Monday, June 15, 2009

Lesson#2: Pace Your Sprint Rightly

In my previous post, I said about being incremental. Here come the next thing, being “ITERATIVE”. A prefer the term Sprint than Iteration.

So, once you decided to take small increments, make sure you reach the targets sprinting.


I suggest you prepare for sprinting with the right techniques and tools. A few recommendations-

  1. Never miss a daily standup meeting. Spend only 2 minutes (or less) per person answering the three questions – what did you do yesterday, what’s on the plate for today and what is blocking the race?
  2. Install visual clues for bringing the under the hood stuffs to daylight. Remember, being able to address the loopholes is the key. The solution usually follows automatically.

The key concept to internalize is, sprinting is a balance race. You need a good start and keep the momentum to reach the touch line on time. Its a small race and if you fall back, the touch line may seem too far to celebrate.

At Code71, ScrumPad, is helping us in sprinting. Our sprints are two week sprints in most projects. We found the team communication holds a key in meeting the deadline. Since, within a sprint, someone of the team may need an unplanned vacation or an issue may arise out of the blue, the team needs to step up and put extra efforts. Again, visual clues help the team in keeping everybody posted timely.

If a team finds it difficult to meet the deadline and find the sprint length to be too small, then what? Should they linger the sprint length? NO. The solution is to even shorten the length. To make sure, the team can plan for short spans with better accuracy. Lingering the sprint length addresses the wrong disease and hence may not solve the problem.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lesson#1: Going Incremental is Natural!

As Scrum and Agile processes tell you, do it in small sprints, 2 weeks preferably, and go incremental. Take a small piece at a time and sprint.


I took this image from internet and credits to this site.

It’s easy to work out the Natural way than to defy it! If you are iterative and incremental, you are reaching towards the right hand side of the image! And to make the evolution faster, I suggest you try out Scrumming with ScrumPad. If you value “teaming” and “delivering” in sprints, ScrumPad will give you the oxygen to breathe while you sprint!

I suggest you follow a routine to iterate. At Code71, we follow the below-

Day 1: Plan for the next 9 days. Breakdown work items into smaller tasks, estimate at hours for each of the tasks and assign each task to an individual.

Day 8: Release in test server (shadow version of the real production environment) and collect customer feedback.

Day 9: Work on customer feedback and go live in production server. Always tag the version that is put in the production following the standard -


This gives us the rollback point when there is any issue in the latest production deploy. Of course, we make sure we do not need to touch on the tags too often!

How are you sprinting? Let me know if you have a suggestion.

Its easier to get lost! Would you?

I was talking to a friend of mine, who started a IT start up and working full time with a few others to foster the business. He was telling me-

“We have 13 projects running at this moment. We are working our heart out. But, we are not finding any time to do Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration and all the good things…”

Well, I understand how it feels! As the title says, “Its easier to get lost!”


Do you fancy getting stuck at this maze?

For startups, it is difficult to control the pulse. Because, you want to reach your billion dollar spot as early as possible, this week, or even earlier, today or even just in a few hours! And, as days go by, you start to feel the need for some process, to safeguard your efforts and quality, to hit the deadlines, to get in the rhythm of a sustainable pace.

But it may be really difficult to catch the ball at the first jump. We, at Code71, believe we need to be visibly competent and confident about the quality of our work. And worked hard to get the gears together in motion. Now it is cliques great. We have got the people motivated to follow the best practices, the tools to “do more with less” and the process to ensure a “sustainable pace”. I advise, you do at least the following to learn to escape the maze from tomorrow-

    • DIE for planning. Plan for short spans. We plan for two week sprints.
    • While planning, estimate honestly. Estimate all the hours necessary for following best practices. (producing automated test scripts may take 40% longer time, but bear with it)
    • Plan on your inputs. You cannot push your inputs. So, you may need to squeeze the output to match against your capacity.
    • DIE to meet the deadline according to the plan.

This is the mindset. You need to start believing to sustain. You need to plan honestly and never miss a deadline. After reaching the deadline, you retrospect. Find the loopholes and start filling those one by one. If you don’t see a loophole, find a ladder to reach higher. But do not place a ladder on a land mine!

Its not difficult if you have the preparation. To prepare, at a minimum do the following-

  • Have a Continuous Integration (CI) server up and running 24x7 or DIE. (We use CruiseControl, its free and great)
  • Make your CI server to send build, test and coverage report for you. Keep an eye on the coverage report and DIE to remain well above the the 80% line.
  • Keep track of your activities for retrospect. We use ScrumPad. It helps you to iterate, collaborate and deliver.

The keyword is “sustainable pace”. I found Scrum to address this sustainable pace really smartly. If you haven’t tried yet and looking for the loopholes to fill or the ladder to climb up, I suggest you learn about agile and Scrum, find an expert and give it a try. It’s worth than you might have expected.

If you know a better way to keep delivering better, I will appreciate for sharing your idea to me.