Phyllis Thompson, ShiftWise
Michael Belding, ShiftWise
In small startup software companies, agility is survival. Companies that rapidly put limited resources on the most promising opportunities and customers are able to survive and grow. Companies in this stage do not typically have significant process and rely on people. In a small organization, engineering, sales, finance, and leaders communicate every day and freely share information. The focus on getting a product out to market where it can pay the bills, plus the ease of engaging decision makers, minimizes documented design work. If a startup is fortunate enough to grow, more people and the demands of customers will begin changing the landscape. People who used to communicate constantly now have more demands on their time. Newer employees have to fit into a culture where common cause is supplanted by specialized roles, and new programmers are expected to be instantly productive with limited documentation and limited training time.
At this stage small companies consider developing a process to address these competing interests while still growing the company. Agile methods such as Scrum, Lean, eXtreme Programming (XP), or Test Driven Design (TDD) arrive with a promise to provide just enough process to allow for growth while keeping the company agile.
This paper focuses on the experience of ShiftWise, a medium sized software company that grew from tiny startup to market leader, but also from an agile company to an agile development organization and then back to an agile company. It explores the cultural and business forces that both facilitated and hindered the simple goal of being an agile company.
Target audience: Intermediate