What is Agile?
The Agile manifesto was written in 2001 and comprises the following four statements:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
We love these statements. They align with our values and provide a guideline for the processes that allow us to create great products for our clients and their users.
Let’s start with why
Yes, the latest book I’ve ticked off my reading list is Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’. It is a brilliant read and a Brightec favourite, but that’s an aside.
By nature, our team is made up of inquisitive individuals; we’re interested in what others in our industry are doing and how they’re doing it - and the bigger question, why they’re doing it.
This is perhaps what led some of our team to undertake the Certified Scrum Master Course. We wanted to learn new ways to help us. When projects run smoothly the whole team is happy; there’s less pressure on each of us as we’re working together, trusting that solid processes are in place. Each individual knows what the shared end goal is and how we’re going to get there.
Scrum is the most common agile framework and as it is widely adopted and praised we want to know more. Brightec wants to use Scrum principles to serve us and our clients. We pride ourselves on being honest, to ourselves and to our clients, so (to be honest) after a year we felt uncomfortable putting ourselves under the Scrum umbrella. We aim to take the parts of Scrum that have the highest value to us and how we can improve our processes. And we’re doing it well.
Our project management process will evolve as our team grows but we wanted to share what is working for us in the Agile-ish approach we’re taking now. Agile artifacts such as the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog feature heavily.
The first paid for piece of work we carry out is the Discovery Phase. This describes the process we use to understand the project, the requirements and how we are going to achieve/deliver it. As we break down our understanding of the work we’re about to undertake and the client’s expectations for the finished product, we begin to write the tasks which will form the Product Backlog (PB).
In it for the long run
Where we have previously used the term ‘Sprint’, Brightec now refer to a ‘Quota’; a portion of the budget agreed with the client. In most cases this is 30 days of effort.
Within a Quota, our projects run (no pun intended) in weekly Sprints. Every sprint starts with a Planning Meeting and ends with a Review. We intentionally avoid having one single day which is overwhelmingly meeting driven by running each different project on a slightly different sprint timescale.
Of course we’re flexible, some sprints may be a day longer or shorter depending on our calendar. Running week-by-week means we know what our calendars look like in the coming days and can plan effectively around this.
Each sprint finishes with a completed Sprint Backlog, a build for QA/client and a progress report.
‘Til we meet again
You might be surprised to learn that as a team that enjoys spending time together, we want to spend as little time in meetings as possible. Having a set list of meetings that pertain to each sprint and a clear agenda for these aids efficiency as well as managing expectations.
We have a Stand Up everyday, except for Monday - as that’s when BOB takes centre stage. You might have previously read about our Daily Scrum, the concept is much the same, the name has changed. It is the team’s opportunity to communicate their plan for the coming day and highlight any tasks that might need another team member’s assistance.
Each Sprint has slightly more formal meetings which include those outlined below:
The 30 min review meeting is a chance to talk through what we achieved during a sprint and articulate that to the rest of the team. They are an efficient way for us to track how the project is progressing and highlight anything that needs to be communicated to the client.
The other goal for the meeting is to refine the priority of the Product Backlog, which needs to be regularly updated as dependencies are identified and knowledge of the project increases.
The 30 min planning meeting will usually take place immediately after the Review meeting. During this we use the prioritised Product Backlog to bring in the tasks we know we can work on in the coming week.
We assess the amount of time available in the sprint, what is achievable, how that will be done and who is best to work on specific tasks. This discussion forms the Sprint Goal.
Scrum agencies will be familiar with Retrospectives and we’ve found them to be an important tool for ensuring we are consistently improving our processes.
We had noticed that project specific Retrospectives (previously held at the end of each Sprint, now known as Quota) were highlighting things that were relevant across multiple projects and reflective of the wider team. It became a question of how to implement changes, share the knowledge learnt, new tools used or even mistakes made with the rest of Brightec. So we’ve started to hold a company-wide Retrospective at the start of each What Can I Do For You instead.
During this meeting each team member jots down their thoughts from the past month, specifically thinking about what is working well, what isn’t and how we can resolve this. We then discuss these as a team and form actions to take forward. It takes time but as they say, ‘good things come to those who wait’.
What can you do for us?
We’re certainly not wedded to a few of our new terms, namely ‘Quotas’ and ‘Agile-ish’, so while we continue to hone our craft do pop an answer on a postcard. Or pop in to see us, you know we love visitors!