Agile for Startups: SendGrid's history with Agile (2013)

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In SendGrid's 5-year history, we've had both successes and failures using Agile methodologies. Victor Bonacci (SG's first Agile coach) walks through some achievements and pitfalls in an attempt to guide new entrepreneurs adopting Agile.

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Agile for Startups: SendGrid's history with Agile (2013)

  1. 1. Agile for Startups SendGrid’s history with Agile Victor Bonacci MBA, PMP Agile Coach @SendGrid @AgileCoffee SoCal Code Camp -- November 2013
  2. 2. SendGrid powers your app Cloud-based email service – delivers email on behalf of your app/site – increases deliverability – improves customer communications – via SMTP or REST API
  3. 3. We grow with your site • scalable email infrastructure • metrics on outgoing email • handle the time consuming tasks involved with implementing unsubscribe links, abiding by anti-spam regulations, and maintaining corporate branding
  4. 4. Stay out of the Spam folder
  5. 5. SG has sent over 160 Billion emails
  6. 6. http://sendgrid.com/careers
  7. 7. SG Culture
  8. 8. Flat Org Structure Board (6) CEO | VP Engineering | Developers, QA Engineers, Project Mgrs Founders (3)
  9. 9. PLAN ADAPT DO INSPECT
  10. 10. Agile Flavors
  11. 11. Scrum
  12. 12. Agile… … is a discipline … is not a silver bullet
  13. 13. SendGrid’s Agile practices, 2009 - 2011 FIVE YEARS OF CHANGE
  14. 14. Five Years of Change • • • • • 2009 – inception (sweat equity) 2010 – ramp-up (turning on the spigot) 2011 – going Agile (aligning strengths) 2012 – hello, Scale (massive growth) 2013 – future-proofing (more growth)
  15. 15. year 1: 2009 inception • 3 founders • 1 customer • Scrambling to start something up
  16. 16. year 2: 2010 Lift Off ! • $$$ – Received funding – Customers – A lot of opportunity came at once • Staff size = 20 – sales, support, dev relations, accounting, marketing – ENGINEERS
  17. 17. year 2: 2010 how did we prioritize? • Skype culture • Customers had direct access to developers (SnapChats) – Asked for customer feedback > Rapid response • Flood of tickets • Pivotal Tracker (without any basis in Agile understanding)
  18. 18. year 2: 2010 Engineering organization • Ad Hoc • Devs branched into features – became experts based on skillset – Organic • Tim (co-founder, backend expert) would give direction – No real timeframes (due dates) – Devs would figure out how – no documentation or requirements
  19. 19. year 2/3: 2010/2011 tools in the early days • • • • • Skype Google Docs Pivotal BaseCamp RedMine
  20. 20. year 2/3: 2010/2011 urgent questions • How can we do more faster? • Where are we with regards to Roadmap? • What’s the ETA of features?
  21. 21. Enter Agile … and Vic
  22. 22. Transition to Agile • First acceptance criteria: “Make Shit Not Suck”
  23. 23. year 3: 2011 Training from Rally “SendGrid is one of my favorite groups to have worked with. I always love checking in to see their progress.” - Ann Konkler, Rally Software – Week 1: execs for one day – Week 2: full Engineering staff • No tools, only cards on walls – Week 4: follow-up with full staff
  24. 24. year 3: 2011 new VP Engineering • • • • Brought Agile experience Encouraged experimentation Was available to all Engineers Huge motivating force
  25. 25. year 3: 2011 Agile roles • ScrumMaster (SM) duty rotated among team members • Product Owner (PO) was usually a VP (Finance, Sales) or founder
