It’s no secret that DNS Business’s ‘best of breed’ technology is leading the way in the local domain name industry. Along with the growth that DNS Business’s focus on innovation has brought, it’s also come with, well….lots to do!

As a result, the technical teams were faced with the challenge of dealing with competing priorities and the need for a more structured, but still highly flexible, approach to managing their work. It was also critical that the new management approach would ensure that DNS Business maintains the level of quality and service to which its customers are accustomed.

With this in mind, DNS Business embarked on a drive to revamp its project and operations management processes. Penny van der Lith was brought in as an Agile Coach to assist the team with this process, and the initiative kicked off in June. 

“To bring out the best in a team, one needs to strike the right balance between structure and freedom. To be effective, people need enough direction to keep them headed in the right direction, combined with room to explore, evolve and grow.  Agile project management offers all of these benefits,” says Penny.

Agile Approaches

Beginning with an assessment of existing tools and processes, it was agreed that the operations team would run Kanban, and the development team would use Scrum to manage their projects. Kanban is a method of managing the flow of work that emphasizes continual delivery without overburdening the team.  It uses visualisation (the Kanban board), deliberately limits work in progress, and enhances flow to optimise throughput.  Kanban is ideally suited to high-pressure, operational environments.

For best results the team also “cross-pollinates” routines and practices (or “ceremonies”) from Scrum into Kanban.  These include the daily scrum (or stand-up meeting) and running regular retrospectives.

Since adopting Kanban in mid-June, the operations team have completed several key projects and over 200 tasks! Feedback from the team is that teamwork and collaboration have improved and the interns working on the team have had much greater exposure and learning opportunities, while contributing significantly the success as of the team.  One of the interns, Ntswiki Rangoanasha, is even filling the role of a junior scrum master in addition to his regular duties, and has made sure that daily stand-ups run like clockwork.

Ntswiki Rangoanasha conducting a stand-up session

The development team has also made excellent progress on their projects by using Scrum, a lightweight, iterative and incremental framework for managing product development.  In Scrum, project deliverables are captured in a prioritized list called the “product backlog”, which are then tackled in timeboxed iterations, called “sprints”, with the team delivering increments of fully working software at the end of each sprint.

Tools

DNS Business believes in hiring great people and letting them get the work done in the way that works best for them – delivery is more important than policing. This means that several members of the team work remotely.  This can sometimes present challenges for Agile teams, due to Agile’s focus on communication and collaboration.

DNS Business’s focus on applying technology to enable business combined with Agile’s emphasis on continuous improvement mean that the transition was a relatively easy one for the DNS Business team.  Stand-ups, retrospectives and sprint reviews (all important Scrum ceremonies) are conducted using Zoom, a webcam, a mic and a smart TV.  Team members also collaborate using messaging tools such as Mattermost and WhatsApp.

Another key change has been the adoption of Atlassian’s Jira as a project management tool. Jira allows for transparent project management, easy and effective collaboration and tracking, and automates project reporting with its native reporting tools.

The team has benefited greatly from the fact that they are now able to measure and plan their workloads, view their output and and always have sight of task and project statuses. The daily stand-ups are a great way to start each day, get the entire team up to speed on each person’s progress and smooth out any bumps they’ve encountered along the way in a safe and encouraging environment. Whether they’re in the Midrand office stand-up space or working remotely, or both, the team is able to collaborate and work together regardless of the distance.

The DNS Business Team during a Sprint Retrospective

DNS Business still has a way to go on its Agile journey, but in less than three months the team has completely transformed the way it runs its development shop.  According to Penny, the team’s eagerness to explore new ways of doing things, maturity and openness when grappling with the new challenges have been pivotal to their success thus far.  The management team has also been highly supportive of the transition and have made a conscious effort to understand what Agile is about, and how it works. 

Adopting Agile has certainly put DNS Business on a path to even greater productivity and success in the future.

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