These days we all need to feel supported and not on our own with our troubles and problems. And speaking about kids (especially the ones with the special needs), they require this inclusion and support even more. Our team always puts our soul in every project, so needless to say how glad we were when David Paice came to us with his noble app idea. David was very passionate about it, he wanted to build a solution called Includmi and make it as helpful as possible for all the kids with the special educational needs. Our team was inspired by this idea and did everything depending on us to make Includmi a success.
By now you may be very interested in this project. You may be wondering what is this Includmi app about and who is David Paice that came up with that app idea? So let’s speak a little bit about that before we proceed to our interview. And to begin with, let us introduce David Paice.
David Paice lives in the UK and he is currently the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Lead for NHS Digital. He worked at Director level with over a dozen Local Authorities and Central Governments.
David is the owner of Includmi app that aims to make education more inclusive. Thanks to Includmi app children can track 8 key elements of their wellbeing, share posts and chat with special support groups. The support groups can generate well-being feedbacks and render necessary assistance to kids who truly need that.
To get a better understanding of what Includmi app does and how schools (and most importantly kids) can benefit from it, check out the video below:
This solution meant a lot to our team as well and we consider it a real success. After all, there are not so many apps that are not just entertaining but very useful and socially significant. We hope that the schools will have an opportunity to test it soon and appreciate all options it offers. And meanwhile we asked David to tell us more about his app and its success story.
D: There are still challenges with what I’ve got to do. So the project was completed and it’s now a pretty much a minimum viable product. So it is not yet a success story. It isn’t up and running with a lot of users and that is the biggest challenge for me commercially. But this doesn’t say that I didn’t enjoy working with Altmaira. And I appreciate all of the effort everybody did. So although my project is not a success story yet, I hope it will be.
A: Let’s start with your story. What did you do before the project started? And what do you actually do now?
D: I’ve been a teacher, I’ve run schools, and I’m still really passionate about education. So that’s my background up until this project. I just want to make education more open and more focused on the well-being of young people. My project is about inclusion, making sure that everyone has access to opportunities to become their very best selves.
A: What stands behind your app idea? How did you come up with the Includmi app?
D: I worked as a consultant with education local authorities in the UK and internationally. And one project was particularly focused on the children with special educational needs and disabilities. So I came up with my work when I didn’t feel that children with diverse learning abilities are fully included in a mainstream education. So I felt that my project can help with that.
A: Have you researched any similar solutions (if there are any in your country)? And were you inspired by any digital project?
D: There are lots of similar types of projects that do similar things. But what I was most inspired by are the children themselves. The children like apps, they like using their phones. Mobile phones are the best route of communication, and the kids seem to be very comfortable with that.
While doing my research I understood that to some extent I was inspired by apps like Instagram. There you have a voice, you have a platform to celebrate the things that matter to you. And that’s what I’m trying to give all children and particularly children with diverse learning abilities. They should have the ability to celebrate what they can do.
Usually to get support and real help children need to show what they really cannot do, show that they are really badly affected by their disabilities. And that’s not a great starting place in my mind. It’s much better to see people celebrating diversity and that everyone has an ability to be brilliant. So let’s give children a platform to see how brilliant they can be and see them as great human beings.
Also I was inspired by WhatsApp technology, especially the option of creating groups. It would be great to create teams around schools. That’s why a WhatsApp-like chat was included in my project, so that multidisciplinary teams can actually help young people and the people closest to teachers can have support and help young people. So there can always be a team of people around to communicate with, and everyone will feel supported.
A: So you kept children in mind while creating Includmi and this probably explains the design? Because it has a very young generation style.
D: Yes, and I’m very grateful for the help of the Altamira designer. Current design seems to work, and the color scheme works for dyslexic kids as well. The colors help people read. We have been very careful with the font sizes to ensure that it is accessible by design.
A: Have you shared your app idea when it first came to your mind with anyone (friends, relatives, colleagues)?
D: I am in touch with all of the directors of children services in the UK. So I’ve shared my plan with everybody, and I also shared it with the senior colleagues in health and social care because we are moving in England to have more integrated care. And that is where I think the platform has an opportunity to integrate different support services. I’ve also shared the idea with my family and friends. And now I have a couple of local authorities that are kindly trialing the app for me.
A: Were you afraid to make the first step and start the development? And have you taken into account some possible risks?
D: Yes, I knew it was incredibly risky. I’ve actually worked on my previous project with a different development team and I considered it to be a better fit for this particular project. But then I found Altamira and I was impressed with the way Altamira embraced the project and came up with a really good plan that met the budget.
Development is incredibly risky, not just technically. The main challenge with my project is that public services don’t change quickly. So getting people to see the benefit of the project and try it – this is probably the biggest risk in my view, because it takes so much time to introduce something new into a conservative environment.
If you are looking to improve outcomes, you are going to have to change the way you work. This can help you work more efficiently, but to really get all the benefits of this team approach does mean that there will need to be an adaptation, a transformation of services. And lots of key stakeholders will be involved. That’s really challenging.
Another challenge was COVID-19 and work with children and young people who can probably test the solution. There were many cases when whole schools had to go into isolation. So testing just before the summer (that’s when we launched the project and it went to app stores) became impossible to do effectively. Now when the kids are back there may be some real trials (if multiple stakeholders agree to do the trial and results will be positive, then I think we are in a good position). So getting adoption and trial is probably my biggest challenge.
A: The next question will be about Altamira. How did you actually find our team, and how did you make a decision to entrust your project to us?
