Sprint Review – the embodiment of the idea of optimizing work on information technology
RN-BashNIPIneft has been developing software for the oil industry for many years. Today, Rosneft uses this software to solve complex engineering problems.
The creation of such programs has several goals. Firstly, this is the import substitution of foreign analogues, getting rid of sanctions dependence. Secondly, the digitalization of the main processes of oil production. Thirdly, the commercialization of software makes Rosneft a full-fledged participant in the information technology services market for the oil and gas industry.
The science-intensive software line now includes 16 products. There are even more teams that develop them. In total, more than 300 people are involved in software development. For some time, many teams worked in isolation and knew almost nothing about each other. At the beginning of 2020, a small initiative group, whose members were trained in Scrum, began holding general team meetings in the Sprint Review format.
Why Sprint Review
Scrum is one of the agile project management methodologies. Sprint Review is a meeting at the end of a sprint (short product development interval) in which the team presents the intermediate result of the work to stakeholders in order to receive feedback. Based on the results of the meeting, the team can determine what to do next to make the product as valuable as possible for users, and quickly adjust their plans.
Sprint Review implements one of the values of Scrum – openness: teams can openly tell each other about the results, problems, difficulties they face, making their work transparent to all other teams and departments. And this, in turn, helps to quickly identify dependencies and remove obstacles, making the development process of a software line as a whole more efficient.
How it all began
We did the very first meetings for the sake of exchanging experience: developers of different projects told each other about the tracking systems used, the organization of knowledge bases, dashboards, testing methods, version control systems. Then it turned out that everyone is doing basically the same thing, but in different ways. And those teams that have just started developing new software have found a lot of important information for their work. Thus, developers from different teams, and sometimes within teams, began to communicate and help each other.
So, for example, at one of the meetings, the team for developing a geological modeling package RN-GEOSIM told how they maintain help documentation using LaTeX. This question is relevant for many of our science-intensive projects. After the meeting, other teams began to communicate with the guys in order to learn from their experience. And this continues after a few months.
Another successful result is the interaction of the commands of the software package for modeling technological processes. “RN-SIMTEP” and field development management package “RN-KIN”. The developers of one of the teams implemented the functionality of processing models of a certain format. The other team needed to do the same. In order not to duplicate the work, the first team transferred their achievements to the second.
Organized meetings helped the teams to exchange experience not only about software development. The guys sometimes tell each other about how they organize their work. For example, how sprint planning is carried out, task labor intensity is assessed, how task descriptions are prepared for code development, what sprint metrics can be observed and analyzed, how retrospectives are organized. That is, they broadcast practices that have been successfully implemented in their work.
The experience of our meetings has shown that it is useful to talk about projects at the idea stage. So, for example, when the idea of a new feature came up in the mobile development team, but they were not sure of its usefulness, they simply talked about it in the “jobs to be done” format (a theory about user behavior that helps to understand how and why people accept first purchase decision). Immediately after the speech, we conducted a survey of the meeting participants and additional discussion of the idea. The survey showed that the functionality will be in demand.
Developers can get useful ideas and advice when they talk about the proposed solutions, that is, at the product design stage. This will help them get around the problem of using outdated technologies and, perhaps, find unexpected solutions, or even implementation of them by one of the teams.
Sprint Review Achievements
Last year, our event had an unusual system of non-material motivation for the institute – achievements (eng. Achievements – achievements) for participation. The idea was borrowed from computer games. There, achievements are optional tasks related to the progress of the passage, the style of the game, the search for bonuses, etc. We needed to introduce a metric for the openness of projects and teams. So the two ideas found each other, and the achievement for participation in the Sprint Review turned out.
Achievements have several statuses and are displayed in the employee cards on the institute portal as an icon under the photo. The more guys and teams talk about their work and share experiences, the more achievements they get.
Results and plans
In 2021, we held 42 meetings, two of them were for the exchange of experience between teams, and two were in the form of challenges: #give a CICD and #learn_everything_about_the_software_line. About 30 teams told about their work – these are 117 developers. There were about 190 performances in total. On average, each meeting is attended by approximately 70 spectators. The maximum number of employees connected to our online meeting is 110 people.
We keep video recordings of meetings and store them on the internal hosting of our institute. It serves as, in a sense, a knowledge base for all of our developers.
In the near future, we plan to connect the maximum number of teams from the technological development and innovation block to the Sprint Review format. We also want to share our experience in organizing meetings with other blocks of our institute, for whom it is important to periodically monitor the status of projects and receive feedback from third-party observers.
