Signs That You’ve Outgrown Github

Github is WONDERFUL. I have used it for a long time now, and it’s great. It’s easy to get started, and especially for one-person projects, it really helps keep things organized.

But as you start to add team members, competing priorities, and overall complexity, something changes. In lots of little ways, Github starts to show that it just wasn’t designed for long-haul software projects, with many team members and a non-trivial workflow.

Here are some of the things you might already be dealing with:

  • You’ve created so many labels that you’ve written a wiki page to tell everyone how to use them (and how NOT to use them!)
  • Maybe you want to keep track of bugs and support tickets separately.
  • Perhaps you don’t think that developers should be able to close a ticket just by committing code.
  • Maybe you’re tired of having to search in Google Docs, Basecamp, Slack and Github to find where you talked about that new feature.
  • Could be that you need to manage the relationships between tasks that depend on or block each other.

I’ll do a blog post for each of these topics. This week, let’s start with the first one — labels.

Labels

Labels are quick and easy to use, offer a lot of flexibility and require virtually no setup or configuration overhead. The default labels in Github look something like this:

Those are probably fine for 98% of new Github projects. Over time, however, most teams will expand on the list of tags to include different values than the default list, and even different types of data. Adding categories for basics like type, priority, and status makes a lot of sense when you’re managing a backlog. But all of those new values expands the list beyond what you can keep straight in your head.

So, how can teams use complex label sets reliably? One common convention is to use a prefix word to identify the group to which each label belongs (courtesy of Dave Lunny):

This approach has the benefit of including the type of label as part of the label text, so you won’t be confused between “Status: Test”, “Environment: Test”, and “Task Type: Test”. Visually, the various colors can be used to show differences in the specific values, like production vs non-production, or high priority vs lower priority.

The downside is that when viewed across label types, the different colors are confusing and even downright jarring. Instead of quick visual signals based on color, you actually have to read each label value. It’s bad enough when looking at a single task, but when browsing a list of tasks, it can be a hot mess.

Another approach is to use similar colors for grouping. Here’s an example (from robinpowered.com):

While it’s much easier on the eyes, you no longer have the label type included with the label value. Also, this particular set of labels combines and separates a lot of values in ways you won’t appreciate later — for example, why is the production label in “Problems” and not “Environment”? There’s likely information on a wiki page somewhere, explaining that you don’t choose anything from “Environment” when it’s a production issue, right?

This next example isn’t really an example at all, but a cautionary tale. Imagine walking into your first day with these guys:

This isn’t someone’s drug-addled fantasty project, either — it’s servo, a very active and popular project on Github.

Tools For Your Tools

In response to this widespread need, there are actually tools (like git-labelmaker) dedicated to helping Github users automate the creation and management of complex sets of labels, using different naming conventions, color schemes and labeling styles. Which is very cool — except that it seems like an awful lot of work to go through, doesn’t it? If someone has created a tool to help you use another tool, maybe it’s the wrong tool.

Tag/label functionality was never designed for complex values or workflow.

A Right-Sized Solution

Instead of a mashup of various labels, organized by a prefix word or a color scheme, consider this layout (with a few additions that are, IMO, obvious):

Separating these various concerns also allows you the flexibility to require some fields when a task is created, and wait for the right step in your workflow for others. Instead of manually enforcing your task management process, you can allow your tool to do it for you.

One last benefit — if you’re using separate fields instead of specific tag values, then changing the name of the field or the values over time won’t break old data. The new field name or value(s) will be reflected in older tasks automatically.

If your tools are preventing you from improving your process, maybe it’s time to improve your tools.

Come back soon for another sign that you might have outgrown Github — next time, we’ll talk about Github’s one-dimensional task tracking.

Come try GForge Next for simple, comprehensive and elegant collaboration.

How Many Project Tools Do You Really Need?

In my last post, I talked about some criteria for choosing between all-in-one or best-in-breed tools. Now, I’ll apply those criteria to our product space, and try to show why a unified team collaboration tool makes more sense than what you might be living with now.

So, let’s imagine that you’re looking to solve the following problem: How can we get everyone rowing in the same direction?

