​​Software concept: how digital transformation succeeds
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"SIDESTREAM 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 good progress of which was decisive for a high acceptance of the new process. The team's way of working is very pleasant and goal-oriented."

Ulf Morys, Finance Director Germany, Ubisoft

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 branches out. 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 on manual data maintenance, e.g. sales data is entered and kept 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 SIDESTREAM's specialisation. In the development of solution concepts and the development of a new tool, we relied on a "democratic" process. In short, it is not the managers alone who decide what is to be built, but all the specialist departments involved should be heard. Because only when we hear about problems and wishes first-hand can a sensible solution be designed with a high level of acceptance. The day-to-day benefits of the solution are always in focus.

To this end, we have used our proven three-stage 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 participants 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 gained, we worked out the concept. In this phase, too, it was important for us to remain in close contact with the specialist departments in order to clarify questions, discuss and iteratively improve preliminary versions. The concept sprint is concluded with a handover and presentation of the deliverables.

We 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 reveal and solve various functional blockers, the conception of a software architecture ensures that technical blockers are also revealed and solved at an early stage. It is essential here that requirements from the various abstraction levels (interviews, UI/UX, technical implementation) are communicated smoothly. This is the only way to create a customised software architecture that is as simple as possible (and thus minimises 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 administration and a backend including database. The software architecture was implemented with the tool draw.io.

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 effort estimates.

The first phase forms the basic construction and in this case was estimated to take three 2-week sprints: at the end there is a functioning application with the most important functions and a stable foundation for further functions. In addition, we have already set up plans for further phases and sprints. Our credo is: Best Value first: All features are weighed up in advance according to their value. Features with the best value are implemented with priority. This procedure maximises the business benefit of the application.

For the Ubisoft development plan, we used the Productplan tool, which has a wide range of relevant features because it was developed specifically for development plans and product roadmaps.


A carefully and practically created concept is the cornerstone for the development of a solution-oriented application. To this end, it is crucial to enter into an exchange with all those involved in the process. This means that both users and participating departments are involved in the planning. In addition to the pure gathering of information, the focus of the planning is on the presentation and play-through of the target application. In this way, decisive features and workflows can be worked out at an early stage.

After a concept sprint, you are left with a sharpened understanding, a tailor-made implementation plan and an estimate of the effort required. Now you can calmly decide whether, how and with whom to start the development phase.

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