Delivery during a pandemic

We have worked hard at Deeson to develop a robust DSDM agile framework for the delivery of our projects, which has held us in good stead for the type of work we regularly do. Typically these are four to six-month development projects, developed iteratively in two-week Timeboxes. However, when COVID-19 hit, we had one client wanted to respond rapidly to the crisis and we knew that our full process wasn’t quite fit for purpose.

We needed to be even more nimble and agile than we’d ever been before and focus everything around delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) within eight weeks from concept to launch.

Background

How we solved their problem

The process

Define the outcome

“Individual students will be able to register themselves as Generation Global users and complete learning pathways followed by interaction with other students on that topic, both written and verbal.”

Identified the themes needed to deliver the outcome

These estimates were not a commitment but allowed us to be confident that the outcome we set at the start of the project was achievable.

We then used those numbers to forward plan throughout the project to give us an idea of what was achievable within the remaining budget.

Defined how we’d like to work

We delivered this using the Kanban methodology, with the Product Owner deciding daily on the priority in which we worked through the backlog of tickets.

This is different to our previous projects with Generation Global, where the Product Owner has planned a full timebox based on fully-specified tickets with estimates, and therefore a clear understanding of what will be achieved in the two-week timebox.

Agreed how we’d track progress

We used T-Shirt sizes for estimates. T-Shirt sizes are extremely rough estimates in terms of a small number of predefined categories e.g. Small = up to 0.5 days, Medium = up to a full day, anything larger than 1 day was broken down into a series of smaller tickets.

Defined a release plan

Agreed on a workflow

The first column was where the product owner prioritised tickets for development. As they were being refined, we would pull them into ‘solution design’ before moving them into ‘ready for development’ for the lead developer to estimate and assign. Developers would then pull tickets from this column in priority order.

Set work in progress limits

The work in progress limits changed depending on the size of the development team which could vary during the project. However, for the majority of the project the ‘In progress’ column was limited to two items only, one for each developer.

Talked about the risks

One of the risks we identified early on was that our high-level estimation was based on a very condensed discovery period and therefore it was highly likely that our understanding and effort involved to deliver the MVP would grow.

Another risk associated with not undertaking a detailed discovery was that it might lead to inefficiencies later on due to change/additions in requirements which we collectively missed or couldn’t have foreseen.

We tracked ‘additions to the scope’ and discussed them in our weekly account calls. We continually had honest conversations with Generation Global about when we thought a project outcome might be impacted.

What interesting things did we find out?

Nothing stands still

Estimates

In retrospect, we probably under-estimated the need to educate the team on the process and approach.

Results

Here are just some of the “wins” we’ve already seen as a result of working in this way together:

  • We did our first release after two weeks of development starting
  • We can quickly understand where delays form — a heat map report indicated that items tend to stay in QA and ‘ready for development’ longer than they should, which gives us a focus for where we need to make improvements and find further efficiencies
  • We learnt that Kanban works well for this type of project
  • We’re working towards using metrics to determine cycle time and throughput so eventually we might anticipate removing ‘estimates’ all together

And finally…

This wouldn’t have been possible without your ‘buy in’, trust and product ownership. The outcome (https://adventure.generation.global/) is a real testament to the brilliant partnership we have built.

Delivery Director at @DeesonAgency