By “everyone,” we mean executives, product owner(s), designers, development staff, customer service, maybe even customers themselves.

And by “rowing,” we’re talking about all of the things it takes to get your product to the customer — things like planning, design, coding, marketing, testing and support.

The Accidental Integrator

The worst-case scenario is also the most common — each discipline area adopts whatever tools appeal to them.

NB: This is a simplified version of actual events from a previous job. The details have not been exaggerated, and the people involved were otherwise very capable, smart, and successful.

  • The Product Owners all decide to use Trello, and thus force it on the development staff.
  • The designers prefer Basecamp, where they can organize screenshots for the various user stories they’re working on. This means that the Product Owner has to look there as well, and so do the developers, and possibly also the customers.
  • The developers decide on Github, since it’s easy to start and Git is pretty awesome.
  • Customer Support starts a wiki, so they can get all of their procedures and help scripts in one place.
  • They already use FogBugz for tracking customer issues, and neither Trello nor Github has the features they need. This means that the Product Owner and developers have to look in FogBugz almost every day, as they respond to problems reported by customers.
  • The executive staff needs all of the above to keep a handle on what’s happening where. They also create and manage a couple of spreadsheets in Google Drive, to keep summary data for the various projects that are in process, and to prioritize upcoming work.

Here’s what that set of tools ends up looking like:

Pretty, pretty arrows.

Of course, some of these tools can be tied together with vendor-supplied integrations, web hooks, or some simple scripting. Adding these integration points might make things more convenient for users, but it doesn’t change the overall picture:

Now with 20% more arrows!

Inevitably, some amount of developer time each month (or week) will now be spent troubleshooting why x is no longer taking to y, and fixing it. People also regularly forget which password goes to which system, and need resets on a recurring basis. [Ed. This happens to me ALL THE TIME.]

Regardless of how good those integrations are, everyone still has to search across two or three or more tools to find what they’re looking for.

Each tool you add is another silo of data and process, and more friction in the overall workflow.

A (Kinda) Integrated Solution

Many teams opt for the Atlassian/Microsoft/IBM approach — buying a set of tools from the same company, with the promise of tighter integration. It’s sold as an all-in-one solution, in as much as you’re buying from one vendor. And for the most part, that’s true — until it’s not.

Tool suites like these do a much better job at tying related data together — build status can show up in the related tasks, support tickets can reference wiki pages, chat can become your company’s heartbeat. All of those capabilities help to decrease friction, distribute knowledge, and keep the entire organization plugged in to the right priorities.

Oh, that’s much simpler. (source: ClearVision)

But they’re still separate tools. You still have to flip from one app to another to search, get the details, or make updates. Each tool is still deployed and managed in separate software versions, which (sometimes) fall out of compatibility with each other. And don’t forget that you’re still going to pay licensing and maintenance for each tool. Even at a bundled rate, you’re probably getting soaked.

Half-way integrated is better than the patchwork quilt approach, but it still creates implicit silos of data, and introduces other hidden costs. It’s like being half-way delicious.

The Whole Enchilada

Speaking of delicious, what happens when you *actually* integrate tasks, wiki, chat, releases, documents, source code, support, and continuous delivery? If you could get all of these chunks of functionality in a single system, how would it affect your experience and productivity?

Isn’t that so much simpler?

There are some big benefits:

  • A seamless experience for managers, development staff, creatives, support and even customers to get involved in.
  • A single source of truth for what’s important, what’s done, and what’s next.
  • One place for your institutional knowledge to live on. On-boarding becomes easy. Hard-won company wisdom doesn’t disappear when someone leaves or changes roles.
  • One search box that is deeply connected to all of your projects, source code, documents, information, tasks and discussions. Find a specific key word or error code no matter where it’s hiding.

There are lots of situations where best-of-breed thinking makes sense. In areas where a specific tool improves your productivity, saves money, or just makes work more fun, it can be worth it. If the need you’re filling isn’t central to your business, then it’s not a huge risk to try (and maybe abandon) something new. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

The way your team organizes and works together is possibly the most important and valuable part of your entire business. Trying to run things using a patchwork quilt of point solutions might seem cool at first, but it’s probably not where you want your team spending their time.

