I recently had the opportunity to work on a very exciting project and the first release of VERSA (Vigilnet Electronic Reporting Supervision Application) is now available. You can view the press release here.
In November 2015, I met Jake Dawes, COO of Vigilnet, who had a vision of creating a web-based application that would support supervising low risk offenders, providing offenders an easy way to stay on track with their program, and allowing the judicial system to focus on high risk offenders. Sounds easy, right?
Jake had no experience with software development, but he recognized that there is value to overburdened court systems, tax payers, and offenders if someone could virtually monitor those in the court system that needed to complete certain tasks to comply with their court orders. He imagined an application that would allow offenders to check-in with Vigilnet via a website on their smart phones, tablets or PCs and provide updates, instead of meeting in person with probation or parole officers.
The application needed to allow offenders to upload their certificates of completion via the website, sending it to their case manager for review, instead of manually delivering the paperwork to the court. This would make compliance easier for the offender, as they can do it anytime, anywhere, and it reduces paperwork processing by probation/parole officers.
Many offenders have multiple tasks to complete (such as Anger Management classes, Community Service, Drug Testing, etc.), with varying dates to complete those tasks, so the application needed to send reminders via email or text message to help offenders comply with their terms of supervision.
The application needed to send reports to the courts when offenders had successfully completed their terms of supervision, or if offenders had violated their terms of supervision.
Lastly, since every court has different processes and procedures, the application needed to be designed so that Vigilnet Administrators could configure it to work with any court system. No problem!
Over the next nine months, the renaissance systems team, comprised of myself (as project manager and business analyst), a data architect, four developers and a quality assurance analyst, worked with Jake and his team, educating them on the Agile software development process, understanding their needs, creating user stories and building a quality dynamic application that met their requirements, in the desired time frame.
Being a Product Owner is hard, especially if you haven't had any experience building a software product, and even harder when you are creating an application to provide a service that doesn't yet exist. During the course of the project, Jake transformed into a superb product owner, prioritizing user stories and understanding how to assess their value. I asked Jake what he thought about the process of working with renaissance and transforming his vision into reality and here's what he said:
"We were referred to renaissance systems by a person we trusted and had worked with previously. Working with someone local was key because face-to-face time was something I personally felt I needed in order have enough confidence to take on the project and make the decision to pay for it. Renaissance systems provided me professional and thoughtful services throughout and continues to do so today. My team brought limited software design experience to the table, but renaissance systems made up for this void and brought us up to speed and made things understandable. While the process was by no means a walk in the park, it was effective, it has been efficient, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend renaissance systems to a good friend. We feel like we have a software application that does what we wanted it to do and that we can now use it to assist the criminal justice marketplace. We look forward to continuing the development of VERSA with renaissance systems for years to come. Thank you renaissance systems - most specifically Jennifer, Quentin, Anthony and Josh. You guys are awesome!" ~Jake Dawes, Chief Operating Officer, Vigilnet America, LLC
Hearing someone's vision, making some drawings on a whiteboard, and working with a smart, dedicated and fun team of people to transform that into something real is what I like to do, and this project afforded me that opportunity. I also like to think my work has purpose, and through this project, I was part of a fantastic team that built something of value to the community and the courts.