FrontlineSMS' Brand Of ‘Agile’

Sitati Kituyi | FrontlineSMS | February 7, 2013

“Our dev team does SCRUM, with user-centric, test-driven development”. We’re proud of that statement, but also very aware of how unsubstantiated that claim can sound. We’ve all heard the stories of the tech companies with 6-month-long ‘iterations’ and 3000-page specification documents that nonetheless brand themselves Agile. These horror stories could push some to follow their agile approach of choice to the letter, for fear of being swept downstream into the dreaded waterfall, but at FrontlineSMS we feel we’ve adapted much of the industry’s best practices and most trusted tools to create a process that gives us confidence in our code, and the ability to create an ever-improving product for our users.

Building robust, reusable code as a team, in a predictable amount of time and to a dynamic and user-reactive roadmap is no trivial task. Our dev team is all located in our Nairobi office, which helps. As useful as distributed source control and cloud-based progress tracking are, there’s indisputable value in sitting next to the people you are collaborating with, asking when you’re stuck, and showing off your latest one-line gem of code. We make full use of this advantage by frequently pair programming, designing mockups on the whiteboard in the office and interrupting each other with our little technical challenges all the time, as well as more formal approaches like our daily standup meetings and face-to-face iteration planning meetings...