D: I’ve talked to numerous people recommending organizations that can do the project. And I already had a team in Brazil, however I wanted to look elsewhere and had to narrow my search down. There was one key recommendation I’ve got from a colleague in Coventry University who forwarded Altmaira.
Then I contacted you, and I was actually most impressed by your ability to break the project down into clear epics and user stories. That clarity in terms of budget and what can I actually get for this budget, and what functionality…well, I thought that was quite interesting. So I was most confident in breaking down the project plan and managing it in an Agile way, having some flexibility within a budget. This was an element helping to minimize the risks as much as possible.
At first your approach seemed challenging for me as well. I mean, you need to pay for resources, for this or that sprint. And initially I’d rather have gone with “If the quality is good – I’ll pay”. But as it turned out, because everything was so accurate it was fine. I knew what I was paying for and what quality I would get back.
I worked with your Project Manager (whose English was so well, she sounded like she is Californian), she really understood the project and was able to really tightly scope those user stories. Everything was managed on Confluence and that gave me really a lot of confidence that I was in control. And it was very clear what’s going to happen during the sprint. Your project management is really good, and that’s a really great thing about Altamira.
A: I guess your expectations met reality or maybe everything was even better than you expected?
D: I had a budget and there was a concept in my head that what I wanted and what I could afford were two different things (laughs). But I was able to get most of what I wanted for the budget. The Agile approach worked quite well and we flashed out a minimum viable product.
A: So as of now you are satisfied with the project. Are you planning to improve it in the future?
D: I’m absolutely hoping to develop my project in the future. I’m in the situation where the product is pretty solid and we have a full list of additional functionality that I’d like to add. But it’s not the list of a must-have functionality – there are some things that should be there, some bug fixes I can see.
But at the moment I need to get feedback from the customers like “Yes, we are going on this journey with you”. I need to discover if the product is the right fit for the market that exists. And if this is a good fit then I’d absolutely want to retain a relationship with Altamira. If the market says “Yes”, then I’ll come back.
Even though the project is over, I can pick up the phone and go “Actually there is a problem. Can you help?” – and with Altamira I don’t feel I’m on my own. Even now when I have all of the code, all of the designs, I want to keep the link with Altamira.
A: You’ve previously said that now you are on a stage of testing. Have you already tested your project on a group of kids and maybe received any feedback?
D: Yes, I have and the kids liked the project. Some of the children feel that the app is like a comfort blanket. They know that if they have a problem, they can reach out for help. And there is a feeling of security about that. They like the fact that their opinions count. They have a platform where they can tell people how they feel and benefit from the services that are available to them.
And the schools have said that it’s great that all of the documentation and interaction with the young person comes into one place. And it is great that we can track that quickly and create a report and then share it with the people that want to help. And quick reporting enables the team to be up to date with the particular needs of that young person. Two local authorities have supported my project so far but I need a bigger trial.
A: And what about the guardians or the support group that tested your app? What was their feedback?
D: Parents and guardians like it because they can see how the children and young people are getting on. And the support staff find it useful too to get information in a way that works for them. One of the challenges though is that some staff don’t want to use their own mobile phones for the app. So the next bit of development is to have a web version of the current mobile app.
A: What about your app promotion? Do you use any specific marketing tools or arrange campaigns to promote it?
D: I do, but not in a traditional way. Because it is a B2B project, it is not an app that a consumer can be fully engaged with right away. The consumer (a parent or a child) can go to the app store and download it for free but they can’t really access the team. They have to be linked to a school. So I’ve been speaking to the enterprise client directly and that’s where my marketing efforts have been. It’s hard work, actually, and the long sales cycle.
A: I see…Now let’s get back to the Altamira. Was it easy for you to communicate with the team and resolve some disputes (if there were any about project functionality, scope of work, or else)?
D: That was very easy because I spoke to someone whose English was perfect (and sounded very American). Some of the technical team…well, their English was not as good. It was okay but just not as good.
The challenge was with the turnover of staff. The project was long and I’ve had a couple of Business Analysts and quite a few Project Managers. But luckily the documentation was very robust so that was okay. It’s not that I had to get back and explain to another Business Analyst what I was trying to achieve.The documentation was very helpful.
A: What do you remember about Altamira (something positive, negative or maybe funny that happened during your project)?
D: People from the team have really tried hard. Maybe because I tried to do something that has a social good to it. I think people also wanted to do something that’s really positive and that’s been great. It was a feeling that we were trying to do the right thing here for all the right reasons. And that was very positive and progressive. We were trying to create a collective and more inclusive society. I hope this app will facilitate that.
I think it went beyond just hours and rates, it turned into “we want to make sure that this project works for you”. I think that empathy with what I’m trying to do is what I liked the most about it. And the result…To have something that does what it is supposed to is quite a milestone. I’m proud of that. I just hope that all of the efforts are actually going to help to move things forward.
I don’t feel on my own. I feel that you’ve got my back. That is the best thing! Altamira does have your back and it is a little bit beyond than a commercial transaction. That’s something more about you and that’s what I like about Altamira.
A: It’s so great to hear this. Thank you, David. Maybe you’d like to add something or share any valuable advice with our team?
D: I am very thankful for everyone’s hard work because it was really hard work that took a long period of time. And I am really thankful for everyone’s commitment. I hope that it is only the beginning, not the end of the project. I sincerely hope that I will get the funding to get it to the next level. And I hope I will be working with you again. I don’t want to say goodbye at all.
Our team enjoyed working with David and building Includmi app for him. We hope that everything will be great, the testing period will be successful, and David will get necessary funding to extend Includmi functionality and make it even more useful for pupils and support groups. And we will gladly help David with all further development matters.