Having recently launched an intranet built in an Agile development framework, I thought I would share some of my experiences. To be perfectly honest I was probably a little sceptical Keri Harrowvenwhen the development team said they wanted to use ‘Agile’. I have developed a good number of intranets over the last 15 years and ‘normal’ development approaches seemed to have worked fine in the past. However I am always open to new challenges and happily signed up for ‘Certified Scrum Product Owner’ training… and I really hit the jackpot. The trainer, Gabrielle Benefield (Evolve Beyond), was very experienced and extremely engaging. It was two days training but well worth making the time for, and by the end of the course I was hooked. Without going into too much detail, the basic steps of the Agile development framework are:

  • Gather the business requirements
  • Break these into the individual features and functionality to create a ‘Product Backlog’
  • Write ‘user stories’ for each item – “As an X, I want to Y, so I can Z” – this enables the developers and testers to understand who requires, what and why
  • Once I had worked with the development team to estimate the time required to develop each item, I prioritised the items to deliver the Minimum viable products (MVP), which would be ready to launch to the users

I was then ready to start the first ‘Sprint’, which in my case were two weeks long.

  1. On the first day of each ‘Sprint’ I met with the development team to go through the items I wanted them to work on
  2. Each morning I joined the ‘Stand up’ meeting with the development team to review the progress they had made the day before and hear what they would be doing that day. It also gave everyone a chance to ask any question that had arisen
  3. During the ‘Sprint’ we would meet to ‘Refine the Backlog’ to adjust and agree what were the priorities for the next ‘Sprint’
  4. As the developers finished each item in the ‘Sprint’ it was tested
  5. Then at the end of the ‘Sprint’ the developers demo each completed item
  6. And then it’s back to Step 1 to start the next ‘Sprint’

With Agile development, every bit of functionality becomes a moveable feast and can be refined and developed to hone the user experience. It’s great because new requirements always come from left field and it allows you to re-prioritise features and functionality throughout the development process. And after the go-live… Agile allows you continue the development, to add new functionality and refine the intranet on an on-going basis. This ensures the intranet does not stand still and keeps the users engaged as new features are made available. The Product Owner role proved to be time consuming but very satisfying! The quality of the end product is great if you put that time in, but it is well worth the effort. I was very lucky to work with a great team of developers who with a little guidance from me soon came to share my own Golden Rules:

  • Never compromise on the quality of the user experience
  • Involve the users
  • Remember – ‘Don’t make me think!’
  • Technology should be invisible – no one cares if it’s SharePoint

And on that note, here is my new one –

  • Push the SharePoint boundaries…

But that’s another blog all together, if Martyn will have me back, I’ll share that with you another time.

Keri Harrowven

Knowledge Manager for Ian Williams