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From dream to (augmented) reality: How PTC created the IKEA Place app using Trello

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IKEA Place: Innovation Made Real

We’ve all been there: Standing in front of a beautiful Karlstad or Ektorp ("sofas," for the IKEA newbies), ready to bring it home and spend the evening with Netflix and an Allen wrench. But one simple question stands between you and a cozy new couch: “Will it fit?” 

That’s the quintessential problem TWNKLS | AR, a PTC Company (also known as PTC) set out to help IKEA solve. In 2018, PTC entered their digital transformation firm into an innovation fair hosted by IKEA and pitched their idea for IKEA Place, a 3D visualization app that would use augmented reality (AR) to “virtually place true-to-scale 3D models in your very own space.” Shoppers could use the app to virtually try out furniture they’re considering before buying, or point their camera at a space and explore products that might be a good fit.  

PTC’s ingenious idea was exactly what IKEA and their customers were looking for. The retail giant named PTC the innovation fair winner and began planning a partnership that would make the AR app an IRL service.

From Square 1 To Version 1 In 9 Weeks

The timing couldn’t have been better: Apple was set to launch their ARKit to developers worldwide just nine weeks later. While the timeline was aggressive, PTC saw a huge opportunity to launch the first version of the Place app alongside the first ARKit in hopes of catching Apple’s attention and riding the AR wave to success.

PTC quickly assembled a team and created a project plan to meet the fast-approaching deadline. Development Manager Jefferson Scomacao and Project Manager Andy Barker led the team through ideation and production at breakneck speed, using Jira Software for project and issue tracking. After two months of long days and late nights, the team released the first version of IKEA Place in conjunction with the Apple ARKit. Within days, the app had hundreds of thousands of downloads and had even caught the eye of Apple CEO Tim Cook, who demoed it at an event and called it “the future of shopping.”

Given the rave reviews, PTC and IKEA knew they were on to something. Hungry for more, they celebrated, took a deep breath, and headed back to the lab to start taking the Place app to the next level.

Bridging Teams With Trello

As they developed a roadmap for the future, PTC realized they would need multiple teams from their own firm, plus IKEA and other strategic partners to build the next version. Each team was in a different location, had different levels of tech savviness, and used different software to manage their work. 

While they were all looking forward to collaborating, they were not looking forward to setting up and learning new systems for this project—nor did anyone have time to do it. Andy says, “With so many partners internally and externally, people either weren’t willing or weren’t able to open their own system. We needed to collaborate and get started quickly.”

That’s when Jefferson suggested a solution: Trello. After using it in previous jobs, he knew how easy it was to create a Team within Trello, set up intuitive boards, and share them with external partners in seconds while maintaining control over permissions. Jefferson was confident this would be a fast, simple solution for everyone (even those who had never used it before) that would also integrate with the rest of PTC’s Atlassian ecosystem.

Standardizing Productivity For 125% Higher Performance

IKEA and PTC’s partners were on board with Trello, so Jefferson and Andy began setting up boards for each workflow: roadmapping, task tracking, and quality assurance (QA) testing. 

Using Trello to manage QA improved performance (measured by the percentage of issues fixed) by over 125%.

The Product Roadmap board houses a backlog of future plans for the Place app and provides a high-level overview of in-progress and completed work. Jefferson reports that using Trello helped increase the number of roadmap items documented and tracked from “new” to “completed” by 20-40%, as well as keep teams focused and organized as new requests come in. “When IKEA asks about a new feature, we can tell them if it’s on the roadmap and when it’s scheduled,” he says. “This helps us protect ourselves from getting off track and understand what we’re focused on.”

When features and bugs are pulled from the backlog into a sprint, PTC's IKEA project team tracks the tasks they’re working on in the Current Assignments board. Several teams are involved in managing these tasks, so each team has its own list of to-do items. That way, everyone can stay concentrated on their own tasks, while also seeing how their work overlaps with others’. Project managers and leaders also find this board invaluable for progress tracking and reporting. 

