Sometimes it can feel that discussions about Agile and Lean are purely academic. Most of those articles are the business equivalent of those motivational TED Talks. But sometimes, you watch a company crush it. Things fall in place and magic happens.
Yesterday I was impressed when my team at one of my customers managed to go from idea to production in a matter of hours. Instead of talking high-level company transformations, let’s walk through the specifics of this case.
So, what happened? We got together in the morning to discuss the problem, settled on a solution and divided the work. The first draft was available by the afternoon. We tested, adapted and released.
When I closed my laptop after a highly productive day, I was thinking about what made this possible. This was not a trivial implementation. There were multiple databases involved. We needed to adapt a website and a mobile app. The system was live and had active users.
So what made the difference? Why does it take a bank a year to ship a CRUD form while my small team could ship an idea in a mere 6 hours?
The codebase is far from pristine, but it’s in a state where fast change is possible most of the time. We don’t have that many automated tests, but the ones we have cover the sensitive parts of the application. It’s good enough and it takes consistent effort to stay in shape.
A push to the different staging environments is trivial. Updates to the backend or mobile app are available in a matter of minutes. We’ve cut all unnecessary dependencies, so different modules can be released at different times without breaking stuff.
Small empowered team
There were only four people involved in the briefing. When discussing a solution in a small group, knowledge sharing is instant. If we would have gone the route of a functional analyst writing JIRA tickets and planning them in sprints, it would have taken ages.
The simplest solution
There is a moment when the solution comes together and it looks like building the thing is actually feasible. There is a real temptation to add more features and edge cases. Resist. The team that can pick the simplest solution wins. Adding more features is an expensive form of procrastination.
This team knows their product and helps decide on its features. It’s not uncommon for a developer to see an opportunity, propose it and ship it within a few days. The requests from the marketing team get challenged and simplified all the time, leading to a better product.
All of these factors contribute to a fast turnaround. If I had to pick one, it would be size. A small team can run circles around a SAFe feature factory. If you’re a company that doesn’t have the budgets of Big Banks, that should sound like music to your ears.