Malaysia Green Building Council

CarbonScore: MVP Development for Environmental Impact

Malaysia Green Building Council partnered with us to build and launch the first version of their CarbonScore application.

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Setting the scene: Promoting sustainable buildings (2021-2025)

MGBC embarked on an ambitious journey to promote sustainable building practices in Malaysia from 2021 through 2025. With an innovative roadmap, their primary objectives were to raise awareness about the CO2 emissions related to the building sector, stimulate the adoption of zero-carbon building practices, and support the WorldGBC’s goal of achieving total decarbonization of the construction industry by 2050.

Their pioneering strategy encompassed the development of a carbon scoring product specifically designed for key stakeholders such as building owners, project development companies, and other related entities. This product aimed to provide these stakeholders with a comprehensive understanding of their buildings’ carbon footprints and highlight actionable measures to reduce these emissions. Through this focused approach, MGBC set the stage for a nationwide transformation towards sustainable building practices and contributed to the global fight against climate change.

Problem: A clear path to understanding and improving building carbon scores

A key challenge identified by MGBC was that building representatives lacked a convenient method to comprehend and enhance their buildings’ carbon scores. This gap in the market presented a tangible issue that was hindering the broader goal of nationwide sustainability.

In response to this problem, MGBC envisioned a product that would provide an effective solution. Their proposed product, a user-centric web application, would revolutionise how building representatives assess and manage their buildings’ carbon emissions.

Additionally, MGBC recognized the need for swift feedback loops and recognized that an early market presence could be instrumental in securing funding from potential partners. This prompted the need for a rapid and efficient development process to get the product to market quickly, thus facilitating faster user feedback and fuelling future enhancements.

Building sustainable futures: A synergistic collaboration between construction and software experts

It all started when a trusted partner recommended Hivekind to MGBC. They were looking for an experienced software development company that could handle their vision, and Hivekind seemed to be just the right fit. With a solid track record in building scalable web applications and a startup-like agility, Hivekind was an ideal match for MGBC’s dynamic and forward-thinking approach.

Hivekind’s philosophy was centred around building ongoing and collaborative relationships with clients. This approach aligned with MGBC’s desire to develop their product through an iterative and exploratory process. As the conversation unfolded, it was clear to MGBC that Hivekind wasn’t just a software development company. We were partners who could provide valuable insights into product development and user needs.

With our expertise in crafting high-standard web applications and deep understanding of user-centric design, Hivekind could determine what exactly should be built to fulfil MGBC’s users’ needs. As a result, a fruitful collaboration was formed, setting the stage for an exciting venture into the sustainable building landscape.

Project initiation and communication strategy for remote collaboration

Hivekind prioritised a thorough project initiation process, setting clear paths for communication, document procurement, and synchronisation with third parties. As a standard Hivekind practice, we use Scrum to organise our team and our work. The cadence of fixed-length Sprints would provide regular progress in predictable increments. Sprint Reviews would provide a time for stakeholders to learn about project developments.

Being a remote team and working with remote clients and third parties, Hivekind placed a high priority on effective written communication. A central document became the main source of project information, including:

  • Project charter outlining the project’s high-level purpose and current state.
  • Project roadmap, product backlog, and sprint roadmap and sprint board.
  • Communication method with the team.
  • Primary stakeholders.
  • Links to relevant documents.

The team updated this document continuously, ensuring that anyone with a question could refer to it for comprehensive, up-to-date information. We prioritised complete transparency in our dealings with MGBC. Throughout the product development process, MGBC was kept abreast of the progress made and any challenges encountered via our weekly email update. This is a standard at Hivekind - we believe in fostering an environment of open communication with our clients. Our transparent approach facilitates swift resolution of issues and empowers the client to mitigate risks effectively.

“I must say your team is awesome, and very professional in handling the project. I am impressed how the team manages the project well and smoothly. So glad that we made the right choice choosing Hivekind :)” - Sie Ting, CarbonScore Council Member

Refining the high-level process flow

Before starting development, the team meticulously refined the high-level process flow, covering every aspect of the customer journey. Each swimlane - customers, admins, manual processes, and data storage and retrieval - was incorporated, ensuring a clear understanding of the project’s approach with the client.

Leveraging rails: The key to rapid MVP development for CarbonScore

Hivekind recommended Rails as the platform as the platform’s compatibility with the majority of MGBC’s requirements proved vital in the subsequent stages of the development process.

Rails was a great fit for the MGBC’s needs and the scope of the CarbonScore project. It is a robust web application framework, which allows for rapid prototyping and is a natural fit for applications that involve databases, complex user interfaces, and multi-user access, as was the case with CarbonScore.

Rails provides a rich suite of tools and libraries that significantly simplify the development of both Admin and Customer portals. For the Admin portal, Hivekind harnessed the capabilities of a well-known gem called ‘Administrate’. Created by experienced developers for the community, Administrate simplifies and accelerates the generation of necessary structures, leading to a substantial reduction in development time. For the Customer portal, Rails offers a secure, flexible, and user-friendly foundation that can be customized to perfectly fit the project’s needs. The framework is built to follow web standards, meaning the code it produces is generally clean, easy to maintain, and compatible with a wide range of browsers and devices. This ensures that the application runs smoothly and consistently for all users.

