November 20, 2014 | Written by: Rachel Reinitz
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The Bluemix Garage is already proving to be an exciting and valuable approach to developing innovative applications with both new and existing IBM clients, ranging from startups to major enterprises. Responding to this strong interest and the success of the San Francisco Garage, we are expanding our global capability to the UK by opening our next Bluemix Garage in London. The demand was so great, in fact, that we actually went operational before the formal launch!
The London Garage is located in Level39, Europe’s leading technology accelerator focused on finance, retail and future cities, based in Canary Wharf. Level39 is home to over 100 startups and is growing fast. The Bluemix Garage is located in their High Growth space, an area designed for fast growing businesses and collaborations with larger technology companies.
This is following on our terrific partnership with the entrepreneurial community Galvanize with ~200 startups right outside the glass walls of the Bluemix Garage in San Francisco. Both partners have a strong focus on community and provide great environment for innovation.
In my 2 minutes of fame, Jim Deters and I talk about our visions for bridging between enterprises and startups. We become an active member of these entrepreneurial communities to foster learning by all involved.
The Bluemix Garages are doing a wide variety of projects with clients all focused on innovation and agility … rapidly building apps that people want to use. We are running hack-a-thons with clients; some focusing on engaging non-employee developers and others for employees. We never cease to be amazed at the innovative ideas that emerge from the collaboration of our customers and the Bluemix Garage developers and designers.
Not all apps should be built – failing fast truly is good business
We are applying lean startup techniques with IBM Design Thinking to dig into user experience design. We challenge our clients to identify underlying assumptions about usage of their app, turn those assumptions into hypotheses, and run tests. For one of our banking clients, it isn’t clear that their target customers would use the app they envision. So, we are going to build a very quick prototype, take it to their customers, and gather data to validate whether to build it and, if so, which features are most important. Together, we will either fail fast or deliver the minimal viable product (MVP).
Of course, we are also building cloud services and apps for clients applying IBM Design Thinking (the same design thinking that helped to build Bluemix) and eXtreme Programming techniques. We start every project with a design workshop, usually 2 days, where we dig into the persona of the target user of the app, do as-is and to-be storyboarding, explore ways of meeting the user’s needs, identify hypotheses and more. We guide our clients to define a truly minimal viable product and develop the initial user stories that comprise that MVP. Usually from there, we start development with our experienced cloud developers; doing pair programming, test driven development, devOps, refactoring, etc. These XP practices enable the product manager to reprioritize the user stories as she wants based on learning from experiments and other user validation.
In San Francisco, we built a quick survey for financial status targeted at folks who are not in strong financial shape, seeking to engage them in using our client’s resources. I was amazed at what our designers and the client product manager came up with – they found a way to make the user curious about what comes next – not at all a dry survey.
Another project we are working on is creating and scaling a new reusable service and SDK using existing on-premise backend services and making that new service available into the new Bluemix private API Catalog to explore exposing the service to external developers and becoming part of the API Economy.
We have our core methodology, techniques, and offerings that we adapt for clients as needed. One of the healthcare startups we are working with has developers in South America, but needs guidance on designing the MVP and acceleration on using Bluemix, so our engagement with them focuses on design and technical reviews/guidance. For a retail startup, we are starting an assessment for migration from a different cloud vendor to Bluemix.
The London Garage team is already in high demand, with projects in the pipe that range from a web-site to driving public financing for the construction of a major new tourist attraction, to an app for encouraging smarter use of transport options for daily commuter journeys.
Many enterprise clients are interested in how the Bluemix Garage can lead them in transforming how they design and develop apps. These clients send not only product managers, but also developers and sometimes designers to be co-resident and pair with us at the Garage to experience the Garage approach. After a successful project, together we develop a roadmap of transformation.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit to either our London or SF Garage. Jeans are the dress code and ping pong is the game of choice. Stay tuned as more news from the Bluemix Garages will be coming.