Ever wondered how Santa manages to seamlessly design, build and deliver presents, each year?

It’s simple! The same way the Digital team here at Adur & Worthing Councils designs, builds and delivers our projects.

Agile is a project methodology which focuses on constant communication and evaluation. With incredible productivity that allows projects to be completed faster. According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, Agile-led projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects. There is no wonder why Agile is used by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Phillips and us at Adur and Worthing Councils.

Like Santa, we will only begin a project when there is a need for something to be made and delivered, so, firstly a need for a new system or new technology is established. Those who require the new system put together an idea of what they are looking for, how much they have to spend and when they need it completed.

As we know, Santa needs a team of elves, without them he won't be able to produce all the presents in time for Christmas Eve. Just like Santa we, as an Agile team, are unable to complete our projects without a team. Our team doesn't include elves, unfortunately, but it does include a ‘Scrum Master’ who is essentially a Project Manager but with less documentation, ‘Stakeholders’ who are the people who have requested the project and will be the end users of what gets produced, and everyone else; developers and designers.

It is important that Santa collects all the Christmas letters throughout the year, so that he knows exactly what his elves need to design and build. Which is what we do when we start a new project, we collected ‘User Stories’, which are essentially wishlists. The user stories are written in a specific format: As a…….I want to be able to……..So that I can……… For example; As a (Member of staff), I want to be able to (send out automated emails), so that I can (Keep up contact with customers without manually sending emails). From these user stores, we can establish key tasks that need to take place to complete the user story, ie, create an email input and output, hold customer data etc.

Once we have collected all our user stores, we then score them using the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100). 0 being the easiest and 100 being extremely difficult. As an Agile team, we would sit down together and score each user story based on how hard we think it is and how many hours it will take to complete. If we have user stories that are higher than 20, we find it’s best to split them into smaller chunks, or if its too far out of reach and scope then we may choose to not complete that story. Although Santa doesn't use the Fibonacci sequence, he does use his own to decide whether he will make and deliver a present or not, he does this by establishing through the year if that person is naughty or nice.

After collecting and scoring our user stories, we should have a clear list of what needs to be done and how long it will take. From this we can establish a completion and handover date. From the start of a project until the end, the project team will work in ‘Sprints’ which are 2 week bursts of work. In these sprints we will choose a selection of user stories we would like to complete. Our team currently uses an online tool called Trello, to manage the progress of these stories. Trello allows you to add in all of your user stories, you can put them into different sections ‘Backlog’ (things to do), ‘In Progress’, ‘Done’. You can also assign each task to a member of the development team.

It is important for Agile teams to monitor the rate of which the project teams work, we can do this by seeing how many user stories the team completes each sprint and adding up the points for those stories. By establishing how many points the team completes each sprint, allows us to understand how fast our team is working and see if we have the capability to add in more, less or the same amount of user stories for the next sprint, allowing us to always work at our best ability.

During the ‘Build’ stage of the project, there will be several meetings where the dev team and the stakeholders will meet up to see what has been completed, this is called a ‘Show and Tell’. This allows us to make sure that what is being build is always exactly what was asked for. We also have daily ‘Stand Ups’ where each member of the project team quickly says what they have done, what they are working on, and any ‘Blockers’ (issues) they are facing, so we can get those resolved as soon as the issue arises. At the end of each sprint we have a ‘Retrospective’ where the team meets once again and goes through what went well and what could have gone better, allowing for constant evaluation and improvements.

Finally at the end of the project, we will have create a new system (or whatever was requested), on time, in budget and exactly how it was asked for. Then we are able to deliver the new product to the users to begin using. Although the project will be over once the product has gone live, we will, however, always have ongoing maintenance and support.

And just like that, we have completed a project, just like Santa always has all the toys completed and ready to be delivered on time for Christmas Eve every year.

Merry Christmas