  26. 26. year 3: 2011 Geography • Tom organized Eng staff seven into teams – All co-located: four in Anaheim, one in Boulder, one in Romania – Plus new Ops team split between CO & CA • POs and non-Eng in Boulder – Support – Sales, Mktg, Finance, HR… • Specialists / contractors – Newsletter team in Romania – Graphic Designer in Phillipines
  27. 27. year 3: 2011 Agile ceremonies • Daily standups in the morning – Overlapping time – Vic floated to observe, capture dependencies • Retrospectives included full Engineering staff – Vic facilitated • Demos lasted up to two hours – Every team demo’d every story/bug/task
  28. 28. year 3: 2011 Dev Days • Mid-sprint Wednesday • Opportunity for engineers to work on “something cool” • Not well organized • Tech Debt / Bugs • Low accountability – Abused by some – Gone after 8 months
  29. 29. year 3: 2011 Bug Sprint • Succeeded in cleaning up large backlog of accumulated defects • Rewarded with K1 Racing day • QA engineers on each team
  30. 30. year 3: 2011 Spice up the Experience • Named the sprints • Team banners
  31. 31. 25 Billionth email sent In just over two years, 25B messages passed through the pipes SCALE had not yet begun to show itself…
  32. 32. year 4: 2012 Kickoff in Mexico • All employees (~90) met in Cancun for three days of – Tacos – Tequila – Teamwork • Payback for the pre-Agile demands – Heroku & Rackspace integrations
  33. 33. year 4: 2012 Another Tool change • Switched from Rally to Pivotal Tracker
  34. 34. year 4: 2012 2nd VP of Engineering • Isaac (founder) as interim VP • Additional Eng team in Boulder • Second Project Mgr / Agile Coach hired (Anaheim) – Each PM was SM of three teams • First POs hired (Boulder)
  35. 35. year 4: 2012 Agile Education • Tech Talks • Conferences
  36. 36. year 4: 2012 SendGrid Labs • R&D in Rhode Island • Loader.io
  37. 37. year 4: 2012 Weekly Stakeholder meeting • • • • Weekly?!? Started as status update Priorities get set, reset No consistent focus on either Scalability/Stability or new features
  38. 38. year 4: 2012 Engineering & Ops • 3rd VP of Engineering hired – Formerly of Amazon – Metrics-driven – * Not great culture fit • Director of Ops hired – Ops now out of Engineering
  39. 39. year 4: 2012 Agile changes • Agile training “Refresher” – 2-days with all Eng & Ops staff in Anaheim • Team retros after each sprint (not full dept) – Quarterly Eng retro • Include sprint metrics (velocity, etc) in team’s Demo
  40. 40. year 5: 2013 Mike Cohn, then Mexico
  41. 41. year 5: 2013 Yet Another Tool change
  42. 42. year 5: 2013 Changes • Team restructure – Eight Eng teams – Team Leads • 3rd PM/AC hired • Overlapping sprints (every other week) • Smaller demos (groups of teams) – Goal of increasing attendance / participation by non-Eng
  43. 43. Pair-programming • 2 programmers solving one problem – 2 chairs, 2 monitors, 2 keyboards • Saves time – Knowledge transfer – Better coding practices – Built-in code review
  44. 44. year 5: 2013 Camp SendGrid • Replaces Agile refresher for full staff • Quarterly visits to offices to train new staff (not just Eng)
  45. 45. year 5: 2013 New VP Eng • Joe (employee #4) as interim VP Eng • “Going Green” – 20% of items each sprint – Bugs, tech debt, security, stabilization • 80% new features
  46. 46. Product Management
  47. 47. year 5: 2013 Director of QA • Director and four QA engineers
  48. 48. STILL TO COME…
  49. 49. 2015 Goals • • • • More Pair-programming CI / CD Kanban TDD
  50. 50. 2015 Goals • Getting to Innovation vs. hardening / strengthening • Build an ecosystem for 3rd-party developer community
  51. 51. Challenges • Leadership turnover • Long-term planning • Tool change
  52. 52. Questions?
  53. 53. Victor Bonacci MBA, PMP Agile Coach @SendGrid @AgileCoffee THANK YOU

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