A Look Inside… Nudjed, a Health Tech Startup in Caerphilly

( Post 10 of 25 )

Caerphilly-based startup Nudjed have made a few headlines in recent months, securing six-figure funding through Finance Wales and also partnering with Superdrug. The very promising health technology startup is also very open and transparent about their processes and practices, which can be seen by their Research page, which documents their approach using Lean and Agile methodologies. Co-founder Warren Fauvel (@WarrenOF) very kindly allowed me to sit in on a couple of their internal meetings and told me about the ways that they develop their offering on an on-going basis…

Firstly, an introduction: based out of startup hub Welsh ICE in Caerphilly (on the outskirts of Cardiff), Nudjed is a digital service that allows users to set easy-to-manage health goals and offers suggestions on how to conquer them. So whether you want to lose weight, prepare for a marathon, eat healthier or feel more energised during your working day, Nudjed offers tasks and advice accordingly. If you set yourself a task, Nudjed will send reminders (known as “nudjes”) via SMS text message to make sure that you haven’t forgotten to do them. You also enter information about yourself such as your height, weight and resting heart rate and Nudjed will advise on whether you are above or below average, or just right.

Nudjed task examples screenshot

(Click to enlarge)

In particular, Nudjed are working really hard to work with HR managers in companies small and large, as Nudjed can help employees to eat and live more healthily, and if they do that, there’s less chance that they may have to take sick days, which in turn would help to make those companies more productive.

The setup

Nudjed developers photo

Nudjed Development team – L-R: Dom, Tim, Richard

Founded by Warren (CEO) and Neil (COO), Nudjed now employs a number of development staff, including a product manager, a software engineer and a UX developer.

They also employ a “CSO” (Chief Scientific Officer), a PhD nutritionist whose role is to ensure that the health advice that’s given via the app is accurate and safe.

And to help get the Nudjed name out there, Nudjed also employ two marketing specialists: Becky and Gino.

To find out more about each individual’s roles, check out Nudjed’s Team page.

Nudjed’s take on the Agile process

Nudjed adopt the Agile methodology, working in sprints of 3 weeks for their back-end (BE) development, but only 1 week for design and front-end (FE) development, as they can be implemented quicker and easier. Design and FE are separate to one another, resulting in 3 separate sprints running in alongside each other. The 1-week sprints are intended to create and prove concepts, to get them ready for implemention and to create a spec for them, while the 3-week sprints are involved with building.

Mondays and Fridays are left to planning, so Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays focus on implementation. For the 3-week BE sprints, this is true for the first two weeks but the third week is left just for testing.

They also hold daily stand-up meetings every morning at around 9:30am – known as “scrums” – to have a quick catch-up on everyone’s progress in their respective sprints.

Here’s an example of some notes from a stand-up in December:

Nudjed stand-up on Slack screenshot

A variation on the traditional User Story

A particularly interesting aspect of Nudjed’s approach to Agile is their variation of the user story.

Traditionally, a user story follows this template:

As a <user>, I want <goal> so that <reason/benefit>

It puts the user or customer as the focus. In addition to this, Nudjed takes this further, replacing “users” with “roles”…

As a <role>, I want <ability> because <benefit>

…looking at job roles such as a HR managers:

As a <HR manager>, I want…

With this type of focus, the Nudjed team can work towards and focus on appeasing particular types of people in particular job roles, rather than users (such as the app users) as a whole.

Test, test and test again… Did we mention testing?

Nudjed post-it wall photoWarren also showed me Nudjed’s overall development process, from initial design to deployment:

  • To Design
  • Secondary Research
  • 1st Hack & Test
  • Design Concept & Test
  • Prototype & Test
  • To Specify
  • To Implement
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Code Review
  • Testing
  • To Deploy

Warren admits that they do a lot of testing.

Technical debt is important to Nudjed. The sooner that the company can outline that something is flawed or that it’s not giving the results that they were expecting, the better, so that they can either rectify it or simply cut it straight away.

Initially they test the proof of concept and then later on it’s all about QA (quality assurance) testing: making sure that everything works. For example, they unit test everything first (i.e. they test everything on its own, as an individual unit), which is quite a modualised approach. It’s only when they bring everything together that they test everything together – like a release test.

Dominic Griffin, Nudjed’s Product Manager, also told me about another element of Agile that Nudjed use: Definition of Done (DoD). This basically involves outlining the requirements that the team need to meet in order to be able to say that whatever they’re working on is “done”. That way, from the start, they can know what to expect from each other as well as then intended end result.

Dom also told me that planning is king. Lots of time is spent planning, including how time is spent (which ties in with DoD). For example, technical requirements and everything that they test for should have been inculded within DoD. Nudjed’s view on testing is that you can do as much or as little as you can – there’s no black or white with it, it’s just how much you decide to do.

Nudjed’s recommendation on software and tools

As you can see from the above image, Nudjed have previously relied on a wall of post-it notes in order to lay out and visualise their progress. However, Warren told me that they recently made the move to Trello, in order to bring everything online. This has been better for a number of reasons, the main one being that if someone is working from home, they can still move tasks – previously they would have to have been in the office in order to see the post-its. Additionally, they can add comments to the tasks on Trello, which Warren et al take further by tying them in with links to documents on Google Docs to explain things in more detail.

Nudjed Trello screenshot

Trello screenshot

In addition to Trello and Google Docs, the team at Nudjed also use:

  • Slack – For pushing links to each other, to get feedback on testing and to chat more generally
  • GitHub – For reviewing code (here’s developer Rich’s profile: rdjpalmer)
Nudjed on Slack screenshot

Slack screenshot

We’d like to say a big, big thank you to Becky, Dom and Warren for their help in putting this post together, as well as Nudjed as a whole for their transparency and openness overall. We hope that other startups and developers have found this post useful.