From our CEO, Craig Waldon.
One of our Company values is Plan. It represents an expression we have used internally, that is “Think, Plan, Do, Measure and Review”.
When we looked at formalising our culture to a set of values last year, one thing that was important to us as a company was that the values should represent the way we do business and who we are. It shouldn’t be something that we thought we should be or could aspire to.
The Plan Value
The Plan value evolved over time as we grew and looked for better ways to work. When I joined the business in 2001, we were very good at developing templates for our audit and financial reporting customers. However, this caused significant time pressures waiting for updated templates from 3rd party content providers to ensure our Audit and Financial Reporting templates were compliant with any updated standards issued by the regulator.
This made it difficult to both plan effectively and to smooth out time pressures for our development team. We wanted to deliver on-time, fully tested software products, but that was not always possible.
There had to be a better way, so we started to take control of the template standards content by working closely with independent Audit and Financial Reporting experts. This made a huge difference and today we have:
Carmen Ridley, a current member of the Accounting Standards Board, provides her expertise in Financial Reporting standards for our Financial Reporting product
Sharlene Anderson consults on our SMSF Audit product content
David Stevens provides his Audit expertise for our Audit System and Public Sector Audit templates.
By controlling the timing of the updates to the standards, we were able to better plan our development work, smoothing out the dramatic levels of activity just before updated standards needed to be implemented. We also brought forward our annual release date for the templates by 8-9 months, something our customers appreciate, as it allows them to plan the update for their staff and fully understand any changes made in the software to comply with the standards.
In 2008, the whole development team undertook an Agile Methodology training course and we started to plan better and deliver better results, using our version of Agile. Planning work and the use of the word “iteration” became very common at CaseWare Australia & New Zealand and we felt this started to make a real difference in the way we delivered product to our customers.
In addition, a few years ago, I started talking about Plan – Do – Measure – Review. It is easy to say and relatively easy to understand. The fact that other people I know have started using this phrase says to me that it resonates in a work sense. And it can apply to the whole business, not just the development team.
The idea was that we would take the time to Plan before we started Doing the work. Importantly it ensured we also Measured what we did, helping to understand the effort required with budget and time constraints. Finally, we would consciously Review to see what worked and what didn’t,
Recently, the word ‘Think’ was added to the values.
We took inspiration from the team behind the Basecamp product and we have now instituted a “Think Week”, followed by a 6 week development period consisting of three 2-week iterations. This Think Week allows us to research, discuss, consider and agree upon, then prioritise, the work that needs to be done in the next 6 weeks. It has become an important element of the way we work and ensures that we discuss things with others, considering other options and ideas. It also provides a better understanding of the overall priorities of the business and ‘the why’ for each employee, so everyone is more engaged in their work.
So the Plan value has evolved to where it is today. It will probably continue to evolve as we grow and as we face the different challenges of a changing development environment and the rapid pace of change of new technology.
But what this story shows is that the Plan value is very much a part of us and the way we work on a daily basis. It has not been developed as a value we aspire to, but rather is a representation of one of the values we have. And that’s an important distinction.