• Lisa Steendam

  • Software Engineer

ShipIt Days are an excellent opportunity to tackle that one great project you have been dreaming of. Or maybe you finally want to try that new shiny framework or clever technology that you have been ogling for a while. For us, our third edition was a huge success. This got us thinking about what we did well and where there is still room for improvement.

Whether you are still coming up with a project or already defining its scope (more on that later), we have some tips for you that make for a great ShipIt experience.

Time is Limited

The first restriction that comes to mind is obviously time. Even if you are one of those people who considers pulling an allnighter a part of the ShipIt Day tradition, there are only 24 hours in a day.

The Ideal Team Size

Also consider the size of your team. Many hands make light work, but with a smaller team it is often easier to communicate. In our case, our team consisted of just four people. Every time someone had an idea, a question or a good joke, it could be shared with all four of us without it becoming a distraction. This also meant that we could quickly adapt to each other's needs.

New vs Known

Deciding on which technologies to use can be tricky. A lot of people use ShipIt Days to experiment with a new technology, but you have to keep in mind that learning something new might consume many of those precious 24 hours. It might also mean that after spending half a day just trying to get all of the pieces to fit together, you realize it was not the right tool for the job after all. So ask yourself where the sweet spot lies for you between, on the one hand, learning something new and, on the other, actually getting things done. If the latter brings you more joy, you can always choose a more familiar technology stack.

ShipIt Foreach

Think About the End Users

Don’t forget about the end users, especially if you have no one in your team who will actually be using the tool. In our case, the project was a stock management application. And although everyone needs to get a fresh pack of coffee from time to time, the ones who would benefit the most from such a tool would be the office managers because they are the ones who do the purchasing. It is a good idea to sit together first to see what their priorities are. This is something we will do differently next time.

Tools You Need

If you know in advance what you are going to do and what you will use, you can save yourself a lot of idle time by downloading the necessary software in your spare time. Some might say that you’re not supposed to lengthen the timeframe like that, but when you have to spend the first hour of ShipIt watching a progress bar because you don’t have Android Studio on your computer yet, it sure feels like wasted time.

Another important part of your preparation is your shopping list. Can you get the necessary hardware in the shop around the corner, or does it need to be shipped from the other side of the world? Either way, make sure your deliveries are on time for the big day.

Scope: Start Small

A big difference between how we normally work and how we worked during the ShipIt Days was how we defined the scope. Normally our sprints are filled to the brim with tickets and although our estimates are pretty accurate, tickets get carried over to the next week from time to time. For our ShipIt day project, we started with a very small scope. A baseline really. Since nothing got postponed, every feature we added on top of that felt like a win.

Everyone at the Same Table Means Easier Communication

Communicate regularly and keep each other up to speed. If you completed a task, let others know. If you’re stuck, ask for help. Even if you think the other team members won’t be able to help you. Don’t assume that they haven’t worked with a certain technology yet, because, who knows, they might have.

The Shippening

Every Day is ShipIt Day

Keep these tips in the back of your head and you might have your best ShipIt experience yet. But what can we take with us for our everyday work environment?

One idea would be to experiment more with your office setting and put people together based on the project they’re working on, regardless of their role. To us, it did benefit flexibility and communication during our project.

Another idea could be to keep your sprint scope smaller, allowing some room to add tickets if all goes well, as this showed to be really motivational. Any ShipIt tips for our next edition?

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