Mobile App development with Agile at CIO UK

This September sees CIO UK host its fifth CIO Summit. Back in 2010 for the inaugural event, then British Airways CIO Paul Coby was one of just a handful of CIOs at the event brandishing an Apple iPad. Within 12 months the device had become de rigueur among CIOs and by the third CIO Summit a format war was beckoning as Android operating system devices became increasingly common. Today, mobile devices and apps have drastically changed the way users interact with information, with each other and as a result remodelled the information and technology strategies of CIOs.

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“Mobile is how we interact with citizens, and it’s great as it’s choking off the problem of digital inclusion,” Mark Gannon, CIO of Nottingham City Council told us in a recent CIO UK interview. Since the first Summit CIOs from local authorities, retail, manufacturing, professional services, media, financial services and healthcare have had to change their technology strategies, re-engineer processes and rethink information access options to adopt and adapt to the usability of mobile devices.

For those of us producing media, whether written, audio visual or live events, the impact of mobile devices and apps is no less significant than what our CIO UK readership has been through. So it was that in July 2014, the CIO Summit event manager Amie Lane and I found ourselves in the National Space Centre in Leicester; not on a summer break day out, but as the customers of web applications development leaders Jadu, who in collaboration with CIO UK and the CIO Summit have developed an app for the 2014 event.

Jadu was founded in 1999 by Suraj Kika and Richard Chamberlain. From its initial work developing a consultation portal for what was then called the Department of Trade and Industry, the company has grown into a leading government and private sector application developer. The Jadu content management platforms has developed over the years and the Leicester-based company has always focused on being platform agnostic. In 2012, it became a preferred supplier on Liam Maxwell’s G-cloud with its cloud-based Jadu Universe Cloud application for content management, forms, search and mobile services – this is in the top 15 of G-cloud purchases by government organisations. Today, Jadu has a design agency that has a mobile first strategy towards app development.

The aim of the Leicester trip was to build in one single day the CIO Summit app, or at the very least 80 percent of it, and we achieved it.

Jadu CEO Kika and his leadership team have been proponents of Agile working methods for a number of years. For an Editor and an Event Manager, defining, creating, leading, changing, criticising and accepting the creation of our first ever app in one day was a journey into rocket science.

“We haven’t spent a week asking you what your requirements are; we have swapped paper for your direct involvement,” Kika explains following my presentation to the room full of engineers, UX and app code experts. In the auditorium of the National Space Centre staring into pitch blackness apart from one or two eerily lit up faces that were – suitably – using mobile devices, I described the history of CIO UK, the CIO Summit, the profile of our readers and event attendees and why an app was the next iteration of development we needed to offer our community.

Back in the bright lights of the conference room, the developers divided themselves into four teams of five, chose four elements of the app vision I had described and set to work.

I moved around the teams as they brainstormed ideas not only of functionality but also the technologies they would apply to my needs. I was amazed at the thorough understanding already gained and how a constant stream of interactions between the developers and CIO UK meant clarification of requirements was instant.

Team atmosphere

Within minutes of forming, the teams were rapidly building on the initial requirements the CIO UK team had mapped out in the presentation. Far from taking my requirements and just delivering them, every team was ablaze with creativity that used its technology knowledge to take an initial idea and then demonstrated the art of the possible. One team was looking at creating a live voting aspect to the ask a speaker a question tool, others looked at using GPS or the integration of existing social tools.

With Agile coach Nick McKenna in charge, the teams stopped work every hour for a demonstration of what they had achieved, with CIO UK as the client judging and guiding the next hour’s efforts. By 1pm all the teams had moved from an idea on a whiteboard to a piece of working technology.

Download the CIO Summit App at:

Jadu was using the day not only to develop the CIO Summit app, but also as an ‘innovation’ day where it gives employees a chance to do what they like and excise their skills they way they would like to.

“Days like this help us ensure our Agile methods remain fresh and we can work out what works for team and individuals and what does not,” Kika explains.

One thing that was clear to me as an ignorant observer was that Agile is all about communications. Each team discussed their ideas at all times and shared these with a sense of team spirit. This was inspiring but also upsetting as such an approach towards productivity is sadly missing from my own industry.

At the end of the first hour, one team member had to power down their Apple device and work closely with the other members of their team. This increased to two devices for the second hour. Despite having less computing power available, productivity did not decrease; on the contrary, it increased. For the third hour, the teams had to swap members in a form of Agile musical chairs.

This resulted in greater collaboration between teams as previous knowledge was now on a different table. Again as the observer, I was inspired by the levels of communications and sharing taking place.

Mobile app

The app for the 2014 CIO Summit is now live and available at ( It features event survey questions, the ability for the CIOs attending to ask speakers a question and also to keep their identity anonymous if they so wish. A full agenda of the day’s event; a breakdown of attendees by vertical market are all available. As the Editor in Chief of CIO UK and the host of the event, it is my hope the app will enable a greater level of communication and debate at the 2014 event.

To develop an app at the speed that Jadu and CIO have developed this has meant a reliance on existing tools that Jadu already offers or open platforms such as Jadu CMS, Firebase for the back end database and Twitter. But as many CIOs have expressed at previous CIO Summits and within the pages of this title, the role of being a CIO is about delivering outcomes. Much as we all get excited by good technology, it is the benefit to the wider user that really matters.

You can view a photo gallery of the creation of the CIO Summit App on Flickr here:

Or, watch this video made on the day that the vast majority of the work was done: