To successfully do this, Hourglass employs agile methodologies, specifically utilizing the scrum framework, which incorporates client stakeholders into an iterative process based on two-week development sprints. During each sprint the company works with their clients to implement the optimal combination of discovery, definition, design (both conceptual and high-resolution), development, deployment, and delivery of software to meet agreed-upon sprint goals. Client engagement— particularly providing timely feedback to the scrum team—is key to the success of this process. Importantly, this process fluidly invites and welcomes change because Hourglass understands that a client’s needs can often change swiftly, and changes driven by feedback from end users is critically important to ensuring that a software product is actually used.
“Technology in an organization is omnipresent,” says Jeff Powell, CEO and President of Hourglass Education Technology Solutions, LLC,” but if end users aren’t convinced that a new technology is beneficial, then they aren’t going to use it. Winning the hearts and minds of users is mission critical if you want them to openly consider changing their existing practices in favor of adopting new ones. An organization cannot simply airdrop technology into its ecosystem and expect users to implement it enthusiastically and efficaciously.”
Hourglass practices this user-centric approach in its current partnership with two K-12 education organizations that are pioneering how educators access real-time, targeted professional development as part of a multi-year effort to help school districts develop, retain, and sustain highly effective K-12 educators.
Hourglass’ collaboration with these organizations has resulted in the design of a comprehensive and user-friendly web-based decision support system that is used by district-level administrators, school leaders, and teachers to collect meaningful data on school, teacher, and student performance. These data are then intuitively packaged for end users in an attractive GUI front end (e.g., dashboard widgets and reports) that inform strategic decisions about student placement, professional development, and goal planning.
While striking a balance between the need for a software solution that effectively collected and reported complex data sets with the need for that same system to be user-friendly for K-12 educators might have been challenging enough, Hourglass also needed to ensure the security and privacy of the personally-identifiable information (PII) about educators and students that was collected, stored, and displayed in the system. To do this, Hourglass designed a software solution that is entirely cloud-based, using only servers in the United States, and ensured that a rigorous system of user authentication and permissions secures access to all system data.
Having demonstrated that its agile approach to software development works for K-12 education, Hourglass is positioned to bring its unique brand of thought leadership and user-centric design to bear for any future project that requires a customized solution. While the Ed Tech space has proven to be somewhat of a niche for Hourglass, the company recognizes that opportunities abound. “At the end of the day, we are a software company that thrives on tackling big challenges by gaining a deep understanding of our customers—their problems, their aspirations, their reason for being—because that’s how we actually design, develop, and deliver meaningful solutions,” concludes Powell.