​​Software concept: how digital transformation succeeds
Inefficient processes have been identified in the company and the will to change is there. The quick answer is: a software solution is needed. Ideally, you would like to start development straight away, but how can you transform the process in a structured way? It takes a solid concept In this case study, we take a look at the software development concept sprint that we carried out for the video game company Ubisoft.
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SIDESTREAM has developed a concept for us to map an existing, Excel-based process in a modern web application. For this purpose, a concept sprint was carried out with the involvement of all departments involved in the process, the success of which was crucial for a high level of acceptance of the new process. The team's way of working is very pleasant and goal-oriented.
Ulf Morys
Ulf Morys, Finance Director Germany
The starting point: dynamic data in rigid tables
The video game industry is a fast-moving field. There are regular new games, updates and promotions. All of this requires careful planning and precise evaluation based on reliable data. Ubisoft's previous process for planning and billing sales campaigns is heavily Excel-based. This allowed the digital implementation of the process to grow over the years. Because Excel is very flexible. In this way, the diverse requirements of the users were mostly covered.

However, in the long run, the implementation of the process becomes ramified. The collaboration between different users on many files, spreadsheets and macros is confusing and leads to a number of disadvantages:

• Employees spend a lot of working time manually maintaining data, e.g. entering sales data and keeping it up to date. This leads to a high expenditure of resources and is prone to errors.

• Data can quickly become inconsistent if controlling at different aggregation levels is possible by "copying together" and modifying different Excel files. This effect increases when different departments use the files.

• Excel spreadsheets make reliable, real-time integrations with external data sources (e.g. Amazon Seller Central) difficult. Delayed availability of data makes it difficult to carry out timely analyzes of the current situation and thus also target planning.
The requirements: Concept for a user-friendly and practical application
After some preliminary discussions, it was clear that the solution to the problem fell within the specialization of SIDESTREAM. When developing solution concepts and developing a new tool, we relied on a “democratic” process. In short: It is not the managers alone who decide what is built, but all the specialist departments involved should be heard. Only if we experience problems and wishes first hand can a sensible solution with a high level of acceptance be designed. The everyday use of the solution is always in focus.

To do this, we used our proven three-step process for concept sprints:
1. Preparation and planning
First, we exchanged ideas with those responsible for the process at Ubisoft and established initial problem areas and solution hypotheses for the process. Despite the management summary, it is important to get deep into the minds of the users and get as much detailed information as possible. The density of information can seem daunting at first. You shouldn't rush into the programming phase if you want to achieve a very good result. Therefore, in the second phase it is important to delve deeper into the process in order to then be able to design a sensible solution.
2. Information gathering
In order to get more in-depth information about the process, we held a remote workshop day with Ubisoft employees. This served to understand the details and connections of the process. We conducted interviews with 1-2 people involved in order to delve deeply into the existing processes and tools and thus understand their individual wishes and needs. In this case, we conducted interviews with the sales, key account management, controlling and internal IT departments and uncovered a variety of problems and requests. For example:

• Better reporting;
• smart autocompletes;
• Partial automation such as campaign duplication;
• Granular access rights and change logs.
3. Elaboration and presentation
Using the information we gained, we developed the concept. In this phase, too, it was important for us to continue to be in close contact with the specialist departments and thus clarify questions, discuss prepared preliminary versions and improve them iteratively. The concept sprint concludes with a handover and presentation of the deliverables.

We have developed the following deliverables for Ubisoft:
UX Wireframe
An essential deliverable is a wireframe that shows what the application will later look like and how various challenges will be solved through a good user experience. Even during the concept sprint, we use the wireframe to go through the various work steps with the respective employees, uncovering gaps in the solution (without having written a line of code!) and increasing acceptance of the future solution. For the Ubisoft wireframe we used the Whimsical tool. This allows for quick iterations and is well suited for table and data-heavy applications.
Target software architecture
Where wireframes uncover and solve various functional blockers, the conception of a software architecture ensures that technical blockers are also uncovered and solved at an early stage. It is essential that requirements from the various abstraction levels (interviews, UI/UX, technical implementation) are communicated smoothly. This is the only way to create a tailor-made software architecture that is as simple as possible (and therefore minimizes effort) and at the same time future-proof and expandable.

The software architecture for Ubisoft consists of a series of microservices: a web app, a reverse proxy, a dedicated user management and a backend including a database. The software architecture was implemented using the draw.io tool.
A development plan
Based on the wireframes and the target software architecture, a development plan can be created as the final deliverable of the concept sprint. Despite agile collaboration, it is important to have a preliminary cost and implementation plan. This increases planning security and enables an ROI calculation of the development project. For the development plan, the developed specifications are divided into several packages, each of which is provided with cost estimates.

The first phase forms the basic structure and in this case was estimated at three 2-week sprints: At the end there is a functioning application with the most important functions and a stable foundation for further functions. We have also already drawn up plans for further phases and sprints. Our credo is: Best value first: All features are weighed in advance according to the benefit-cost ratio (value). Features with the best value are implemented in a prioritized manner. This approach maximizes the business value of the application.

For the Ubisoft development plan, we used the Productplan tool, which has a wide range of relevant features as it was developed specifically for development plans and product roadmaps.
A carefully and practically created concept is the foundation for the development of a solution-oriented application. To achieve this, it is crucial to communicate with everyone involved in the process. This means that both users and participating departments are involved in the planning. In addition to pure information gathering, the focus of planning is on displaying and running through the target application. This means that crucial features and workflows can be developed at an early stage.

After a concept sprint, you are left with a sharpened understanding, a tailored implementation plan and an effort estimate. Now you can decide at your leisure whether, how and with whom the development phase will start.
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