Extending a Helping Hand To Jurisdictions While Streamlining Covid-App Development
The Professional Services Team at the PathCheck Foundation has helped jurisdictions get cross-functions (Governor’s office, Department of Health, Epidemiologies, IT, Partners, etc.) collaborate together to build a customized COVID-19 mobile app that interoperates with their systems and processes in order to provide the most support and least disruption during the pandemic.
The majority of our jurisdictions do not have the resources available to have a professional services team on staff. Instead, they are looking for help supplementing or complementing existing staff and resources by leveraging one of three options 1) an existing partner who knows their systems and organization, 2) the PathCheck Professional Services team if there is bandwidth or 3) a systems integrator or partner from the PathCheck alliance partner network who knows how to work with our open-source software code and is familiar with the process to launch a COVID-19 app.
As we begin working on our 9th jurisdiction’s implementation plan, there are a few critical insights we learned along the way that we wanted to share for others to learn from.
- Invest in a good collaboration tool – having one place where timelines are tracked, people can comment and reassign tasks and see dependencies is essential for a fast-moving critical project. Our Covid-19 app has many swim lanes of activity that require collaboration and alignment, staying aligned is essential when there are external pressures to launch earlier than what is possible. One cannot underestimate the need for a thorough project plan, projects don’t move forward without timelines. The average number of tasks are between 60-90 depending upon the sophistication of systems and customizations needed in the app.
- Pick a project leader that has the time to be engaged daily and responsive to the needs of all stakeholders. Our most successful projects had almost daily 15 minute meetings between the project team leaders, which helped keep the project progressing and avoided delays. If this capability isn’t on your staff, choose a partner to handle.
- Initiate hosting server discussions. An exposure notification application requires two servers- one for Exposure keys, and another for the Verification Server. Since the applications must be connected to these servers to pass through the levels of application approval, these decisions must be finalized during the first 1 week of project inception to avoid launch delays.
- Kick-off the project with all stakeholders together to properly set expectations about project objectives and timeline. There are several dependencies for Exposure Notification apps that rely on input from cross-functional teams that impact the critical path. For example, the marketing/communications team needs to be brought in early as they are responsible for branding,the website URL that is built into the app, and critical app adoption activities.
- Gather system integration requirements. Some of the states and countries that we are working with have had requirements to connect the exposure notification workflow into their internal systems such as manual contact tracing as well as case management. Although the API connections and integration work tends to be relatively lightweight, it is essential to have these requirements identified in the first week.
- Provide a working prototype of the app to all stakeholders so they can begin using the app and assessing implications with existing processes. It’s tough to ask people to make critical decisions without seeing the application or prototype working to put it all in context.
- Test early and often. Making time for proper testing is critical to adoption. We recommend one small “Hello World” type of test with 10-20 users that are in close proximity to one another to be able to receive exposure notifications in the first build. Depending upon the number of customization to the code, the number of subsequent tests will vary with a final test of at least 25 new users closer to Production launch.
- It’s an iterative process – test, feedback, assess, tweak, and resubmit to App Store or Google Play. Repeat. This is a cyclical process until the app, marketing efforts and key influencers/partners are ready to launch to drive app adoption and engagement.
- Stick to the plan and react to the variables. Once you build a detailed plan and a set of requirements, it is recommended to stick to the plan and get your app in the hands of your community and put it to work. We have built the code such that new features can be added as needs, processes and systems change. Some jurisdictions want to go very fast and are missing critical aspects to success, others keep adding new customizations and push dates out trying to make it the perfect app. As a basic rule of thumb, build it for the majority, get that majority to adopt the app and if it isn’t critical, push out the feature later.
We are proud to be supporting many jurisdictions with a customized mobile app and implementing a digital health system for managing COVID-19 response. We have done the research, built and tested the product considering the emotions and stress the user might be under at the time they receive a notification and are launching it to help millions stop the spread of the virus. We remain committed to delivering free, open source software for exposure notification, case management, and other transformative digital public health solutions to any state or country to stop the pandemic.
Interested in learning more about our COVID-19 app? We can get a jurisdiction up and running in under 30 days.
Feel free to contact us.