Go Agile for the bigger picture: Act 3

Big Thoughts

15 July 2013 • Written by Adam Howard

Act 3 – In this third and final part, Adam Howard explains how they kept it agile when it came to lights, camera... action!

In Acts 1 and 2, I detailed the ways in which an intrepid group of Assuritans employed agile techniques to develop an award-winning mockumentary screenplay.

Here, we complete the journey to the red carpet by looking at how, when it came to actually filming our masterpiece, we elected to deliver it in sprints and employ a model of continuous delivery.

Whereas traditional productions would have seen us engage on a long on-location shoot before retreating into the darkness of the editing studio to bring it all together, we shot and edited our film scene by scene and continually pieced the final product together like a jigsaw.

This meant that while other teams had to invest in costly reshoots after production had wrapped, we were able to get immediate feedback on whether a scene had worked or needed to be re-done and reshoot it before our actors forgot their lines or broke character.

We also had our editing team up and running from the word go, aware that, if disaster struck, we would at least have a few fully edited scenes with soundtrack in place and snappy dialogue ready to present at the screening, rather than a collection of fragmented and indiscriminate cuts that didn’t hang together.

In software terms, we can think of this as breaking down a solution into bite-sized chunks of functionality that can be delivered in a complete state at rapid intervals, giving the business an early look at finished software and allowing a faster feedback loop.

After all, where is the sense in spending months or years developing a whole series of incomplete and inter-dependent pieces of functionality before attempting to meld them all into a seamless whole and launch the system into the live world in one big bang?

Surely the more sensible approach is to gradually develop small, but interlocking pieces of finished and integrated software that can be launched sooner – even with a limited range of initial functionality – to better allow early adopter feedback and the evolution of future deliveries to be shaped by genuine consumer needs.

That’s a wrap: hitting the red carpet

Ultimately, the use of the processes and techniques outlined throughout this series of articles enabled our team to produce a film that surprised us all. We were initially a little daunted and thought we would struggle to produce anything of value in the short time available.

But, in the end, we were all immensely proud of what we produced. Our film achieved everything we set out to do with it. It conveyed Assurity’s cause and methods while giving a parodic nod to the source material and included some genuine moments of comedy and entertainment value.

And of course, it earnt us an Assurity Oscar for Best Screenplay.

However, probably the most remarkable thing is that all of the above happened apparently subconsciously. We did not sit down and deliberately plan our agile approach to making the film – it was just a happy accident.

Except that it wasn’t an accident. The agile development strategies employed in the making of The Blair Pitch Project tell us two things.

Firstly, those agile techniques are very much common sense. You won’t be too surprised to find that we were able to add value to our filmmaking process by employing the techniques I have discussed. The approaches and techniques used in agile software development are neither complex, nor limited to the development of software.

What can be difficult though, is getting the whole project team to adopt the new approaches and really buy in to the mindset change from a traditional approach which is required to really allow the benefits to be earned.

Secondly, at Assurity, we’re incredibly well versed in the implementation of these techniques – so much so that we have adopted them into our everyday lives, often without realising it.

Even during a predominantly social company conference in the distractingly beautiful surrounds of Queenstown, with the sun beating down and a beer in hand, we automatically organised ourselves into an agile team and put into practice the methods and techniques that we champion in our professional lives.

If nothing else, The Blair Pitch Project serves as proof that we practice what we preach. Tasked with making a fun and lighthearted film that detailed Assurity’s mission to improve the outcomes from software development in New Zealand, we used the very techniques and processes that will be our toolset to catalyse this change to make the film that championed them.

So where can you see this much-heralded film, I hear you ask? Well… come and join us in our fight to give New Zealand confidence in software and maybe, just maybe, we’ll treat you to a private screening of this award-winning masterpiece in agile filmmaking.

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