How Australia Post uses Agile to keep 'pissed off' Android users at bay

Australia Post uses Agile software development methods to keep the technology team constantly ensuring that the company's Android app matches its iOS counterpart.

Australia Post used Agile digital delivery teams to overcome problems when initially deploying its Android app, after 30 percent of users were unable to use the app.

Australia Post's business is in a state of flux as more people move away from traditional mail services to online services, and sending and receiving more parcels thanks to e-commerce. The organisation decided to set up a dedicated digital delivery centre, headed up by general manager Cameron Gough. He told the Agile Australia conference in Sydney today that he has a series of teams set up within the centre, working on a number of projects without the normal restrictions that come with a large corporation like Australia Post.

"The idea behind [the centre] was to allow a degree of freedom to explore different ways of working, to really focus on becoming fast, competitive, adaptive, lean, and in the longer run take those practices to the rest of the organisation," he said.

The teams were initially very good at starting projects, but had yet to nail down completing them, Gough said. He said they now make sure they have regular finishes for projects.

The centre was responsible for the Android app originally released in May 2012. He said the company soon learned that when this project was finished, it actually wasn't.

"The problem was, and you all know this in mobile, you can't stop," he said. "Once you put an app out there, you've got to continually invest in keeping it upgraded. One thing I've learned is that if you want to piss off an Android fan, it's to deploy an iOS app that has more features and more functions, [and] that's exactly what we did."

He said that six months after the release, 30 percent of Android users couldn't use the app.

"Over six months, 30 percent of our users couldn't use the application anymore, because it moved to new versions, to new screen densities, new phones," he said.

The rating of the app in the Google Play store at that point was 2.6, he said.

"And the only reason the score was 2.6 was that so many people couldn't access it to give us a poorer rating," he said.

Now, the app is kept up to date by funding being projected to the Android project over a set period of time to ensure that it is continually being worked on.

The biggest challenge the centre faced was that once teams were up and running, there would often be a delay in kicking off a project in one area, meaning that the project would stall. The organisation now has a pool of funding where projects can be worked on while others are waiting to be completed, Gough said.