That’s why we built GForge. Because we do what you do every day, and we think it should be easier.

Come try GForge Next, and let us know what you think.

Note: My editor wanted me to include email as part of this discussion, but it added way too much to the article. GForge does some great things with email, and I will publish something soon to show how and why.

The Same Old, Brand-New Argument: All-In-One or Best-Of-Breed?

Introduction

For at least the past twenty years, IT folks have been faced with the same basic problem when choosing whether and which products to adopt. The term “Best of Breed” is commonly used to talk about products that offer high quality in a narrow set of features. “All in One” products, on the other hand, combine features that may cross business process or technical boundaries.

Different vendors have very different views on whether customers need a bunch of features integrated in a single product, or whether they would rather manage a set for more focused products that they (or someone else) can stitch together.

What’s the right way to go? The answer is, of course, “it depends” — and while this may be accurate, it’s not very helpful without some practical criteria to apply.

The Trade-Offs

Learn To Let Go

First things first — as a customer, buying someone else’s product means buying into their approach, their decisions, and their limitations. You’re almost certainly not going to get *exactly* what you want. Then again, you won’t be building and maintaining your own code, spending money on adding features, and your development staff can be off chasing your *real* business goals.

Look at the Big Picture

Another big trade-off involves the *rest* of your business technology. How does your current need fit in with the rest of your business systems? If you can cover more business requirements with one product, it means fewer integration points. If your requirements are very complex or specific, it might be worth the extra dependency to go after a best-of-breed tool in a given area.

Watch the Uptime

Lastly, consider outages and support. It’s inevitable that you’ll depend on your vendor(s) to come through for you when something goes wrong. Make sure you have a well-defined level of service with each vendor.

Outages can and will occur, and they affect your business continuity. Having a set of smaller, independent services from different vendors might seem like a good hedge against downtime, but in reality more moving parts *always* means a higher chance of failure. If four out of five systems are up, it doesn’t mean you have 80% functionality — interdependency usually drives that number down pretty quickly as you add components.

What’s Right for You?

With those trade-offs in mind, let’s go through a few questions that you can apply to your own situation, to help identify where you might find the most value:

1. How Big (Small) Is Your Scope?

If your needs are pretty narrow (e.g., file storage, web analytics, payment processing), then it’s likely to be well-covered by a best-in-breed solution. If you need lots of features, or a lot of complexity within them (think workflow, document management, billing or accounting), then an integrated option will offer less difficulty to get up and running, even if it has some limitations you don’t love.

2. How Much DIY Can You Handle?

This one is pretty simple — the more pieces you add to your quilt, the more stitching you’ll need to do. For example, you’ll need to keep your list of customers updated between CRM and project management, or maybe get build status in your work chat.

Nowadays, it’s very typical for applications to offer an API right out of the box. It’s also pretty common to have some integrations baked into tools — fill in a field or two, check the “Enabled” box and it’s connected. But the ease of initial adoption can misrepresent the ongoing costs to keep things the way you want them. Here are some examples:

  • Documented APIs are typically stable and reliable, but your custom integration with an API can become fragile over time, as your needs become more complex.
  • Built-in integrations provided between vendors (especially “web hook” type integrations) are always vulnerable to compatibility issues between the vendors, as they add (and retire) features over time.
  • Troubleshooting problems between multiple vendors is not for the faint-of-heart — you will often find yourself stuck in the middle, trying to prove that you have a problem they can solve.

If you’re a completely bootstrapped startup, where you have more time than money, it might make sense to invest that time into getting the tools you want tied together. As your organization grows, however, the balance between time and money often changes, and you’ll need to re-evaluate some of those early decisions.

3. Who Are You Getting Involved With?

Regardless of which way you go, you’ll want to know some things about your vendor(s) before you sign on. Here are a few starters:

  • First and foremost, are they going to disappear one random evening, with all your data?
  • How long have they been around?
  • How do they deal with customers during the sales cycle? The support cycle?
  • Do they solicit/accept/ignore requests from their customer base? Are they responsive to requests?
  • What levels of support (free or paid) are available? Do they promise a specific level of service?
  • Do you know anyone else who is a customer? What do they think?

