Matt Saunders – Project Management using Hybrid Agile Development

| Live Blog Posts

Matt is the Director of Technology for examiner.com

Matt is on the organization committee for DrupalCon Denver – Collaborative Publishing for Every Device – and looking after the volunteers. (He’s looking – so contact him)

Matt has been involved with Drupal since 4.6.

If you're really interested in project management and open source, check out UpStream, a WordPress project management plugin.

When Matt started with Drupal – he had some programming background – but was “different” – He was nurtured by the community – sometimes harsh… sometimes bizarre… but certainly part of it… Embrace new people when they join – celebrate the differences – its worth it when we try. (well said)

Matt’s strength is project management… and examiner.com has had some big shifts in project management over the past 2 years.

Part 1 – Some moments in the history of project management

until 2700BC – project management was by necessity. The pyramids etc saw periods of productivity and rest.

1st Century BC – Marcus Vitruvius Pollio -
17th Century – Christopher Wren – rebuilt all the churches after London burned
18-19th Century – Thomas Telford – bridges -

to this point – we didn’t know what our dependencies were – or planning for materials / labour.

Then came Henry Gantt – 1861-1919 – “Father of planning and Control Techniques” – his methodology identified dependencies and tracking time.

The process of project management we use today comes from the military – CPM and PERT – highly accurate inventory and timing…

Part 2: 3 Software Methodologies

1. “Cowboy” – great for unpredictable projects / fast / requires a lot of trust – and can lead to missed expectations and miss-communications. – Highly informal – focuses on stakeholders
When time is crunched – (they had 7 months instead of 18 to get the job done)
“You have to trust me – but it will work in the end”.

2. “Waterfall” – after the project was done the examiner wanted a lot more planning and predictability. Highly formalized, focuses on requirements, inflexible, planning is frontloaded. Waterfall doesn’t work very well with Drupal projects – and there’s really no such thing as “waterfall” – there will ALWAYS be changes.
The development team got shut out of the planning – they were just handed requirements. At the end of the day – there was a lot of hacking going on just to meet the requirements. Which made waterfall very unappealing.

3. “Agile” – weave, move, flexible.
- defined timeboxes
- iterative approach
- incremental
- collaborative
- rapid and flexible – responsive to change
- self organizing

Whatever the approach – we NEED project management for successful outcomes.

At this point – Matt put four great testimonials from people who talk about project management.

Funny stuff – clients can be completely unreasonable… and developers speak a different language… Whatever craziness occurs during a project – it comes back to management and communication. Both the dev. and the client need to be accountable for the time spent.

Lack of planning, communication, process, focus, and difference in culture make for nightmares for us our partners.

Our job is to bring calm to the chaos. We are the cat herders… we don’t just herd developers, themers, we herd clients, owners… and they all speak different languages. Communication is the key. We keep the team from being distracted by shiny things 

“Just add this one little bobble… ” Surely it can’t take that long… but its way more than that (he’s so right on this). The PM has to shelter people from all the crud. Strong communication is the key.

Manhole covers are heavy so they can’t be picked up – and they’re round because its the only shape that won’t fall into the hole. This is the role of PM.

The Agile Approach:
Matt has a ton of people that he’s responsible for. They are spread out all over place (distributed team)
Product Group – owns the backlog, personas etc…
Project Management Group – scrum masters, protects the dev team from others and making mistakes

Examiner’s Timebox Timeline:
60 days- business requirements
40 days – user stories, wireframes, comps
20 days – Beginning of Current Development cycle
So they do 20 day sprints – and they overlap…

Matt spent some time going through their Development Calendar

Daily Scrums – what did you do in the last 24 hours, what are you doing today – what are the blocks in your way

Communication: -
IRC / Skype
Google Docs
and a bunch of tools 

This process creates a faster, better, more awesome development team.


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.