Rails operates on a ‘Convention over Configuration’ philosophy. This means that Rails comes with a set of sensible defaults that help to get an application running quickly without needing to make a lot of small decisions about how things should work. This convention-driven approach allowed the team to hit the ground running and maintain a consistent pace of development.

Rails comes with a built-in testing framework that encourages developers to write tests for their application. This allowed the Hivekind team to build a well-tested, reliable application from the get-go, ensuring the quality and stability of the CarbonScore platform.

Outlining the MVP roadmap and the development approach

Hivekind outlined a clear roadmap based on the high-level process flow, adopting a functionality-first approach that prioritised operational features over aesthetic ones. The team followed this roadmap.

Starting the Project: Involving project brief, high-level process flow, and decision on the technical approach.

Sprint 1: Focused on core flows in a functionality-first manner.

Sprints 2-3: Undertaken for full development of each feature (per Epic).

Sprints 4-5: Utilised for refinement and wrap-up for MVP release.

Engineering a form application for MVP, and scalable for next iteration

Streamlining hosting solutions: A focus on efficiency and manageability

Recognizing MGBC’s limited in-house technical resources, Hivekind proposed the adoption of a Platform as a Service (PaaS) for hosting. This suggestion stemmed from the understanding that MGBC needed a solution that was not only cost-effective but also easily manageable without requiring deep technical expertise.

PaaS offers a comprehensive hosting environment, where services like servers, storage, and networking are managed by the provider. This allows organisations like MGBC to focus primarily on the development and management of their applications, leaving the intricate tasks of infrastructure management to experts in the field.

Hivekind team carefully dissected the trade-offs between various hosting options. The aim was not merely to find the most affordable solution but to identify a platform that balanced cost-effectiveness with key features such as scalability, reliability, and ease of use. This thoughtful approach was critical in ensuring MGBC could handle the hosting environment with minimum hassle while ensuring the platform could adequately support CarbonScore’s growth and performance.

By leaning on PaaS for hosting, we ensured that MGBC could maintain and scale their application seamlessly, without the need to divert resources into building and managing a complex hosting infrastructure, thereby aligning perfectly with the agile and MVP-centric approach of the project.

Harnessing automation: Excel parsing to streamline development and client control

In line with the MVP approach and understanding the client’s comfort with familiar tools, we decided to leverage Microsoft Excel - a tool that is already a staple in MGBC’s workflow. MGBC had been using Excel to define and calculate carbon scoring, and we recognized the opportunity to automate this process within the new web application. This decision catered to the technical requirements of the project and moreover, we leveraged our existing knowledge from previous projects that utilised a similar approach. This strategic decision enabled us to expedite the development process, bypassing lengthy and complex technical discussions, thanks to our readily available expertise and prior experience.

In our technical implementation, we created a mechanism to parse the Excel sheets, read the inputs and then display the corresponding forms on the web application. This method significantly simplified the development process. By directly translating Excel sheets into interactive forms, we removed the need for hardcoding each individual form.

Moreover, this approach bestowed greater control and flexibility to the MGBC team. They were able to modify the forms by simply altering the Excel sheets and the team will help to re-upload them to the platform, without requiring additional coding intervention. This provides an easy way for the client to maintain control over updates to the form.

The ability to automate form creation and modification through Excel parsing not only made our development process efficient but also empowered MGBC to maintain their platform effectively. This demonstrates how innovative, customised solutions can enhance the MVP development process, resulting in a product that is both user-friendly and adaptable to future needs.

Proactive problem-solving: An experimental approach to Excel parsing

In the realm of agile development, proactive problem-solving is a virtue. Recognising that the client was uncertain about the potential outcomes of their users’ data input, we sought to devise an experimental solution based on the pain points shared by MGBC during our Sprint Review.

The potential problem was situated around the uncertainties related to the variability of user data to be inputted into Excel sheets. Our proposed POC feature aimed to alleviate this issue by generating different form options derived from the Excel input. These forms would dynamically adapt based on user selections at the early stages, displaying only relevant fields corresponding to the user’s previous input.

We demonstrated this experimental feature to MGBC, highlighting how it could intelligently accommodate and process a range of user inputs. The demonstration successfully addressed MGBC’s concerns, showcasing the capability of our proactive solution.

Following the successful validation of the feature’s utility and effectiveness, it was promptly integrated into the application during the next sprint. This proactive measure enhanced the user experience during MGBC’s workshop sessions and streamlined their data input process.

Fostering success and building relationships

The success story of Hivekind’s partnership with MGBC is deeply rooted in our strategic project initiation, emphasis on functionality-first development, effective planning, utilisation of existing technologies, and a keen understanding of the client’s needs. The delivery of CarbonScore marked a milestone in our journey, yet it was only the first step towards a promising path full of continuous improvements and innovations.

With a remarkable turnaround of just 2 months, the team was able to launch the MVP product for CarbonScore. This swift deployment was instrumental in enabling MGBC to start collecting feedback from their existing customers and building a case for securing additional funding.

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