Depending on your size and level of formality, these questions may become much more important. Newer, smaller, bootstrapped companies may care a lot more about what they can get now, and less about who’s answering the phone at 3AM. Organizations that have to answer to customers, boards of directors, investors or regulatory authorities might have an entirely different view. Uptime becomes much more important once you have paying customers, and people relying on your services.

4. What Will You Need Next Year? In Three Years?

If you’re a new company, patronizing another new company can seem like a great idea. Finding a focused vendor to partner and grow with can be a great fringe benefit — unless they go out of business or pivot away from what you need. Regardless of how good a relationship is at the beginning, it’s important to keep in mind how you’ll get out if and when it’s time to move on.

Some services are easier to change than others, like payment processing or CDN — you can even use two vendors concurrently and make a soft switchover. For other tools, like bug tracking, CRM, or internal tooling (e.g., database, message queue, web platform), changing vendors can take time, attention and planning away from your more strategic goals. All of those distractions cost opportunities, sales, and revenue.

But that’s not even the worst-case scenario. Instead, many teams will continue using tools that don’t support them strategically, struggling along with more and more string and duct tape around a core that is no longer suited to them. This is a quiet, passive killer of your team’s momentum and ability to innovate — especially if certain tools or systems become off-limits for discussions about improvement.

In general, I try to buy software and services the way that parents buy clothes for their kids. Sure, they’re a little too big at first, but if you choose wisely, you’ll find something you can grow into. Maybe even something you never outgrow.

If you’re looking for a task/code/team collaboration tool that you’ll never outgrow, come check out GForge Next: https://next.gforge.com

HackISU: Intern Job Description

A quick run-down of the skills we’re looking for, and how we’ll put you to use.

Come and join a world-class company that supports thousands of project teams around the world.  We’re looking for folks to fill one or both of two categories:

  • First, customer service handling technical issues with customers – sysadmin stuff, configuration, tracking down log entries, etc.
  • Second, help with building new features and testing GForge Next.

What we’re looking for:

  1. Work from home 12-20 hours per week, Monday through Friday.  Specific start and end dates are very flexible.
  2. We’re pretty flexible on schedule, as long as the results are right.
  3. For support duties: A moderate amount of knowledge in Linux/Web systems administration.  Stuff like:
    • Linux basics (ps, grep/find, sed/awk, top, iostat, etc.)
    • Package mgmt (e.g., yum, apt-get, rpm, etc.)
    • Scripting (bash, php)
    • Apache httpd setup and config (conf files, modules, etc)
    • Version control tools like CVS, SVN, Git.
    • Bonus points for SQL and Postgres!
  4. For GForge Next development duties: 
    • Programming experience in PHP (or Python)
    • SQL basics (bonus points for Postgres)
    • Familiarity with HTML5 and CSS
    • Some Javascript programming experience
    • Extra bonus points for Angular 1.x experience.
  5. Great customer service attitude.  Especially when they might have done it to themselves.
  6. Last and most important: willingness to learn a lot of cool stuff, and share what you know every day.

Responsibilities of the Job:

  1. Make customers really happy by fixing their problems.
  2. Research issues that don’t have an easy answer.
  3. Willingness to dig into code to possibly give a better bug report to our engineering team.  Maybe even dig in and fix the bug yourself.
  4. Work from wherever you like, but be productive and respond quickly during working hours.
  5. Lean on other GForge staff and share knowledge whenever possible.
  6. Stay in the loop – email is a given.  We also camp out together in chat all day and have an informal daily standup, usually on Google Hangouts.
  7. Document solutions that can be re-used.
  8. Depending on how busy things are, we may even ask you to help test out new features and bug fixtures.

Intro to the GForgeNext API

GForgeNext is the newest incarnation of our long-lived project collaboration tool.  It ties together all of the most important features that teams need to deliver big things – like task tracking, team chat and integrated source control.   And in the next several months, we’ll add a lot more.

