Miguel Barreto, CEO of Home Energy spoke to us next on "Launching a New Product in a Fast and Agile Way" Home Energy is a new company that's part of Martifer, a Portuguese renewable group. Home Energy was established in May 2008 with a goal of being a market leader in a new space opened up by new regulations related to Energy Certification and Micro-generation (small photo-voltaic panels for home use) for the domestic housing market. January 2009 was when the market was going to take off and Home Energy needed to be ready to support a 200,000 housing market.

Home Energie presents how agile product development helped them launch a new product

A little explanation: new domestic home sales require an energy certification on the Energy Class of their home and measures/recommendations that can be taken for improving energy efficiency. E.g. solar panels, window types and insulation. The Energy Class is dependent how much energy a house requires to keep it comfortable as compared to established benchmarks.

The big challenge was to be ready for a January 2009 launch with a company that was started in May 2008. The Home Energy business plan and strategy relied on strong technical support and had a goal of having a live system in place by October 2008, with just 3 months for development.

Miguel described the Home Energy system where a client has to call the call center (or real estate agent partners send in clients through the website) - a team of 50 field agents/consultants are scheduled throughout Portugal to visit the client homes and assess their Energy Class. This information is uploaded to the servers and the experts at home office execute the process to establish the Energy Class - customers then pay for the assessment online, at which point the team is able to make the home's Energy Certification available.

While other potential vendors said they could not address all of Home Energy's requirements within the time frame - the OutSystems partner Reditus proposal using the OutSystems platform was chosen because of its ability to address the aggressive timetable, develop rapidly and change while the systems was in production - as new business requirements came up.

Although Miguel was initially skeptical on the flexibility of the tool and how easy it would be to change things -he was very pleased with how it worked in practice. He felt that the multiple sprint approach enabled the business team to get a really good feel for the application as it was being developed -allowing them to make improvements while it was being built and ensure it addressed their needs.

Miguel showed a number of very cool screenshots of their complete application - including  integration with GPS systems for home location and aerial pictures of the house; the ability for consultants to draw on house maps, and assuming enough information...almost automatic generation of the certificate for the clients. Built with a team of 8 people in the first 3 months, this fully integrated system went into production on time and Miguel and team were extremely happy with the outcome.

Miguel wrapped up with a set of their key findings:

  1. A good RFP that focused on key user needs was critical - even though things have changed since.  Approx 70% of the original RFP was implemented - the other 30% were "wish list" items that the team realized they didn't really need...and were subsequently replaced by another 50% that came from market changes after the initial system was implemented.
  2. Short rounds (sprints) of demos with key users were extremely important, establishing a good working relationship and interactions between users and technology team.
  3. Flexible tools facilitate and enable entrepreneurial flexibility - a very important point that underlies the overall success of this case study.
  4. "Custom is better and more efficient than standard approaches" - Miguel's past experience with a packaged or standardized approach is that it became very difficult since the package too much functionality than was needed for the business users - but he felt that custom builds were possible without huge expense - even though they meant potential rough starts.
  5. The development team was dedicated to this project and their spirit and proactive behavior was important- where they focused on the end result and drove overall success.

  6. This is the second case study where we've heard about how changes in economy or regulation open up new market opportunities - for those who are the most innovative and nimble (the other was Andries Schilt at Main Energie) - are you seeing the same thing happen in your industry? What technologies are you using to take advantage of the opportunities?