I spoke at Agile India 2015 in March. Excellent conference but I was a quite disappointed that the videos are not publicly published. So, I decided to write about it here in detail.
The slide deck has been published at on slideshare But here goes the picto-blog. This is an experience report – the story of Josh Software and you can see a quick 2 minute preview here
The entire talk has the theme of war – because that was exactly what it has been. If you saw the preview, I have a sword there because I had promised my daughter that I would use it the next time I took the stage. It did fit the bill on this war theme.
So, this talk does not talk about going in the wild and changing code on production without testing it. This is a story about about how manual QA can make you blow yourself up!
This is a story about a perspective – towards cleaner code, good code quality and happy customers. This is what we learnt over the years when we started Josh Software in 2007 as a company that specialises in Ruby on Rails.
When we started, we were like a refugee camp searching for clients and leading a hand to mouth existence. Sethu and I started with no experience (and no money or savings). This was our entrepreneur plunge in to the wild. Of course, I admit, it’s been an excellent journey and we are far better off than being “lost to the corporate cause” ;)
Anyway, back to Josh… in 2007, we had our first war at Josh. Just like World War 1, this was an internal battle between egos – those of our developers and the QA. It was a question of responsibility and while that battle raged, our customers suffered.
Of course, we matured and like all mature countries, we had our Second World War at Josh in 2008. – this was a better organised war between our QA and Developers on one side and our client on the other. This was a war on scope of work, delays caused due to missed deadlines, finger-pointing and low budgets!
Now, the crisis had reached critical mass and we needed to the right thing – choosing the right customers and concentrating on quality over time and cost! This then brought the new order at Josh:
We also overhauled all our old arsenal to the new arsenal.
We used to use SVN, Trac, Redmine, and Bugzilla. While these are still good tools, it didn’t suit use. SVN and Trac had local server installation dependencies causing numerous problems. Redmine and Bugzilla couldn’t help in the way we wanted to manage projects.
Now, we switched to Github as our code repository and started using Pivotal Tracker or Trello for our project management. We added Code Climate for our code quality checks and CircleCI for continuous integration!
A special mention for Slack as it’s fast evolving into an ideal communication platform.
The theme of Agile India this years was #noestimates. While I was a little taken aback at it’s emphasis in almost every talk, I also realised that it was exactly what we do:
We estimate (sorry Forecast) a budget and then race to deliver stories. We estimate the stories at run-time and keep flexibility for adding, removing and changing priorities for any stories in a current iteration too! Pivotal Tracker for the win.
We use CodeClimate and CircleCI to their full potential thereby removing the need for any manual QA. Now, we are in a unique situation, where we have only engineers in our office – everyone codes and everyone writes their tests. We have never stressed on TDD or BDD (or BDT, TBD, DDT, TDT etc. ;) As long as the code is covered, we are good to go.
Since we get emails about code-coverage and test-coverage, it’s easy to monitor and manage projects among the entire team. In fact there is always some healthy competition between teams to ensure good code quality and better test coverage.
Now, what remained was browser testing. Even though there are good automated tools for cross-browser testing, nothing beats the human eye!
Along with this, we also changed and improved our processes. I believe that Agile, scrum, sprints etc. are overrated. We have our own process and we always encourage teams to have their own strategy. We don’t have daily standups and any process control. We hope our customers talk to our developers directly and keep the project management tool at the centre of the development universe!
Well, we also pushed agile to a whole new level. We have started Agile billing – we don’t charge any advance from our customers. This means its a “pay as you go” model where the customer always pays for what they get!
We bill every 2 weeks and that also keeps our cash flows running smoothly. Above all, it builds a lot of trust with our customers. It’s only natural that this keeps everyone on their toes.
All these changes have ensured that Josh Software has now become very successful in any work undertaken and we can proudly say that we have customers who are proud of us! Writing this post itself is testament to that! :) We feel like winners indeed when our customers value us as much as we value them!
They do say that there are no winners in war, so it was only fair to end my talk/post with an awesome photo of Dalai Lama – “may the peace be with you”.