Next employs a Single Page Application (SPA) front end, and relies on our public REST API for all of its functionality.  Everyone can now build great tools and integration points with GForge using the same REST API that we do.

On that topic, then, let’s explore the API and build an example or two.

REST Basics

There are plenty of good, detailed tutorials about REST.  Here are the basics you need to get started with ours:

  • REST deals in resources.  In our case, things like users and projects.
  • REST uses the HTTP verbs you already know to get things done.  GET, POST, PUT and DELETE are the most common.
  • REST also uses the same HTTP response codes that web pages use.  404?  That record doesn’t exist.  400?  You submitted something invalid.  500?  You broke it.
  • REST uses the normal query string and request body that HTML pages use.
  • Data is typically exchanged (submitted and returned) in JSON format, which is easy to handle on most platforms.
  • Our REST API also accepts regular FORM POST format, so it can be called even from static HTML pages or libcurl.
  • All of the resources, methods and parameters for the API are documented in our API Docs.

Logging In

GForge has very deep and flexible access controls, and the data you receive from the API will usually depend on the user requesting it.  You can submit a separate user ID and password with each request, or get a session ID (from the /usersession endpoint).

Using curl:

curl -X POST https://USERNAME:PASSWORD@next.gforge.com/api/usersession

Results in:

<pre>{
    "SessionHash":"e3403h9ldbssr2...o781jne2"
}

The POST verb is used to create data on the server – in this case, a new session ID is created if the user and password match up.  You can then use the session ID in place of the password for further requests.  In a browser, the session ID will also be set in a cookie just like visiting the login page on a web site.

To “log out” and remove this session:

curl -X DELETE https://USERNAME:SESSION@next.gforge.com/api/usersession/SESSION

Result:

   {"result":"success"}

Note that you have to include the session ID for both the authentication and to specify which session to delete.

Get Some Data

Now that we have an authenticated user, we can use it to get data from the API.  How about the user profile for a friend?

Request:


curl https://myuser:e3403...jne2@next.gforge.com/api/user/my_friend

Result:


 {"id":99999,"unixName":"my_friend","password":null,"firstName":"My","lastName":"Friend",
 "email":"my_friend@email.tld","status":1,"externalId":null,"isGroup":"N",
 "ccode":"US","language":"en ",
 "img_url":"/images/custom_avatars/99999.jpg",
 "details_url":"/api/user/my_friend/details","api_url":"/api/user/my_friend"}

What’s Next?

Read the API docs, and see what you can get under the /api/user and /api/project endpoints.  There are a whole bunch of sub-entities within each one.  Then maybe move on to /api/tracker or even /api/trackeritem to see tasks.

For the especially brave, try /api/poll…

Got questions?  Comments?  Bugs? Leave a comment, or find me on Twitter @mtutty.

GForge Next – The API

A couple of weeks ago, Tony shared some screen shots of GForge Next, and talked about how we’re designing it to Get Out of Your Way.  Today, I’d like to talk about the other end of GForge Next – the API side.

We’ve Always Had An API

It’s true – the current GForge has an API, and it has for over ten years.  But it’s……not awesome.

If you have ever worked with SOAP services, then you know they can be overly complex, verbose and yet inscrutable.  Not to mention it can be fragile, especially between different platforms (I’m looking at you, Java/Axis/Axis2/XFire).

But the real flaw in our SOAP API is that is was bolted on to the existing code.  There’s quite a bit of logic shared between the GForge UI and the SOAP API, but also some duplicate code, so the API won’t always act the same way as the good old web UI.  As we continue to fix bugs and add features, it continues to be an extra effort to maintain these separate code modules and keep them working the same way.

Now With 100% More REST

Like everything else with GForge, we are our own worst critics, and our own first users.  So it was easy for us to decide that to be useful, the API had to be an integral part of the system.  The entire GForge Next UI runs against the API.  Logging in?  API call.  Getting your list of assigned tasks?  API call.  When we use GForge Next UI to accomplish tasks, we’re also automatically making sure that integration via the API will work for all of those use cases.

