INTERVIEW ‘The working group in charge of AERIUS development’

Monday, 24 November 2014

The 24th development sprint of AERIUS took place in October. After two years of development, the Calculator is ready, Register is under construction, and Monitor has supported the creation of the Integrated Approach to Nitrogen (PAS). The fact that developments were directed by fifteen to twenty future users, united in the AERIUS working group, can be called a unique situation. To consider the results of this development method, we interviewed permit issuing official and working group member Ger Leeuwerke of the Dutch Omgevingsdienst Brabant Noord.  

How did the working group process evolve?

Well, we first had to search for the right form. In the end we chose to work with scrum. This meant that the AERIUS development was divided into so-called sprints of one month each. At the start of every sprint, we as future users indicated which functionalities had to be developed and which priorities were involved. After each sprint, the developers presented us with a working version of the application. We then provided them with feedback and subsequently determined the workload for the coming sprint.   

What made scrum such a successful method?

The introduction of scrum provided the working group with real opportunities for presenting their needs and ideas. And after one month, these would have been translated into a new prototype. This method worked well and was found to be effective. Just as we learned from the developers, they learned from us.  For example, the developers showed us that the graphic options were much more elaborate than we ever considered possible.  This provided us with the incentive to present the developers with more elaborate wishes concerning maps and graphs, thus providing them with new challenges to work on.  In this way, we moved forward together, step by step. Had we not worked according to this method, the product before us today would be a completely different one.  

Added factor was that, in the beginning, we did not know what the end result should be. The PAS, at the time, was still very much under development.  Scrum is an ideal method for keeping pace with such a changeable reality. At the start of each new sprint we could redetermine how to continue. 

Where can we see the working group’s input in the instrument?

All major Calculator functionalities originated from the working group’s ideas. An example of such a functionality is the Compare function, with which multiple variants of a project can be assessed for their differences and similarities.  However, there has also been considerable discussion on details, such as on the colours of the maps. All together, this has resulted in an excellent product. 

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

It would have been better if the connection with the AERIUS steering committee had been more solid. The steering committee decides on the interpretation of the rules of the PAS. The slow process of clarity on certain points caused delays in the development particularly of Register, and this is likely to present some issues in the first phase of the PAS. To us, as the competent authority, this is frustrating.

What have the two years of participation in the AERIUS working group resulted in for you personally?

I have a large amount of confidence in the instrument that was built. I know and understand the starting points and the way AERIUS is organised. Of course, we could have gone on forever talking about the details, but I have yet to meet the person who says the instrument could have been better.

I hope that AERIUS will also become the calculation tool for air quality, at some point in the future. At the moment, there is a mishmash of environmental models; this should be brought down to one uniform model. That would really be a useful exercise, and is the type of activity that gives me energy.

And finally: now that the AERIUS development phase is coming to a close and implementation is near, it has been decided that the AERIUS working group will merge with the working group on the implementation of the PAS (WUP). More information on that subject will be presented in future editions of the AERIUS newsletter.