On Monday, we started our first iteration. We spent the previous two weeks discussing the process, preparing stories, and learning how we can adapt extreme programming (XP) practices into our development process.

We kicked off with iteration planning to identify the engineering tasks associated with the stories in the iteration backlog. We gave estimated in ideal hours for each of the tasks and added them to the story cards. Once the planning was done, people picked up tasks they were going to work on (some were assigned, others volunteered) that day. We made a point to assign a peer to work with the task owner until the task is finished.

Every morning at 9 AM, we have a stand up meeting with the team to go over each member’s progress from the previous day, plans for that day, and any roadblocks that are inhibiting forward momentum. Once each person was done, we got down to business and started work on our tasks. Full-time pairing has been limited so far, only a few have been pairing for the engineering tasks. I’m sure it will take time to adjust to what works best for the members of the team.

For project tracking, we are using a physical planning board with the cards pinned to the board. We tried a number of electronic methods to improve collaboration with our remote team members, but the tools just got in the way of the process. We are going to follow up in our retrospective with the remote teammates to determine how we can improve their involvement in the daily workflow. For now, they are communicating via e-mail and phone with our project manager who is working with me for our daily focus (like a scrum master, but in XP terms that I can’t remember).

One of the initial things we found is that it is really important to mark on the cards WHO is working on the engineering tasks associated with the story. Without this step, members of the team sometimes lost track of what they were doing and ended up working on other things. The ownership of the story once picked up really needs to be communicated well with the team to make sure multiple people don’t end up doing the same work.

I paired with another team member on a forward deployed application that is part of our system. I’m fairly experienced with the program whereas my pair-mate (?) had no experience with it. We managed to complete a couple of stories in the first three days of the iteration, some solid progress in my opinion. We spent a lot of time testing various scenarios to ensure the changes we made didn’t break anything. Once each story was complete, we did the paperwork to integrate our code changes into SVN. Yes, we have paperwork for each change to ensure compliance with SOx.

We had a couple of stories that we found did not have a sufficient level of detail in the acceptance criteria to complete. After working with the stakeholder on the story and acceptance criteria, the estimate changed and we’re trying to determine if there is room enough in this iteration to complete it properly.

Our application has been live for several years, so we have members of the team that handle support for our production systems. Starting this week, defects that are found in production are red-carded and put into the Inbox on the planning wall (we are using red cards for defects). We then take a few minutes to estimate the defect and depending on the size either add it to the iteration or put it into the release backlog for the next iteration. This allows us to quickly get production issues fixed and delivered for system testing by our SQA department.

This week we’ve also been working with product management on stories for large upcoming features that are being added to the product. That has been a very good experience, particularly in how we are building our knowledge of the user behavior that is being requested. I’m even thinking of how we could write a series of how-to documents on using the new system features based on the stories we are writing – I’m sure our documentation team with love that!

So I’m encouraged by our progress so far, but overwhelmed with the pace at which we’ve adapted these new practices. It seems like only a couple of weeks ago I was having meetings with our management team about moving to a more agile development process and here we are today almost midway through our first iteration. Let’s hope we can sustain our pace, keep the backlog full, and finish our first iteration with success.