Barnardos: Being a non-profit means we have to be lean

Ben Liquete – Tech Lead & Sharmili Someshwar – IT Dev Manager, Barnardos

Barnardos Australia has a long standing focus of putting the child first, and saw a need for a whole-of-life child welfare / child services management system.

Barnardos Australia created MyStory from the ground up – a cloud-based SaaS, designed by practitioners for practitioners. It features case planning tools with guided practice notes to give workers: shared information; enable best decisions; and preserves ‘life story’ information. It’s a digital memory box for the child/young person in foster care housed in one central location; because greater detail and accurate information results in better informed placement decisions for individuals.

We don’t have the luxury of being a non-agile heavy weight. The financial pressure alone brought on the project.

When the MyStory project began, the focus was on connecting users with working software they could use straight away. We worked to establish collaboration with multiple business units, industry experts, and academics to understand requirements rather than follow general sector processes, and we kept the end-user in the loop with focus groups to test the ideas and gather more.

We started with a number of Scrum tools: online backlogs and Scrum boards; User Stories; and we automated our whole delivery infrastructure to the cloud: build, test, deploy, backup; the whole shebang.

We have tried many different strategies to improve team throughput, like organising tasks and workflow, breaking big stories into granular stories, defining processes and check-lists to ensure similar understanding surrounding completed tasks, what to expect when a story is moved between stages, velocity and work-rate charts and many more.

What Worked

Definition of Done

Smaller Stories – collected under an ‘Epic’

Story Champions

Upcoming Functionality (Future Requests)

Internal Communication

Short focussed Stand-Up

What didn’t work / isn’t working

Tracking points per developer

Retro without action items

Too many rules and overbaked processes

Checklists as a process

Skipping Retro on non-deliverable sprints

Our whole team feels the need to take care of the project. As an example, our Development Manager plays Product Owner and attends the Daily Stand Up. They see the sprint progress as well as any hiccups the team is struggling with. They see where bugs are interfering with development flow, so they can choose to play the bug fix or not. This has helped management to re-prioritise stories.

We are co-located with the PDC our main “Customer” so communication, visibility and transparency and organisation have all benefited from thinking agile.

One of the simpler things we pursue is ‘Thank You notes’ for peer recognition, acknowledging that Feelings Matter, recognising via words and appreciation rather than via monetary value.

After having sent four members of our team to Agile Australia 2015 we’ve queued a few initiatives. We went through a Key Points exercise rating ourselves against some of the common key points raised in many of the Agile Australia talks.

We rated it high if we felt it was something we valued and pursued, low if we’re bad at it or needed to add focus to it. Based on the outcome we’ve created a number of follow up activities to get us to where we want to be for those Key Points.

Key Points

  • Adaptability
  • Don’t Fear Failure
  • Simplicity
  • Communication – Internal
  • Communication – External
  • Innovation
  • Trust within the Team
  • Freedom to Create
  • Highly Valued Team of Highly Valued Individuals
  • A Team of Leaders

As maturity goes, we’ve been together for long enough now that we are creating an identity for MyStory IT Dev team. Yes, we have different opinions in some areas like Simplicity, Leadership, Freedom to create etc, but we believe these ideas, as well as understanding our responsibility and accepting it, is our priority as a team and we’re committed to that.

This content was previously published in the AgileTODAY magazine (Volume 10).

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