The mode of remote work seriously affects communications between employees: we have fewer opportunities to just chat with each other over lunch or a cup of tea. We began to tell each other less about the achievements and difficulties in the work. Sprint Review meetings help to fill this information vacuum, create conditions for the synergy of knowledge and experience of all employees, and therefore for the emergence of breakthrough ideas and solutions.
If you want it too
All you need to run a meeting is a video conferencing platform, a timer, a way to collect feedback on the meeting, a headset, and a camera. The most difficult thing is to find those who are willing and will talk about their work: in our existing culture, it is customary to talk about high-profile and significant results. But even small changes are important to us, and mistakes and the experience that teams get are even more important. Therefore, it will take quite a long time to work on changing the culture.
We recommend making the meeting no longer than 1 hour. In remote work mode, employees usually sit in front of screens, without physical activity. And 1 hour is the time that a person is able to be attentive and not get tired. If we were in the office, physical activity would be easier.
According to our rules, no more than 5 minutes are allocated for each presentation: you don’t need more to talk about the developments in a short period of time. Then – 3 minutes for questions from the public. If you didn’t have time to ask all the questions, so much the better: there will be an occasion to get to know the speaker and talk to him at another time, i.e. build a horizontal connection.
You can make all other rules yourself, using the feedback from the meeting participants. This is also a way of synergy and finding the optimal solution.
To make the meeting more effective, it is better to make a video recording: then those who did not come to the meeting will be able to watch it. In the description for each entry, we add the agenda of the meeting with the names of projects, contacts of speakers and timing. Search works on our video hosting: you can find records by the name of the project you are interested in or by the name of the employee.
What our members say about Sprint Review
Participation in the Sprint Review stimulates the fulfillment of the sprint goal, and also allows you to quickly identify the weaknesses of the product that have lost the relevance of the idea. Thanks to the practice of Sprint Review, there is an increase in the responsibility of the team for the result of the work, and the feedback from the outside is the most valuable. I believe that when the Sprint Review gains popularity and there are more participants, it will be possible to divide the reports into thematic blocks. For those employees who want to try their hand at Sprint Review for the first time, I advise you to rehearse in advance, and not improvise, in order to accurately meet the allotted time and have time to show everything.
Participation in the Sprint Review gives a sense of belonging not only to your project, but also to the entire large development team of our institute. Compliance with some seemingly formal rules has reduced the time spent on unnecessary discussions. Of the meetings, I remember most of all the Sprint Review for external customers, when we demonstrated the new functionality for adapting process flow parameters. There were a lot of questions.
I like the more relaxed atmosphere at Sprint Review compared to academic seminars. For those employees who want to try their hand at Sprint Review for the first time, I would advise what I do myself: before the speech, I pronounce the report for a while to keep within 5 minutes. This allows you to clear the speech of the words of parasites, remove unnecessary sentences, leave the real most important, and it is also easier to speak to an audience.
Sprint Review gives you the opportunity to show your ideas to colleagues. At an event of this format, it is easy to find specialists who have already dealt with similar problems and get tips for further development of the solution. It is also very interesting to see what is being developed in other departments and how technologies are developing at the institute. When you see forward movement and common victories, it is very inspiring! Thanks to Sprint Review, we were able to adjust the existing developments and development plans in the well data correlation module, in the geological section module, in the seismic interpretation module.
I remember more topics that are directly related to my specialty, that is, data visualization. There were topics about rendering technologies, about optimizing a large number of objects on the screen, and others. What I like about Sprint Review is that there is a time limit for speaking: it encourages you to highlight the “concentration” of the most important thing in the topic and present it concisely and beautifully! By the way, all recordings of performances are stored on a local video hosting.
I’m still new to performing myself. But I have secret methods that I will share with you, because according to the boomerang law, something useful will also come back.
So, tips. Firstly, you don’t need to go to a performance as if to an execution. No one is going to judge you cruelly, on the contrary, everyone will support you only for your successes. Secondly, watch how others perform, there are a lot of records on the Internet. Highlight some details from the speeches of successful speakers, try to apply it yourself. Not necessarily the techniques of some will suit others, so look for your style. Third, practice more, as one master of verbal battles said: “I’m not afraid of someone who knows 10,000 topics, I’m afraid of someone who spoke at Sprint Review 10,000 times.” It is normal that at first it will turn out badly, everything will come with experience, and according to the law of dialectics, quantity will become quality!