Product Delivery Lead. What does this title mean and what exactly do I do, I hear you ask? Well, I’d say it’s a cross between an agile delivery manager, a project manager, a tiny bit of a scrum master and then, in this particular scenario, a programme manager. My responsibility is to efficiently deliver a programme of work to success.
The programme I am responsible for, for our client Busy Bees nurseries, is made up of various products, all at different stages. Some are out in production, being used and consumed (and nominated for awards!), and we’re consistently trying to improve them. Others are being tested, validated and developed in preparation for release. Each product could and does have different target users, different objectives and differing functionality. However, they all link back to Busy Bee’s core vision: to give every child the best start in life.
With this at the forefront of all of our decisions, it makes my job very, very enjoyable. So, it doesn’t matter what my job title is, and it doesn’t really matter who the client is, and what the individual products are. What does matter is that as a product team we have a core vision to work towards, and as long as we are always taking this into consideration, looping every decision regarding our delivery back to this vision, we’re all going to be okay!
The reality is that things have completely changed since I first started to write this, and so it’s now the day in the life of a remote product delivery lead. Here’s what my day looked like recently running a sprint demo and planning session.
My Monday-Friday alarm is the one thing that is constant in my life. Regardless of commute time, meetings, gym sessions, late nights or early nights, that is the time I wake up every day. Despite my current commute taking approximately 8 seconds, and not 30 minutes, I still like to have time before the day starts to take stock and assess what is ahead.
I use this time to mentally prepare, to ease myself in and compartmentalise the day from everything else that needs to be done that week. From this point until my day starts at, I do all the usual things — wash, eat, drink coffee, occasionally listen to some voice notes I might have been sent during the course of the night from any friends across the pond. I go at a pace that suits me to ensure I’m ready for action.
Let’s get down to business. It’s demo day, or D-Day as I call it. The first port of call is Slack — I typically check in with business analyst, Nick, and our internal product owner, Ross, first. Usually one of us will need to sense check an idea or discuss something before the rest of the team come online. On this particular day I want to make it crystal clear who was doing what between the three of us during our demo later on. It will be the first one we’ve run remotely so the key to this being a success is plan, plan, plan.
This is my window to tackle anything on my to do list that I know needs to be completed today. I look for the low hanging fruit — I do this to ensure they get done, because I know that as stand up happens, I’ll be otherwise engaged and focused on the demo and planning session. My tasks include finishing off a presentation, reviewing some user stories, catching up with QA, and triaging the SLA board tickets.
Stand-up time! We’re using Google Meet for our stand-ups right now. We’re a big team, with nineteen people on the invite, and eleven team members expected to give updates on their progress within the current sprint. It’s the last day of the sprint so the updates range from finishing up tasks that will enable them to move their tickets to ‘done’, to preparing for their demo and ensuring documentation is up to date.
I facilitate the stand up, nominating each person to talk, sharing my screen, and having a make-shift stand-up template open in Confluence so the team can see as I document their update. I’ve found with a team this size, we need a clear structure. We have cameras off for now to avoid a lag or echo, but on smaller sized meetings I welcome a friendly face on a camera. Definitely not just so I can have a nosey at their houses…
How our sprint demos normally look, pre-lockdown!
I have another meeting with Ross, Nick and our designers for our daily backlog refinement. We ensure the tickets have as much detail as they need, that any corresponding wires or high level designs are attached, and that the technical approach is included. Sometimes we ask our technical architect, Jeff, to join, or our lead native engineer, Chris, to validate thinking and discuss technical approaches. Any actions are posted in our Slack channel, Jira tickets are updated, and we agree what the focus will be for tomorrow’s backlog session.
Jira is my best friend and my nemesis all rolled into one — can’t live with it, can’t live without it! I’m consistently looking at it, ensuring the board is consistent with where it should be based on daily stand-up, reviewing the burndown, and ensuring that the dreaded ‘blocked’ column is empty. I try to carve out an hour a day to catch up with each of the development team individually after I’ve reviewed the board. I’ll then move to the backlog and ensure the prioritised tickets we’re looking to talk about are all up to date.
Time to eat — chicken and quinoa today. I have a pretty strict lunch and dinner menu whilst we’re remote working. I find it stops the snacking and reduces the panic buying! I eat away from my desk if I can and maybe treat myself to a little 30 minute HIIT in the garden. It’s super important to move in the day and even more crucial now I don’t have that five minute walk to and from the car park each day. Which I used to moan about… I can assure you I’ll never moan about it again!
Demo and planning time! As we’re a big team I like to have a presentation prepared for demos. I know this breaks all the rules as ‘working software takes precedence over documentation’, but maybe this is the project manager in me. With lots of people in this team, lots of voices and many moving parts, we have a shed load of topics to discuss, so we need structure. My presentation covers whether we’ve met the sprint goal, how many stories we delivered vs. how many we committed to, and team velocity.
In this particular demo the team has hit the sprint goal (yay) and delivered the expected functionality against the acceptance criteria, demonstrated by the engineers themselves. I give some team updates, things like who is on annual leave, any key dates for the diary, and what validation activities might be happening during the course of the next sprint. It’s good to remind the team of annual leave so it’s at the forefront of their mind when they are estimating user stories and agree as a team what can be delivered in the next Sprint.
Estimation kicks off, now. I have to think on my feet here — in the past I’ve used various scrum online poker sites for remote teams, but I suspect a lot of product teams are running estimations remotely right now and none of my usual sources were willing to hold up for me. Not even my back-ups! A quick make-shift solution is to estimate via the chat in Google Meet.
We run through each prioritised user story from the backlog, talk through the acceptance criteria and any associated designs, and answer any questions. There aren’t many questions because the team has seen these tickets a few times already — this isn’t new territory, so we just need to agree on a story point for each user story and move it. Given this is our first demo and planning session done remotely, I have to say, I think it’s a roaring success.
We’ve got ourselves a fully loaded sprint backlog ready to start tomorrow morning. The client was on the call too and gave great feedback to the demo, agreed with the priorities for the forthcoming sprint, and the whole team comes away — dare I say it — pumped to get going and, more importantly, comfortable and in agreement with the sprint goal.
I add the sprint demo and planning presentation to Confluence for the wider business to read if they want to have a nosy. I’ll close this sprint, ready to hit start on the next one first thing, and start to prepare the end of sprint report that I’ll send out tomorrow to all key stakeholders.
Would like a wine but will hold off until at least 7pm…
Over and out.
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