Being Agile while Tasting Good Wines


We combined again work with pleasure. In the last few years we constantly grew and improved ourselves, either by accepting new projects, or learning new technologies, by bringing in new team members, senior developers with several years of experience in the background, or simply change something in our daily workflow. This is what happened at the beginning of this year. After multiple rounds of discussion, we decided to start using Agile methodology, to organize a Scrum team parallel with the regular maintenance team and to introduce daily stand-up meetings. Changes are never easy and revolutionary steps usually don’t go smoothly. It requires commitment, discipline and a little bit of humor.

Gorgeous city of Lisbon

If you have or had a minimal tangency with software development, Agile methods, Scrum framework and daily stand-up meetings might sound familiar. There is a whole commercial sector behind these theories, IT companies are paying “pretty nice” price to get guidance from consultant agencies for introducing Agile. We have chosen to do it in our own way, gathering all we knew about these theories, putting together ideas how we could start and integrate new methods in our workflow. It required not only strategies put on the table but also several face-to-face meetings with Hans and the product owners. Agile is famous about welcoming changes, change requests mostly coming from clients. Agile means flexibility to change the internal planning, modify the capacity planning or the project life cycle if it’s necessary and welcome new requirements after development started.

According to PMP experts the Scrum approach is based on the idea that software development is not a defined but an empirical process involving several environmental and technical variables which can easily change during this process. If you are our customer, you know that we are flexible in case something immediate or urgent comes in during the day. We provide maintenance services for the majority of our customers outside the HELGA product but in order to progress on a higher scale we need much more structure in our daily work. The Scrum approach helps us and the product owners, Csaba and Mateusz, to handle in a more organized way the requirements and ideas for new features. I know it might sound strange but this way we manage to “push back” some of the requests and plan it for a later stage. Agile helps us to keep the process even if the requirements are not always 100% clear and stable. It helps us to communicate more inside the team, every morning we start the day with a coffee and a team meeting. This helps also the management team to have a better overview of what is going on a daily basis.

Scrum Diagram by jordanjob.me

The planning goes by sprints, one sprint means a development cycle which in our case is 2 weeks long. A sprint should not take more than 4 weeks and less then 1 week. When planning development work for a sprint we need to make sure that we plan only what fits into those 2 weeks of development. We always decide upfront who will take part of the next sprint, we cannot involve all the developers in the sprint as that would affect the daily maintenance work which still needs to be performed. Combining these two types of management and planning requires double focus and attention from our part. When start planning a sprint we always have to know what’s next, so product owners are adding scope items to the next 2 upcoming sprints. This way we know what we can take in and what is still waiting for us. Having a pipeline list gives a better inside on planning on a longer term, especially if summer holidays are around the corner 😉

As I was saying, turning into an Agile team, more personal meetings were required. We are stable now, we have several sprints behind us but due to these revolutionary changes, we needed to have face to face discussions with Hans and the product owners more frequently as previously. In March, we all met in Lisbon, in the gorgeous Portuguese capital, to analyze how the Agile goes on in the first phase of implementation. Communication is the key of having a successful Scrum framework, honest and open communication can handle all kind of challenges, poor interactions inside the team can ruin the sprint or the project even if the development is at a good quality. Encouraging transparency can help us building up trust across the whole Autofactor company and for us this is one of the basic ingredients of a successful team. Hence this article on our blog, so our customers can see what’s happening right now on the other side of their screen.

Happy faces in Lisbon

Apart from the Agile revolution we started to work with a testing company located in a different city and managed by Istvan. The QA team has 3 members in total and their work is included now in our daily routines and 2 weeks sprints. Every morning at our stand-up (ok, we sit, we are lazy as hell) meeting testers are present via Skype, listening in, asking questions if needed. We definitely consider it to be a good achievement to sort out working with testers from distance.

In the sunny but windy Lisbon, we discussed about the upcoming two sprints, about allocating time in the future for refactoring and for code review, about bigger features which cannot be squeezed into a single sprint. So, bigger plans will follow up, stay close to find out more about future ideas and projects.

Lisbon means seaside, sun, good wine, tasty dishes and colorful streets so our personal productivity was stimulated by all these wonderful things. We just hope that the prosperity and boom of that city can be felt in our daily work too.

Over Zsuzsa

Zsuzsa has joined Autofactor in the beginning of 2015 and we have been benefiting from her skills ever since. She’s taking care of planning in all of it’s aspects and makes sure that project managers, developers and customers deliver as promised. Her ‘gentle reminders’ also frequently go out to Hans, by the way.

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