Hello, I’m Alex, and I am the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) here at Social Impact Lab. I work with our developers here in Nairobi, and remotely with our team in Washington, DC. Together, we make FrontlineSMS, FrontlineCloud, and other awesome SIMLab apps.
As CTO, it’s my job to facilitate our technical team to work as well as possible, whilst throwing opinions around to keep the teams working together and continuously improving our apps. You can read about how we use a combination of Scrum and XP in our development process in Sitati’s post from last year.
Since I joined the team at the beginning of 2013, I’ve been working on improving our development ‘sprints’ (they're never perfect, right?), keep our product documentation polished, and make sure we’re testing (y)our code in detail, both manually and automatically -- important measures for an agile development team. Whilst working on our Scrum process, I have also found that as a company we have goals to achieve outside of our scrum sprints, and for this we have implemented another agile workflow methodology called 'Kanban'.
Kanban allows us to improve our technical tools, support processes efficiently and keep occasionally all-important side projects going. Kanban is great at managing this type of activity because of the way that it limits work in progress (WIP). While Scrum limits the amount of work a team commits to a project by time (a sprint) and does not limit WIP, Kanban actually does not prescribe any sort of time limit but does restrict the amount of WIP in play at any one time.
What do these strange words mean? Briefly, they hail from Lean Production methodology spawned by the Toyota Production System. Scrum and Kanban are workflow theories. Kanban is actually the name of a kind of traffic light system to handle car parts.
So, while our Scrum team commits to doing a certain amount of work in a specified time, the Kanban team commits to completing the work that has been started before picking up any new prioritised items of work. In this way, Kanban enforces a consistent 'cadence' of ticket throughput; perfect when you know you need to manage processes and tools that have a constant flow of work. Anyone who is interested in further details should read 'Kanban vs Scrum' by Henrik Kniberg, or head over to his blog and get reading. Or let me know.
What's ahead for 2014? (Apart from daily Genchi Genbutsu,) I'll be working to improve things further in our tech unit so that we can make more things, better and faster. I’ll also be speaking to as many people as I can that come through Nairobi and are interested in Frontline, SMS and breaking communications barriers around the world. Get in touch!
On top of that I’ll be smashing the backlog (where we put our product 'to-dos'), breaking apart the roadmap (our plans for our apps) and then generally putting it back together again with the aid of Product Owners (those in charge of the direction of the apps) and Project Directors (those in charge of specific sector projects). It should be fun, and I hope to post some more details about the above bits and pieces, from dongles to DC, soon.