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Getting off the Ground

23 January 2012

“You don’t need more time, you just need to decide” – Seth Godin

At work, there are a lot of things that I’ve identified for improvement.

Where I work is largely a Java shop, but there are a couple of large applications that are .NET and a growing group of .NET developers. And there are a lot of amazing opportunities here.

The company has a good track record of agile delivery using Scrum. However, I see areas for improvement also. The job of scrum master has become institutionalized as just a meeting facilitator. The responsibility of the scrum master as team coach has been lost in translation from training done there a few years ago.

Our current scrum master wanted the team to attend introductory scrum training. As a certified scrum master, I was anxious to hear what the agile coach on staff would say, and I was gratified to agree with his curriculum. It’s a matter of practice in our group.

Fortunately, I am well-suited to help move the team toward a steady cadence of delivery. We need to get our product owner away from firefighting mode and to get what he and our customers need within the confines a fixed sprint backlog. Having a strong scrum master will help.

And we need to get beyond our large estimates for small projects due to fear of the unknown with this application — turnover has left most of the delivery team new to the code base.

There’s a desire for a .NET community of practice. I’ve started the ball rolling with a book club. The first book we’ll read together is Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael Feathers, which is all about getting pre-written systems under unit test. We’re also starting our first code kata this week, an old Ruby Quiz about Secret Santas.

Both the book club and katas are exercises to start talking about software design in a simpler context. These .NET applications grew organically and were written by developers who were more comfortable with SQL than .NET. The application has shortcomings that you might expect: lots of logic in stored procedures, poor separation of concerns between SQL and .NET, and a presentation layer (ASP.NET web forms) that’s highly coupled to the database.

And the application has a lot of room to grow. It is ripe for becoming a data warehouse solution. I have some mixed experience setting up data warehousing from a previous position, but this time, the team is blessed with a talented database developer onboard to guide us through the tough parts. I can’t wait!

The concern I have is being spread too thin. As you can see, there are a number of vectors to pursue. I need to choose one, maybe two of these and drive them to completion before taking on others. I haven’t talked about the nine months of architecture changes that are needed to get the application able to scale to handle the desired demand or some of the expanded features they want for this application this year.

If I have learned anything over the past couple of years, it is that I cannot be all things to all people. I need to pace myself and be ready for some false starts. I also find a way to handing off these projects when (if?) they get off the ground. Here’s where having a good manager will help me, and I am blessed to have one.

I feel energized, and excited about the possibilities!

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