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Applying Advanced Agile Methodologies
Our big challenge now is no longer the speed of code propagation. It’s how we can manage effective communication among streams
May. 2, 2014 10:45 AM
In the five years since I co-founded Bonitasoft with Miguel Valdes Faura and Rodrigue Le Gall, our organization has come a long way.
We started with seven developers. We now have 17 dedicated full time to Bonita BPM - along with a systems architect, a QA team, a documentation team, and a "human factors" engineer. We've logged 2.75 million downloads, booked 875 customers and built a community of 60,000 contributors.
How do you triple the size of your development team in less than five years and keep consistent control over your processes? Well, even for a company that's in the business of helping others improve processes, it's been a challenge, a learning experience - and a great opportunity to apply some interesting "advanced" agile methodologies.
How We Started with Agile
With a small team, we were able to make very efficient progress all working on the same code - we got the first release of Bonita Open Solution out in six months.
But as we grew our development team and as we dealt with the inevitable errors that crept in, we found ourselves being held up. If the build chain broke, everyone's progress was affected.
With the growing team, to avoid these compilation issues, we broke up R&D into three individual teams (still focused on the Engine, the Web, and the Studio components of the Bonita BPM suite) and gave each team an independent release process for each component. This greatly helped us to isolate bug errors, but for fixes, the Studio team was always last in line - they needed a stable build from the Web team, who needed a stable build from the Engine team. It might take as long as two weeks before a bug-discovered-and-fixed on the same day by the Engine team actually propagated to the Studio team.
The Business Pressure to Change Our Development Approach
The New R&D Organization: Agile Streams
The product committee's guidance heavily influences the priorities of the first three streams. The Fast-Track development priorities come from Support, Customer Success, Pre-Sales, and Delivery, the customer-facing groups inside Bonitasoft. In this way we continue to improve our product through both radical innovation and incremental improvements (new and improved features).
Each stream is comprised of Engine, Web, and Studio developers, plus a Product Manager and members of the documentation and Quality Assurance teams. Our systems architect and human factors engineer work across all four streams.
When a feature or improvement is developed in a stream, it is fully developed and tested on the stream's dedicated continuous integration server. A feature is "done" when the language translation is done, the documentation is done and the tests are done. When the entire code stream is stable, then and only then it is pushed to the shared continuous integration server where it can be accessed and used by the other streams.
When it is time for a major release, the code is pushed to another dedicated server where the final QA is done.
The advantages of this development approach are already being realized: the isolation of each stream and the involvement of QA inside each one means that the code is only shared when ready - and no other stream is dependent on work outside of it in order to advance.
It's also much cleaner to always have one stream dedicated to maintenance. We use a round robin approach so each stream has a turn, and only one stream is working on maintenance fixes at a time.
There's Always a Challenge
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