Product delivery questionnaire

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When I join product team or company here is the list of questions i have in my mind. What do you think about that? Do you think some questions are not relevant? Is there anything you would add?

I. Provisioning

  1. Do you use public cloud service providers?
  2. Are you considering building private cloud?
  3. Are you using containers?
  4. Please describe infrastructure provisioning process from idea to deployment
  5. Please describe any needed areas of improvements/shortcomings of the existing infrastructure
  6. What is the lead time required to provision a new production environment or enhancement?

II. Operations

  1. Please describe how do you plan your capacity? (decision making process, how far ahead, how often, with whom?)
  2. Please describe your disaster recovery strategy, including system backup/restore procedures, simulation of disasters… (how often? who initiates?)
  3. Please describe any dependencies that need to be managed as part of deployment (e.g. CDN, caching 3d party services, …)
  4. Please elaborate on how broadly you’re using opportunities to choose external service providers. Why? What type and size of projects?
  5. How do you ensure that your solution is resilient?

III. Quality assurance

  1. Please describe your quality assurance process: who, what, how, …
  2. What is definition of quality in your team? (SLOs)
  3. Please describe your test planning. Each sprint, month?
  4. How Business/Product people are involved in quality assurance? By whom?
  5. Please describe tools/services used for quality assurance.
  6. What is the percentage of your environment is covered by automated tests?
  7. How often tests are executed?

IV. Continuous integration

  1. Please describe the CI process implemented in your team (how code gets from developer workspace to shared repository)
  2. Please describe the frequency of builds. Why?
  3. Please describe the extent of automated testing
  4. Please describe tools/services used for CI process
  5. Please describe any needed areas of improvements/shortcomings of the existing CI environment/process

V. Continuous delivery (Deployment automation)

  1. Do you have downtimes during deployment? (How long?)
  2. Please describe the extent of deployment automation within the development, staging and productions environments
  3. Please describe the frequency of deployments
  4. Please describe any cases of manual deployments
  5. Please describe the ways used to document deployments
  6. Please describe the tools/services used for deployment automation
  7. Please describe any needed areas of improvements/shortcomings of the existing deployment automation process
  8. Please describe how your deployment changes in case of major changes that require infrastructure or application architecture alterations
  9. What is your maintenance/downtime window and how it relates to automated deployments

VI. Configuration management

  1. Please describe the extent of configuration management within the development, staging and productions environments. How? Who? When?
  2. Please describe the frequency of configuration updates
  3. Please describe any cases of manual configuration changes
  4. Please describe the ways used to insure configuration consistency
  5. Please describe tools/services used for configuration management
  6. Please describe any needed areas of improvements/shortcomings of the existing configuration management process

VII. Monitoring and logging

  1. Please describe the extent of monitoring and logging within the development, staging and productions environments. Types of metrics, frequency, size of logged data, period of time
  2. Please describe who and how uses information? What decisions are made using this information? How often (sprint, month, quarter)?
  3. Please describe who is defining what and how to monitor/log
  4. Please describe tools/services used for monitoring and logging
  5. Please describe any needed areas of improvements/shortcomings

VII. API

  1. Do you understand benefits of building APIs? Is your functionality covered with APIs?
  2. Do you have geographically distributed teams? Do you have many UIs (mobile, desktop)?
  3. Does anyone outside your organization would like to access your data and workflows in a programmatic way?
  4. Do you have platform team to work on following services: infrastructure, guidelines, development/configuration portal?
  5. Have you established API community to drive the topic across organization: education, contribution to common platform services?

 

Typically it reveals following issues:

  1. Missing (or understaffed) service oriented platform teams that focus on building self-service solutions for product teams.
  2. No ability to purchase/rent needed services as temporary solution before internal service teams are established properly.
  3. Quality is not measured which makes it (almost) impossible to prioritize non-functional (scale, technical debt, increased usage) improvements.
  4. No multifunctional teams with a mix of #1 and #2 leads to additional stress on teams responsible for a service due to additional headache of prioritizing scarced resource. It also reduces possibility of exchanging feedback between product teams and service teams, which is crucial for building internal services right.
  5. (Almost) no focus on automating activities related to software delivery and maintenance which increases delays and manual work as solution complexity and usage increases.

