Software development teams are increasingly making the switch to Agile. A successful transformation is crucial for engineering leads and more important than ever as the business demands more value from engineering teams. Jeffrey Palmer, VP of Engineering at Nextag, is one leader who is currently undertaking an Agile transformation with his team. Over the past ten years Palmer has led transformations for a number of Agile teams. For the current switch Palmer is overseeing Scrum and Kanban teams. 

Nextag is the leading comparison shopping engine. With over 20,000 merchants marketing nearly 100 million products through the site, the amount of information to manage is astounding. In order to increase the pace of innovation and learning, Palmer is leading a move to Agile at Nextag. A number of teams are currently participating in a pilot, while a broader rollout to the whole engineering organisation is about to begin. Palmer was looking for a product that could support both Scrum and Kanban teams, so he selected GreenHopper.

Conceptually, Kanban appeals to Palmer, as there are a number of teams at Nextag who would have difficulty implementing Scrum due to the unpredictable nature of the incoming requests they receive. The Kanban teams in the pilot started using the Rapid Board immediately.

One of the benefits of using the Rapid Board is automated statistics calculation. As Kanban encourages continuous improvement, the Rapid Board helps teams understand their cycle time through the cumulative flow and control charts. Teams want to minimise the time that an issue spends in progress. This is referred to as the cycle time.

The goal for Nextag is to coordinate efforts across multiple offices and timezones. Before GreenHopper, the teams were using physical cards on a wall, which made it difficult to provide transparency and communicate progress with the rest of the organisation.

Nextag is also looking at changing other aspects of the engineering organisation. For instance they have begun to use Tempo, a time tracking and billing add-on for JIRA, to meet their strict financial controls. Cucumber is being used for acceptance test driven development where the QA Engineer and Product Owner will sit together to define the behaviour of a story before handing it over to Engineering. Finally, Nextag aims to speed the deployment cycle and allow continuous deployment to production using tools like Puppet and Bamboo.

Palmer anticipates that it will take another quarter to grow the team and complete the transformation. While all this is going on, he keeps a steady foot in his engineering roots by attending Clojure, Lucene, Hadoop and Rails meetups in the Bay Area.

Thanks for sharing your story Jeff!

The Atlassian Agile series: This is the latest interview with top agile experts by Atlassian. Visit atlassian.com/agile for more Agile resources  — plus find other interviews including those with Zynga, OpenDNS, OfficeDrop, John Muir Health, PBS, Interspire, and many more.

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