Pal W. in MW Stockholm office, Vinston lifecycle father;)

To the last drop: wine, web design and the first collaboration within NoA

When the new Vinston website went live at the end of June, tech lead Wojciech Sowa called it “a miracle”. Take a peek behind the scenes of the first major collaboration between two NoA companies, Making Waves in Poland and Great Works in Sweden.

VinNet, one of Sweden’s top distributors of wine, had a vision to develop a new interactive website. The ambitious goal of the project was “to create the best digital service for wine in Scandinavia”. The initial ideas were broad; they wanted to implement e-commerce functions with a complete order flow, build a CRM system that would enhance marketing efficiency, provide a smart search functionality that enables complex category look up, include gamification elements and encourage wine lovers to share their experience in social media and invite their friends to join the Vinston community.

Making Waves delivered the back-end and front-end development, testing and launching of the website. Great Works was responsible for business relations, strategy and concept phase, as well as interaction and graphic design.

Great-Works

With exciting challenges like the design of the new interactive features, using a Raven DB instead of a standard SQL database and the process of hosting the solution in the cloud, the project journey looked very promising. Soon, however, a number of more serious challenges appeared on the horizon.

Some features had to be dropped due to Swedish legislation. For example, it was discovered that all sales had to go through Systembolaget (Sweden’s state owned distributor of alcohol), rather than through different suppliers.

Halfway through the development, the project environment changed drastically due to unexpected market shifts and all activities were put on hold. In order to continue the project, the scope had to be revised to secure the business needs of the highest priority. Following Making Waves’ proposed MVP (minimum viable product), designed to meet the needs of both VinNet’s marketing department and their clients, it was finally decided that the project could be completed in 2015. “It was a common effort and hard work on all sides to get the project back, which is something hardly anyone expected”, Making Waves’ Project Manager Anna Kasprzykowska said.

An important part of the Vinston project was to establish a collaboration between Making Waves in Poland and Great Works in Sweden. Keeping a steady dialogue with people in a different country is not an easy task, especially when the customer’s circumstances change almost every week. To facilitate communication, Making Waves’ team arranged weekly conference calls and met with the team at Great Works in person as often as possible. “It was definitely an adventure”, Anna concluded, referring to her seven trips to Stockholm. Frontend developer Katarzyna Juszczyk confirms that it became a lot easier to cooperate after spending a few weeks working in the Stockholm office.

Lessons learnt

  • Never give up – not even when it looks like the project has to be stopped. Whilst the initial vision of the website never materialized, the customer and the project team managed to show that  it was possible to release the website within the scope of the restrictions, and the work was not done in vain.
  • It takes time and effort to establish a fruitful cross-collaboration between offices in different countries. It is not a good idea to rely on email communication – best practice is no doubt to meet in person as often as possible and to keep contact through regular video calls or Skype.
  • We have a lot to learn from each other, also internally. In this project, Making Waves’ frontend and backend teams had regular code review meetings where they compared their work and discussed best practice. 

Initially estimated to over 5,300 man hours, the project was finally delivered after around 3,200 hours. But was it a miracle, as it felt like for Wojciech? Perhaps, although it can also be seen as proof of the project team’s enthusiasm, dedication and hard work – a successful cooperation, in other words. There can be no doubt that both Making Waves and Great Works deserve a toast!

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