For wire protocol, we chose REST (like pretty much everyone else these days).  JSON + HTTP (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) is a pretty simple, readable and capable combination, and it aligns nicely with the other parts of our technology stack (like AngularJS and Bootstrap).

The API is even self-documenting thanks to code-comment blocks in the underlying services and our /apidoc endpoint.  The API docs include all the entities, methods, parameters and even example input and output.  As we continue to add and change the API , the docs are automatically up to date.

Selection_291

For the most part, we submit data to the API using the same JS objects we receive from it.  That way, we can take an object from a list of values, assign it as a property on another object and submit it.  Super-simple on the client side, and pretty easy on the server as well.  But for external integration, it’s not so great.  Requiring callers to fetch a bunch of lists and sub-objects in order to properly craft a request makes the API less usable and more prone to invalid requests.  So, for most requests, we will accept any of the following values for sub-objects (like a project, a status, the user, etc.):

  • The “official” JS object for that type (retrieved from the API)
  • The ID or alias for the object, as a number or string value.  For example, ID 2000 or the short name mtutty for a user.
  • A JS object with an ID property, with the same value as the above bullet.

In general, the API back-end will work pretty hard to figure out what value you’re trying to use, and go find it based on the ID or key value submitted.  We also support vanilla FORM POST semantics, so that regular HTML forms, curl and wget requests are easy to do.

Complex Can Still Be Simple

So it’s pretty easy to create a basic CRUD API for a set of related tables.  The current GForge Next database has about 137 tables, which is a bit more complicated.  Add to that the fact that most realistic use cases (including our own UI views) are going to need multiple types of data, and using the API just went back to difficult and confusing.  Well, maybe not.

Largely for our own needs, we started adding related data as optional for many API calls.  By adding “rel=xyz” to a GET request, you can ask the GForge Next API for additional data that is related to the entity (or entities) you’re requesting.  So for example, GET /api/user/mtutty/details?rel=projects,activitylog includes the most-used projects and most-recent activity records for me.  That’s all the data needed for the user profile view, in one call.

Don’t need all that extra stuff?  Don’t include the rel, and you can get the payload down from 3.6K to 963 bytes.

How About Some Examples?

Here are a couple of ways we’re already using the API (outside of our own UI) to keep project data and knowledge moving, even when things are happening outside of GForge.

Build and Deployment Activity – We use Jenkins for CI/CD (and deploy GForge Next several times every day).  Whenever builds start or fail, or whenever a deployments starts or ends, we use the REST API to log an activity record.  This is visible in the Project Home page activity view and in the project chat room (which is where we see it most of the time).  Now as we’re working on tasks, we can see not only what tasks other people are working on, and their funny cat pictures, we can also see our build kicking off, and code going live, in real time.

GForge_AS_by_GForge_Group___GForge_Discussions

Customer Feedback – First Dozen users will notice the green “Feedback” tab on every page in Next.  That tab submits data to a separate Tracker called, well, “Customer Feedback”, using the API.  Technically it’s part of our site but we have made a conscious effort to keep it separate from the AngularJS application that contains the rest of GForge Next.  The Tracker template will be available in GForge Next, and eventually we’ll make the widget available too, so customers can collect feedback from users directly into their GForge Next project.

tbibbs___my_-_GForge_Next

Where To Go From Here

While we are excited for the new REST API in GForgeNEXT what really excites us is the creative ways developers will use the API.  Because the API is new and will continue to develop, we really hope you consider signing up for early access to GForgeNEXT. Those requesting early access will can expect the beta to begin officially over the next couple of weeks which will include immediate access to the API.

Maslow for Startups

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist and professor.  He designed this great hierarchy of human needs:

Maslow's Hierarchy
A simple version of Maslow’s Hierarchy

Basically, it says we need to breathe before bothering with staying warm.  And we need to eat before worrying about having any friends.  And we really can’t spend any time following our dreams until we’re clothed, fed, warm, have some friends, and overall feel pretty good about ourselves.

