We were recently approached by Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) to deliver an informal lecture on Quba’s project approach, to an audience of second year Computer Science students. We of course said we’d love to do this so cracked on with picking a title.
The lecture was titled (W)agile; a crude term to many and one which may be frowned upon by those using pure Waterfall or pure Agile, however, (W)agile to us sums up our flexible approach to project management and we’re not that sniffy. It states that we use the best bits of both Waterfall and Agile processes to suit each and every client as the individuals they are. Having both PRINCE2 and Scrum Master certified Project Managers in the team, we collaborate to produce processes that can be moulded and adapted as needed.
So back to the lecture; we wanted to achieve a few key objectives in the hour with the students:
- Portray the culture of working in the digital industry, specifically in our standard issue quirky and fun office environment (yes there is a pool table.) Our drone video provided a pretty cool backdrop to this.
- Demonstrate that there isn’t always a ‘one size fits all’ approach to a project
- Interact with the students via workshops to provide a taster of the project activities we use day-to-day
To achieve these objectives, we set out to present the following topics:
Who are Quba? What are we like?
We proudly noted that we have over a 30% female workforce - above the national average of 12% within our STEM industries. What’s important though is that that we are constantly aiming to achieving greater equality, 30% is good but it’s simply not good enough for us.
What is (W)agile?
A word that does sound pretty odd, yes, but it is what it says on the tin. It’s a combination of waterfall and agile, cherry picking the best of both. We have the structure of a waterfall project but use agile principles to approach the work; an example of this is facilitation. As Project Managers, we see our job as facilitators to help the team achieve the best of their abilities, by clearing their path of any impediments or blockers and laying down the track they need to keep moving.
So what do we cherry pick from Agile?
We focused on only a few things here, using workshops to further drill in to the purpose of activities and the outputs. Namely planning poker, the definition of done, the breakout of tasks to create a backlog and our team stand-ups each day. We explained why we use these within a waterfall foundation, to demonstrate how our projects lend themselves to this approach.
How can we maintain quality through the intertwined processes?
Using a waterfall approach, the project is built on high-level phases; such as scoping, design, development and so on. Agile is then a tool within these phases, particularly the build phase, enabling us to fail quickly, adapt quickly and maintain regular show and tells. We understand that change is inevitable and use agile methods such as collaborative re-prioritisation to determine what we deem to be within the current scope, or to instead put on the back bench for future deploys or phases.
We can predict scope, budget and timelines at the beginnings of a project, but adapt to requirements on the fly within the boundaries of what is realistic for our client. Transparency is key, so we always allow client visibility of what is happening and when, and like them to play an active part, such as hot desking from our office once a week. We maintain quality through all of this by merging reactive agile tools, transparent communications and the involvement of the whole team in every aspect of the project’s lifecycle.
How do we continually improve?
We’re always looking for new ways to improve what we do, and at the moment this in the shape of the ISO9001:2015 accreditation. Reviewing all of our processes and quality management systems allows us to pinpoint if there are any cracks in what we do. If there are, we don’t stress about it, we work to remove the cracks and become more efficient and streamlined.
Throughout the presentation, Anne, one of the lecturers in attendance, kindly tweeted our key take-home messages.
We wound down at the end of the hour by discussing questions and thoughts, as well as speaking to a few students about their interest in working for Quba on their placement year. Safe to say we were hugely appreciative of the opportunity to provide a small taster of working in the industry and hopefully inspired some young minds.