Jefferson says managing QA in Trello helped “save the day.” QA was a huge source of stress during V1 development of Ikea Place because the 30 QA partners were tracking their work in spreadsheets and Word documents. This made it difficult for developers to track and integrate bugs with Jira Software issues, and nearly impossible for leadership to see problems, solutions, and regressions. 

Using Trello to manage QA resolved all of these challenges and more. Now, it’s easier for QA specialists to create new sessions and understand what leaders are looking for. Managers can also track QA data, make more informed decisions, and transfer information to other systems if needed. As a result, the number of total issues dropped by 85%, and performance (measured by the percentage of issues fixed) increased by over 125%.

PTC's IKEA project team also used Power-Ups to customize Trello to fit their workflow and integrate the tool with other essential systems for collaboration and development. For example, the team added Custom Fields to track versions, bug types, and assignees. Power-Up integrations also pass information between Trello and Google Drive, Slack, Giphy, Blue Jeans, and OneDrive.

This robust, integrated system has been a game changer for PTC's IKEA project team, empowering the entire development team to collaborate much faster and more easily than before, while providing each collaborator with visibility into important information that helps them prevent repeat incidents, make smart decisions, and share knowledge.

A New Way To Help Worldwide Teams Work Better Together

As the IKEA Place project brought in new partners and became more distributed during V2 development, a new challenge emerged: remote collaboration. Between differences in time, language, and culture, Jefferson and Andy found it difficult to maintain alignment and quality output.

We used Trello to provide clarity on steps, requirements, and procedures. This was exceptional when communicating with teams that had deep cultural and language differences.

Jefferson Scomacao

Development Manager

Jefferson explains, “Our globally distributed teams were using emails, calls, and Skype to communicate, all without condensing information or logging decisions in a universal way. We used Trello to provide clarity on steps, requirements, and procedures. This was exceptional when communicating with teams that had deep cultural and language differences.”

Andy adds,“Using Trello also taught us to keep our communication short and direct, which helped overcome language barriers. Now, we don’t overload our tasks with text and files so we can truly get our message across.”

In addition to enhancing communication, Jefferson says Trello helped track performance as the distributed teams resolved their challenges. “We could measure that [remote teams] were doing more and see a real improvement in their work." These improvements helped PTC's IKEA project team maintain their rapid pace while ensuring the app would be bigger and better with each release.

The Future Of Shopping

By streamlining communication and collaboration in one place, PTC and their partners successfully shipped multiple updates and new releases in the months following Places’ launch. With each one came more attention and acclaim. 

Since its initial release, IKEA Place has been downloaded over four million times and received over 100,000 reviews, with an average rating of almost five stars in the App Store. The app has also garnered 18 awards and counting, including the 2018 Auggie Award (Augmented Reality World Expo) for Best Consumer App, the Creative Circle Award for Best Use of Technology, and the number-one spot in non-gaming AR apps on iOS worldwide (an achievement it continues to hold). 

Jefferson and Andy credit Trello’s transparency, ease of use, and flexibility with helping the team achieve these impressive results and transforming their internal processes. 

“With just a few simple boards and Power-Ups, we were able to collaborate and create something truly innovative,” Jefferson says. “Trello really improved our processes and daily lives. It’s low friction, so we could focus more on development. And on the management side, it’s so much easier to track what’s happening. At the end of the day, Trello really paid off.”

Andy adds, “Trello helped us break down communication barriers and empower collaboration amongst internal and external parties, while providing the transparency needed to bring all of that success about.”

With just a few simple boards and Power-Ups, we were able to collaborate and create something truly innovative.

Jefferson Scomacao

Development Manager

With Trello as a key part of their Atlassian ecosystem, there’s no doubt PTC's IKEA project team has transformed how their team and leaders work today, while introducing IKEA’s customers and retail peers to the shopping experience of the future.

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