Shikumi Design is a digital creative group from Fukuoka. They use Backlog to manage their global development project, KAGURA. We sat down with President Shunsuke Nakamura and Chief Engineer Hisanari Nakashige to discuss how they use Backlog to move their ideas forward.
Tell us more about Shikumi Design.
Nakamura: Our company develops digital devices that cause visual information to interact with sound and other sensory information. Our business is split between client work and in-house product development.
A few examples of client work include interactive digital signage, children’s toys with digital projection mapping, and interactive live performances. We handle digital technology services all the way from planning to development.
We have three main products:
– Paintone, an app that allows you to create a picture with sound using just your fingers and voice;
– Springin’, which allows you to create your own game, puzzle, or picture book app without programming; and
– KAGURA, a musical instrument we have been developing since we started in 2005 which enables you to make music just by moving your body.
Tell us more about KAGURA.
Nakamura: KAGURA is a musical instrument for the next generation. Employing a deep-focus camera that reacts to body motion, the machine automatically creates a rhythm that matches a person’s movements. Users can freely play the instruments displayed on the screen with intuitive controls.
People who have never played an instrument can learn KAGURA. Beginners can easily create a decent rhythm, and more advanced users can create a high-level performance on par with pro musicians.
We successfully hit our funding target by gathering support on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. In the future, we are thinking about expanding services not only domestically but also overseas.
How do you use Backlog at Shikumi?
Nakashige: At the moment, we are using it to manage KAGURA. More specifically, we are applying it to source code and user request management.
Why did you choose Backlog?
Nakamura: We have two reasons: First of all, we felt that the project management tools we’ve used in the past wouldn’t work for our in-house work. For the most part, client work is very deadline-driven and straightforward. We didn’t manage every task down to the smallest details. With KAGURA and other in-house products, there is no definite deadline, and deviations from user requests frequently occur. We needed a product that allowed us to make our tasks and goals as detailed as possible.
Nakashige: Secondly, we needed a tool that could manage our growing list of tasks and goals in an organized way. Most of our teams used to be made up of one developer and one designer. They could report tasks by word of mouth, and we were able to organize job priority pretty easily. We used management tools but mostly for code version management. However, once we started working more on the KAGURA project and getting more external requests, our workload increased drastically. We could no longer keep track of it all in our heads.
What results have you seen since implementing Backlog?
Nakashige: Backlog gave us the capability of managing requests in bulk, which means we are now able to assign and organize task priorities easily. We can rearrange the order of priority and scheduling whenever necessary. If the same request comes up multiple times, we can see if we need to raise that request’s priority.
What function do you use the most?
Nakashige: Milestones. We divide our Milestones into two-week terms and assign tasks to be completed based on the release schedule for the next version. The tasks we register are a mixture of external elements, such as user demands, and internal elements that we want to develop at the convenience of production.
What do you want to do with Backlog in the future?
Nakashige: Going into the future, we’d like to create a customer support division, so we want to make it accessible to people outside our engineering department. Additionally, we want to utilize it in products other than KAGURA. We often submit task requests by mouth, so we want to shift over to managing all of those within Backlog.
What are you concerned with in regards to making products your users will use for many years?
Nakamura: Well, we’re always thinking about how we can make the users enjoy themselves. The idea that we should make the things that are difficult and high-threshold in the world easier forms the basis of our manufacturing. For example, things like programming, musical instruments, and advertising are difficult to do at first because it takes time to get used to them and to gather information about your target. However, these things are interesting precisely because they are difficult. We want to create the key to making these interesting activities easier through technology.
With this in mind, the idea we have prized since our beginning is “Amazing happens only once. Fun happens time and again.” When users call a product “amazing” on their first try, this means that they are distracted by the technology rather than enjoying it fully. In this case, upon their next try, they just think “Oh, I’ve seen this technology before.” Making people consider our products “fun” instead of “amazing” is our secret to creating services that are adored for many years.