NPower has built its business by helping those who help others. The nonprofit provides IT and other services to charities and social benefit organizations, to enable these client companies to focus on their core missions and constituencies.
“Few people realize just how central IT applications can be to nonprofits,” says John Nevin, manager of technical operations for NPower’s Community Corps. “But just something like being able to do push notifications to people’s mobile phones when there’s a need to organize volunteers quickly, can be crucial.”
And because of the diversity across its client base—with users ranging from technology novices to sophisticated consumers—NPower looks for ways to provide powerful, intuitive interfaces that require little or no formal training, as economically as possible.
“It’s critical to us that users have a great experience,” says Rachell Bordoy, NPower’s director of user experience. “That’s why we’re so pleased with iRise—it’s a very effective means of showing people new features, programs and user experiences.”
Faster, better UI collaboration—especially on iPhone apps
Providing such satisfying user experiences recently got a lot faster, easier and cheaper, once Nevin started experimenting with iRise. The visualization platform creates ultra-realistic prototypes that look and act like final coded applications, so that users can try them very early in the development process, before code is ever written. This empowers teams to have early conversations about usability, when changes are easy and inexpensive to make.
“Now I see such a difference,” says Bordoy. “When you can all be in the same meeting, looking at the same screen even though we’re all spread out, and can get feedback in real time—that’s a completely different meeting from the ones we used to have.”
That difference is particularly striking when it comes to mobile apps—where the interface is everything—says Nevin. “The way that iRise has implemented mobile simulation means that I can just hand someone an iPhone and show him what I need,” he says. “That is just huge.” Nevin says that iRise mobile capabilities were extremely important in soliciting feedback for a community corps volunteer app, which helps alert and mobilize volunteers for causes, particularly on short notice.
Global teams get more understandable input, produce spot-on applications
Being able to hand off a working simulation—a visual, interactive prototype, rather than a text-based requirements document—has made a big improvement in both efficiency and in the quality of the final app. “We used to put requirements into JIRA, and then we’d have to translate them and send them to our global teams. Often, a lot was lost in translation. Now we don’t have that problem,” says Bordoy.
Nevin agrees. “Without a doubt, iRise is making our offshore partners more productive, and we’re getting more bang for the buck this way,” he says. “If we weren’t using iRise, we’d need at least one more full-time person, and that’s a lot for a very lean-running organization.”
Time savings create time for other priorities
Between the speedup in defining and communicating requirements, and the near-elimination of rework, the savings have been striking. “We've already experienced an order of magnitude improvement in speed and efficiency using iRise—from months to a few weeks,” says Nevin. “I had no trouble at all picking up the tool and learning it really quickly. And now that the application development moves along much faster, I have more time to handle all of the other important aspects of my work here.”
NPower’s users agree. “It’s great to be able to fill our users’ needs—and save time and expense in the process,” comments Nevin.