It seems natural to me that product-driven companies would follow a similar sort of hierarchy.  There’s a fairly common progression of needs that a company must satisfy in order to survive, grow and succeed.  In trying to figure out which GForge features you’ll really need, and in what order, I’ve come up with these buckets and given them catchy Greek-themed names.  We’re using these buckets to guide our feature deployment for GForge Next, so that we meet the needs of new users easily, and give them more features as they begin to need them.

Group 1: Atlas

Context

The most basic level of business development.  This model depends heavily on large efforts by a small group.  Their roles, interactions and dependencies may be somewhat defined, but most processes are still ad-hoc, and are created, revised and discarded based on immediate needs.

Motivation

Generally, boot-strapping – that is, getting to market on little (or no) financial budget.  Initial product/service delivery to see if the business model is viable, or trying to bring in the first customers to fund further expansion.

Values

Atlas groups tend to:

  • Spend Time/Effort instead of Money

  • Be Flexible as opposed to Repeatable

  • Depend on A Few Heroes instead of Divide and Conquer

  • Prefer Simple Process over Robust/Complex Process

Needs

  1. Task/Issue Tracking – First and foremost, a persistent list for who is doing what. The group is very small, self-directed, and self-organizing, so features like metadata (e.g., severity, milestone, priority, workflow by status) and access control are not important.

  2. Version Control – Whatever type of product (software, design/creative/mkting, manufactured goods, etc.), there will be some kind of source code, documentation, images, or other output to be kept safe and trackable over time.

  3. Project Chat – A live, persistent and searchable scratchpad for quick discussions, news and humor without having everyone leave their desk.

Group 2: Vulcan

Context

The first big change in team organization.  Initial product may be out, customers calling for support, feature requests, etc.  Team’s focus is still more tactical, day-to-day, but the group is growing to handle success.  Working some things in parallel, especially support tasks vs new features.

Motivation

Leaders are focused on finding more customers, and keeping current ones happy.  Product delivery functions need to be automated, to allow tech staff to focus on what instead of how.  Customer service, support, operations and development tasks need to be centralized so that everyone can stay focused.  Knowledge needs to become somewhat portable so that team members can be added, back-fill others and cover breaks/days off.

Values

Vulcan groups:

  • Place more premium on Time as money starts coming in

  • Need Repeatable processes that may still change often

  • Feel torn about moving key staff to bigger and better things

  • Start seeing many exceptions to what used to be simple processes

Needs

  1. Document Management & Wiki – Create a culture of portable knowledge early, and staff will maintain docs out of habit.  This makes it easier for players to switch positions, cover others during crunch times.

  2. Standups, Sprints & Milestones – Start to group tasks into small projects and track overall completion.  Allow different milestones to start competing for resources.  A first step toward portfolio management.

  3. Ubiquitous Search – Make it brain-dead simple to find that thing you saw a month ago, and share it with others.

 

Group 3: Prometheus

Context

Things are really under way.  Founders may be somewhat disconnected from daily operations.  With monthly cash flow ensured, leaders begin to reach out to partners, competitors, upstream/downstream value chains, trying to expand customer base and/or find new features/products to add.  This phase usually includes the first serious wave of new hires who were not present at the founding of the org.  Cycle times get larger and more unpredictable as internal process and technical dependencies begin to weigh on the system.

Motivation

Staying agile and responsive is even more important here than in previous phases.  Partners and competitors begin taking the product and company seriously.  This means real contracts, real accounts won and lost based on delivery.  At the same time, the heroes from Atlas phase are no longer able to touch everything every day.

At this point, the steering function has become as important to success as the rowing function.  Management needs to be able to see into the future, predict outcomes, plan for contingencies.

Values

Prometheus groups:

  • Start to segregate knowledge to insulate groups from information overload and keep them focused.

  • Develop a strong need for metrics and measurement, instead of steering by feel.

  • Want standardized processes to allow for apples-to-apples comparisons over time.

Needs

  1. Robust Roles and Access Control – Organize things according to company structure, lines of business, etc.  Begin to control access by org and project membership.  Allow selected people/groups to collaborate from outside the company.

  2. Workflow and Audit  – As complexity and required quality levels both grow, more detailed workflow and audit trails are required to keep things moving quickly.