23 June, 2014

How our development team deal with emergencies

Being champion sprinters is one thing but how do we also make sure we remain flexible and quick to adapt to the changing needs of the our members and our partners?

As part of our agile development process, we work in sprints that have fixed boundaries. A team will decide how much work they can complete over a two week period and commit to delivering that work to key stakeholders. The idea is that these sprints are then “un-interruptible” so we can complete the set of work previously laid out.

In an ideal world this is how it would always be, however, we understand that priorities can shift for a number of reasons and emergencies (although rare) can happen.

So how do we handle those emergencies without throwing off a team’s sprint schedule so they can no longer achieve their goals? We use an agile development method called Kanban. Since my last post, we now have an extra scrum team up and running, bringing us to a total of four. The extra team has enabled us to introduce a kanban rota, so that we always have one out of four teams working to kanban while the others are in sprints.

Kanban differs from sprinting in that there is no fixed time commitment. Like a sprint, a kanban team will have work in their backlog which has been prioritised but, typically, is slightly lower in priority than those in a sprint backlog. Instead of committing to deliver a certain number of items within a set time frame, the team simply begin work on them and deliver each item as and when they are finished. By not committing to a specific set of stories, this allows a kanban team to adapt quickly should priorities shift, or an emergency occurs because they are not constrained to the boundaries of a sprint.

Kanban collage

Every two weeks (our current sprint boundary), a new team will take over the kanban rota. The sprint teams focus on the highest priority products, committed to delivering a specific chunk of work, while the kanban team work to a predetermined backlog but are able to shift focus and have new work brought to them whenever it’s required.

We’re realists. We know the ideal of having an entire department of people working uninterrupted in two week iterations is just not sustainable in the long term. We’re an ever changing company in an ever changing industry, so by incorporating these two methods of development we can ensure we are delivering work with the highest business value but also allowing for flexibility and adaptability where needed.

If you’re interested in joining us, check out our latest vacancies by clicking here.

Alex Osborne, Project Manager at White Label Dating®

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