Project Unicorn – Part 1. Initial context and an explanation of our “kick-off” event


We are embarking on an exciting new project, codenamed Unicorn. And no, this project is not related to Dilbert. Until we share more project details in future posts, please peruse the books Building a Release Pipeline with Team Foundation Server and The Phoenix Project … and watch this space.

overall process

By now we all know that the ALM Rangers are based on a geographically distributed community of subject matter experts, who invest their personal time and passion for ALM to deliver the gap-filling ALM Ranger solutions. Our process is based on Agile and Lean principles, our default TFS process template is Scrum, and with the help of experienced Scrum Masters and Program Managers, we guide the team from an idea to shipping a solution.

“We ship today … and improve tomorrow!”, a frequent quote during Ranger projects.

We have five main steps in the lifetime of each solution release.
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  1. Project ideas are triaged as documented in our triage series and approved ideas are planned and “kicked-off”.
  2. The first sprint is a training, research and planning (TRP) sprint during which the team ensures the objectives, deliverables defined as features, dependencies, acceptance criteria and flight plan is sound and understood by everyone in the team.
  3. Thereafter we have one or more development sprints, each delivering something potentially shippable.
  4. The last sprint is a quality and planning (QP) sprint, focused on raising the quality bar (i.e. copy editing, quality essentials, …) and planning the next flight, if any.

Project Unicorn is currently approaching the kick-off meeting, which initiates the TRP sprint.

kick-off meeting

The “kick-off meeting” delivers an overview, drives consensus and allows the team to reach an agreement and plan the next steps in a very short time. The meeting typically lasts 30-60 minutes, facilitated by the program manager and project lead.

A sample agenda:

  • Why - Motivation and beneficiaries
  • What - Vision, milestones, team leadership and features
  • Plan - Deliverables, delivery channels and process
  • Team - Skills needed and contact details

After the kick-off, everyone knows why we are doing the project, what he or she needs to do, who will be responsible for what, and how confident the team is about succeeding. Most importantly, they know when they will start and when they will need to complete the first potentially shippable release.

I visually relate a kick-off project meeting to the “huddle” before a soccer game.

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The next steps after the kick-off will be to refine and freeze the motivation, vision, objectives, features and acceptance criteria of the release. The team breaks the features down into SMART (specific-measurable-achievable-realistic and time-based) stories, which are the recipe for the forthcoming development sprints.

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next

In parallel we are planning the infrastructure that will support Project Unicorn and its feature teams. The next blog post (Part 2) will discuss the discussions and decisions in terms of  to use TFVC or Git as our main source repository.

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