More lessons learned – http://agilemindstorm.com/2017/02/18/network-structure-11-lessons-learned/

Network organization in a nutshell

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Important

  1. Build multi-functional team.
  2. Pick up the problem/challenge/value.
  3. Define whom it’s important for.
  4. Define dependencies.
  5. Define success/failure criteria.
  6. Slice it.
  7. Prepare.
  8. Make.
  9. Give it to the world.
  10. Retrieve & analyze feedback.
  11. Keep #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 – cycle short.

Depends (not important)

  • Process you use – less is more. underestimated cost of spreading heavyweight process accross users.
  • Tools you use – bottom up standardization normally works much better. but would be interesting to make an investigation how/if tools standardization really helps.
  • Planning – as lots of work is invested into making a plan, people try to a void changing it to match the reality.
  • Various definition and templates – often do not match real work even before being issued.
  • Roles descriptions – typically defined for people below high level management.

p.s. Tayloristic organisation defines “not important” as highly important

Constraints On Effective Product Development

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Organising yourself as a network of multi-dependent teams helps to solve following constraints and increase effectiveness of product development

Functional Teams

People from different functional areas must be a part of the same team to eliminate all possible “cross departments” activities

Toyota have long eliminated this constraint through their Obeya concept, and unique matrix structure.

Capacity of Bottlenecks

Often certain teams in the company can become a bottleneck as lots of others start to depend on them. Providing options for teams in different stages of development gives needed flexibility and possibility to act according the situation.

Delayed Decision Making 

Building structure around function silos and skills forces you to increase additional layers of coordination or start more projects which automatically leads to more communication points and less efficiency. additionally temporary nature of projects breaks ownership mindset. Organising around value forces you to:

  • think long term as there is no end, but continuous value delivery
  • focus on relevant problems, especially if options are given to others and they can abandon your service
  • build in ownership and quality as things will not be passed to someone else

 

What other constraints you face? Do you find these common?

Resources

  • http://www.organizeforcomplexity.com
  • https://medium.com/@flowchainsensei/constraints-on-effective-product-development-3b2684f5d1e2#.puz0ysspx
  • http://agilemindstorm.com/2016/03/16/network-structure-it-works/

Network structure – it works

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It was a long journey of trying to understand what organisational structure is best for dynamic growth, experiments, agility and change.

Simple conclusion that i came up for myself – it works! And it is the best way to grow up to an organization to a scale of 600 people at least. Reasons behind are simple – it allows you to scale fast naturally and have built-in flexibility in the structure to a constant change. Obviously there are challenges which you have to overcome.

TOP 7 Challenges

  1. Flexible structure is not possible if you want to keep technical foundation monolithic. Devops and Service Oriented Architecture is a must use practices otherwise organization will not be able to adjust to changing business demand fast enough
  2. Easy to fallback to local optimizations and thinking that structure is something permanent
    • POD Leads and Keepers start to maintain status quo rather than to advocate the change as structure must be adjusted according new findings, growing number of people, speed of delivery and many other things that pop up during the journey
    • Extreme sense of ownership can lead to certain local optimizations instead of seeking global improvement
  3. It’s very important to define common artifacts for PODs as soon as possible so everybody knows what to expect and how to work. You can start from something simple first and grow it naturally according the needs
  4. Pod sponsor role is extremely critical in order to achieve alignment and solve challenges outside the scope of the POD or priority conflicts
    • Especially for service pods which are often understaffed and business value is indirect, but high expectations are formed by the community
    • Pod sponsor is an important contributor to network orchestration
  5. Transparency is key, especially regarding speed of delivery and commitments
  6. Behavior and mindset is much more important than experience as new structure depends a lot on readiness to change and constant learning
  7. Change and adoption core group must be full-time activity and include decision makers (often C-level)
    • Plays leading role in network orchestration
    • Solves operational challenges together with leaders

But what you get instead:

  • you know value creation chain of your company and make dependencies visible
  • people are committed and motivated as they are the owners of what they do and decision making is delegated to them
  • problems are transparent to everyone who is looking for information and you can act upon them

Updated document with our experience – POD framework v.03, comparing to previous version you will find:

  • Description of deliverables and artifacts that can be used as a starting point of your journey
  • Better description of roles to handle expectations
  • Description of how roles work should together
  • Challenges that you must prepare for

If you have experience organizing work as a network of autonomous teams, I would love to hear your insights, ideas and experience.