requirements, is part of the overall rollout process.

"Not every project requires heavy rounds of certain people related tasks, but we make sure we never leave people out of the process as a project develops."

R: Results

Results as a process are defined to allow changes to occur not only after a project has completed, but also as the project is being run. Stickman Ventures consider results and metrics as a data point used as concurrent process to project tasks, allowing changes as needed to meet the end result goals.

"We define metrics with clients that way we can verify not only what was built but also where gaps in the future might need to be filled," said Perrone. "The only constant is change, and metrics help us measure that in a result oriented way."

Numbers at the end of the day provide insight, and we showcase them regardless of the result.

"One thing we don't do is hide bad results," said Ribeiro. "Results numbers are designed to be scrutinized and we expect this action so that proper future decisions can be made."

Refining the outcome

The process, which Stickman Ventures has used for the last several years, has shown notable improvements to client projects. Compared to the success ratio of software projects in reports such as Standish Groups CHAOS, the LEADDR process shows successful resolution improvements of 23% in our 2016 projects.

"A lot of the improvement LEADDR makes is because of the nature of the upfront", said Ribeiro. "We focus on the user and we give solid management solid justification to back the project with resource."

"The empathetic upfront investment in engaging with stakeholders and users pays dividends."

While the process has proven valuable to the way Stickman Ventures is able to serve it's clients, Ribeiro is quick to note that it's not a magic bullet to solve every projects problems.

"LEADDR can't make the claim that it's going to solve all of your problems, which is no different than any other claimed process can," said Ribeiro.

"What LEADDR can do is help us make your the people that make your business tick more successful."

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