Previously we blogged about having the correct tools for the task in our technology team. We briefly introduced the idea of having concepts on our enterprise Kanban, where a concept is a product idea covering the whole pipeline, from planning to delivery. This time, I dig deeper into these concepts, what’s the idea and how we run them at Sievo.
Concepts are used at Sievo to develop new features, to provide major improvements to existing features and to track projects aimed at increasing the maintainability of our code base. A good concept answers the question What gets better after this concept has been finished? It solves a true business need and has a known goal before the development starts. Furthermore, a concept is focused so that it can be finished in a sensible time frame – estimated completion time should not exceed two months.
The most important aspect of a successful concept is that it has an owner, someone who “wants it to happen”. This person is ultimately also responsible to “make it happen”. The concept owner can be anyone in Sievo, contrary to a typical software development organization, where a product owner, or similar, is leading the process. Typically, concept owner comes actually outside of the technology team.
We have a vast backlog of concept embryos, ideas for development needs. This backlog is groomed and prioritized so that we identify the most important concepts that should be tackled next when we get room for new development. The concept owner and product owner plan a concept on a more detailed level, scoping the idea to a level of minimum viable product, or MVP, in the agile lingo. This MVP becomes the initial goal of the concept.
When the concept development begins, a concept team is formed. This team consists of the concept owner, the product owner, a bunch of developers, and, most importantly, members from other organizational parts at Sievo. This team is responsible of implementing the concept so that it fulfills the business needs.
Concept team has weekly meetings to discuss about past progress, new findings and possible new requirements. The most important focus is on the near future – what should be implemented in order to make the idea fly. Even though the concept has a scoped MVP before the implementation begins, the scope of the concept is continuously fine-tuned as the work progresses. These meetings are open for anyone at Sievo to join, and we encourage even our part-timers to participate to get as much feedback from the end users as possible.
We at Sievo do not use any standard agile charts such as burndowns or burn-ups to monitor the progress of a concept, or to estimate when a concept will be finished. We have tried that a few times, but experience has shown to us that estimating software development efforts is extremely difficult because of the “unknown unknowns”. An equally good estimate can be given by the concept owner or product owner with or without the charts. Our solution on ensuring a steady pace of software development is to have sensibly scoped concepts with a true business need.