At Flowroute we are a software company that just happens to be a telecom carrier. We deliver value to our customers through our ability to build software that allows us to deliver innovative communications services. Our calling and messaging services are designed to enable our customers to incorporate them into their products to deliver innovative services and customer experience. The faster we can build the right high-quality software, the faster we deliver valuable services to the market, the better we can carve out a unique market position delivering for innovative businesses. Recognizing this imperative to rapidly building the quality services our customers need, in late 2014 our development team made the leap into agile, completely changing the way we work. Adopting agile practices allows us to work together in a more collaborative way, providing transparency across all projects to deliver a much richer and more rewarding experience for our team to develop great products.
Headlong into agile
Making the shift to agile did not happen overnight. After getting executive buy-in, the development team needed to define roles and responsibilities, by establishing who the core development team was, and putting a product owner in charge of establishing the team’s objectives and priorities. After this was done, the team implemented the following agile principles:
- Backlog: The team defined a work backlog so that everyone had a clear idea of what needed to be done, and what was in process.
- Task Board: A task board was created and displayed on the wall so that it was easy to see what was being worked on at any given moment.
- Daily Stand-ups: The team started holding daily stand-ups answering three questions: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Are there any obstacles in your way?
- Sprints: The team began running sprints every two weeks, where we would pick goals for the two week period and define what should be accomplished.
- Retrospectives: At the end of each sprint the team held a retrospective so that we could learn what went well and what didn’t, and make incremental changes so that the next sprint was more effective.
- Scrum Master: We hired a scrum master to work with the development team and keep work on track, as well as facilitate daily stand-ups, sprint planning sessions, and retrospectives.
Our development team started this journey as a collection of individuals working on their own tasks and now has evolved into a true team, where we collectively work together as a unit.
More code, more quickly
After moving to agile, it became apparent that the team was able to focus better and work together to solve challenges. There were fewer boundaries, and everyone was able to work on anything in the queue because team members were less possessive of projects and more inclusive. We started to realize higher velocity; the team was able to code more quickly, and deliver more complete work, more often, resulting in our average velocity increasing by 50%. We are also seeing more transparency, which is contributing to improved communication and better-understood expectations between the team and the other departments within the company.
Agile course correction
As a result of moving to agile, we realized that some things were not quite as buttoned up as previously thought. Agile allowed us to see our weaknesses and then choose whether or not to address them. For example, the team saw they needed improved testing and decided to address that. Another side effect of agile was that some team members didn’t adapt to agile very well. Some conflicts that had previously been hidden rapidly rose to the surface, and not everyone made it through the transition.
At times, it was difficult to accept our shortcomings, but as a team we were able to take care of things proactively. In the future, we know that by being agile we will start to see issues before they become problems, and fix them accordingly. This is also allowing us to work more efficiently as a company, by adjusting course before we become mired down in inertia.
On the cutting edge of telecom
As a result of moving to agile, we are now on the cutting edge of telecom, implementing a new way of operating. In many ways, the telecom industry is stuck in the past, relying on outdated methods of operation. At Flowroute, are part of the next generation, revolutionizing the way the entire industry operates. By implementing agile we are living what we preach, and we have seen a significant return on our investment.
We have been able to improve velocity, deliver even better products, and we can now work at full capacity, daily if necessary. Our development team says that things are better than they have ever been, and we think it will only get better. After adopting agile we are now able to clearly see where our work lies, and what needs to be done. We are now working in true alignment as a team.