Working on a project codenamed Vicky in a Skunkworks style. What is it that we’re doing in the 8 weeks that we have, well, that would be telling.
What I can tell you though is that a delivery team has been assembled which includes myself, a senior developer, a senior designer and a member of the business. We’re supported by a steering group which is made up of other members of the business with various specialities.
We’re in to the second week now and I thought that I would use this first post to bring us up to date so far.
Last Monday the team met for the first time in a room that had been organised for us away from our normal offices. There were bean bags, nice desks and all of the necessary kit for everyone to get started doing a job for the project. The only agenda for the first week was a meeting on the Monday between 11 and 3 and another of the same on the Wednesday.
Monday’s meeting started with introductions, I sat and listended and it became clear to me that some thought had been put in to the make up of the team which was an encouraging start. We spent the majority of the meeting discussing what the proposition was, this was done at a very high level as whilst there was a vague idea of what we were intending to deliver, there was no clear understanding of to whom it would be targetted. This was, and at the time of writing (as it is still unclear) is still of concern. We ended the day by putting down some very high level scenarios or, as I have heard them called before, Epics (Part of the User Stories requirements gathering process). I’m glad though that we got this far as it served to focus the delivery team.
When the meeting was over the delivery team discussed the tasks that they would need to undertake the next day. Tuesday would be about prototyping and information gathering. I had initially been concerned that nothing had been planned, maintaining momentum is going to be incredibly important to this project. I needn’t have been concerned, the delivery team worked very hard towards the little they knew and at the end of Tuesaday we had case studies based on 6 of the biggest competitors as they were perceived, an idea of the language we would develop this in and also a high level architecture. All very encouraging.
On Tuesday I met with our business sponsor, one of the steering group members, to discuss the agenda for Wednesdays meeting. I was keen to see that the day was really focussed.
I’ve been reading a lot recently about Agile / Lean practices, in particular SCRUM and I was keen to give some of the suggested ways of working a go. On Wednesday I presented to the team the approach that I thought that we should start the project by using which was well received, I made it clear that it was not set in stone and that if something wasn’t working that we could change it. One of the main benefits that I was already realising about the delivery team was it’s size and therefore it’s ability to change.
I had elected to take on a Scrum Master role as having not done any development for a while I thought that I would be of more use in coaching the team in this way of working and attempting to remove the obstacles that they encountered and I asked the member of the business on the delivery team to take on the Product Owner role.
Once I had presented we started listing out all of the functionality that was required and also some of the ancillary tasks that would need to be undertaken. We didn’t get a complete list, this was fine though, I’ve always liked the idea that the Product Owner maintains the list and that it is something that is ever changing. During my time in development when I was exposed to more traditional development methods I don’t think I ever encountered a customer who was happy to sign off on a document stating that yes, that is exactly what I require.
Thursday and Friday the delivery team spent doing more Prototyping and Analysis whilst the Steering Group had been asked to come up with 3 propositions each which they presented during the teams Show and Tell on Friday afternoon. The delivery team spent an hour and a half on Friday looking at the Product Backlog that had been defined and starting estimating some of the tasks with a view to then committing to some for the forthcoming sprint.
All in all a fantastic week with some very encouraging progress. It has been quite something to be part of a team which, in one week has come up with a good number of requirements, performed sufficient analysis to begin work in earnest in the next sprint and has already started working efficiently together.