Bringing agile to Auburn

When I was hired as a project manager at Auburn about 6 months ago, part of my role was to bring process to the company. I had worked in Agile environments in the past, at mobile start-ups, so I knew how successful it could be; especially for smaller teams.
When I arrived, I decided to spend a few weeks observing how everyone worked. I asked a set of questions I had devised around what was done on a day to day basis; how did they manage their work, and what did they feel needed improving. I asked a similar set of questions to clients too, because in order for projects to run as smoothly as possible the team and client need to be on the same page.
The results pointed to the following: teams felt work was lost in lengthy email or Basecamp threads, causing stress and last minute panics to get things done. Clients felt they weren’t being communicated with enough, and didn’t really know what was happening with their projects.
It was clear to me that what we all needed was greater visibility.
My next task was selecting the right tools for the solution. I explored numerous trials of great software like Jira and Trello. I eventually settled on a relatively small, but well supported tool called Breeze. I was keen to get everyone on to a more Kanban style of working, and leaving the intimidating Basecamp to-do lists behind. It was eventually agreed that Breeze combined the best aspects of Basecamp with the classic Kanban task card and to-do → doing → done workflow.
With Breeze, we now create a task for any piece of work that needs to be done – so nothing is missed. The card is assigned to the person responsible for the work, and they move the card from To-do, to Doing during development, and to Done when it’s completed. Our clients have access to their projects so they can see what’s happening, what stage every piece of work is at and even create their own tasks for us. We provide weekly updates for our active project clients, and monthly reports for those we provide support. Breeze helps us collate the data by tracking our time spent on tasks, and how much work we can get done in a given time-frame. Having this time-based knowledge means we can plan more accurately in the future too.
It was relatively simple to explain the “rules” for Agile and how Kanban worked to our team, and to our clients – it’s a very natural way of working, and you can learn through doing. As a result, work has been planned more effectively and clients have a greater insight and understanding into what we do, and how we do it. For me good project management is all about a cycle of planning and reflection, and bringing Agile to Auburn has certainly provided us an effective process for creating wonderful websites.