May 17, 2016Devvela insights
4 min read

Flashback: Devvela Goes Agile

Running from Waterfall to Agile

We haven’t been Agile from the beginning. But, back then, in 2007, how many dev shops were that? Waterfall seemed to work fine for most. However, its flaws were obvious. As we grew, the size, complexity and scope of our contracts increased, and doing things the old way was growing more and more difficult. Soon it became clear to us that waterfall wasn’t an option anymore.

Typically, one won’t admit it’s time to change until something breaks in the current system. This is what happened to us: something did break having left team members furious and frustrated. Under these circumstances, could they deliver quality work? Hell, no!

Once upon a time, there was a very special client. He came to us and asked us to build a complex customer loyalty software for a huge retail chain. Good heaven, how enthusiastic, how full of optimism we were as we tackled the project! However, our enthusiasm didn’t last long. As mentioned above, this was a very special client, both restlessly innovative and impatient (a good entrepreneur’s qualities, aren’t they?). As we were working on the core product he would regularly pipe in with new features demanding us to dive right in. Our engineers and product managers had to do extra hours to make it all right - all in vain.

Company management realized soon we weren’t doing business anymore - we were just building something instead. Something the client wasn’t satisfied with. We couldn’t finish the core product because we had to keep up with never-ending influx of new ideas coming from the client which we had to explain to him over and over again (because he demanded the core product built all the same!). Work on the project literally turned into a death march. Finally, our CTO suggested the client we did day long iterations and somehow, probably thanks to that only, we managed to finish the project. To that point, engineers and management were totally used up and almost hated the product they had built.

Alright, lesson was learned. We were sure we didn’t want to get through the same nightmare ever again. As described above, we have tried some primitive form of iterative development and liked its flavour. The time was right to go Agile. But we didn’t know much about the methodology and its implementation, and needed to learn.

Our first step was, as you might expect, self-education. Books, articles, lectures, webinars - all sorts of media, whatever we could discover on the Internet went immediately into our basket to be analyzed and tested right after. Was it helpful? Yes, for we have developed general understanding of Agile and even started to see some minor details. And no - we still were children waiting for a grownup to enter the room and show us how Nintendo works.

So, we set out in a search of such person. We found a company that had been practicing Agile successfully for a while and invited their team lead to help us. He did an awesome thing: instead of lecturing and telling the team what they should do he gave us information and split us into topic groups, each of them to prepare a slide deck on their particular subject. And know what? The team just loved it!

Soon after two intense days allocated to learning and exercising we took the knowledge to practice. Chicago Electric Boat Company website with custom reservation system was the first product to be built under Agile. We not only tried what we’ve learned about Agile as a management framework, but also implemented Agile software development practices, such as scrum, extreme programming, TDD, BDD and other. That’s when wonders started to happen. Apparently, we weren’t adept Agile practitioners back then, but, despite that, most of the issues we used to struggle with either were gone, or have become way easier to handle.

Later on, we applied Agile in all its glory to build Player’s Health, a complex Web & mobile startup for athletic injury management. What fruits have we been reaping since! It’s been popular among investors from the very beginning. It has already developed a partnership with USA Wrestling, and could soon be ubiquitous in all middle and high school sports. Not to speak of how happy the founder was as the app was selected to pitch at ‪Google Demo Day 2016 and, finally, won it! Despite Player’s Health is our most loved creation there’s a bunch of other startups that have been developed under Agile such as Bunker In A Box, Open House Hub, and more.

Through the couple of years, Agile proved excellent for our team, products and clients. It’s not that easy to keep up with the methodology as it seems, but it’s clearly worth all efforts. Once we’ve learned that, we’re not going to abandon the methodology. Well, not earlier than something better comes up.

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