by Danny Higler
Softham City, present time. More and more software development teams are struggling with their new Devops approach. “How can we continue building new, awesome features and at the same time ensure that we handle all support issues that are thrown upon us?
Sprint after sprint we fail, because we constantly lose focus on development and are busy with ad-hoc support issues instead. This cannot go on any longer, as it not only demotivates us but will also make our stakeholders lose trust in our team. HELP?”
Batman is here to the rescue!
Agile coaches encounter this issue all the time: Agile teams that are not only building new, awesome features and products but are also responsible for running and supporting them. As development work becomes more and more predictive, support issues coming in will never be. This results in a team constantly switching between ad-hoc support and sprint commitment. And which is, in the end, failing in both. In this article, I will describe one of the techniques you can use to tackle this issue: Batman is here to the rescue!
Batman is our hero, he will safeguard the team by taking up (ad-hoc) support work. And just like in real life, if Batman needs help, there is always Robin!
At the start of each sprint, the team appoints a Batman and a Robin. They can be any of the team members. Batman will be dedicated to high priority support matters throughout the sprint and Robin will start with development work until further notice. During the Sprint Planning, the team will take into account that at least one of their team members is not available for development work.
All incoming support items are being triaged by the Product Owner, which results in an ‘act now’ support item or in a Product Backlog item. Support Product Backlog items may or may not end up in one of the future sprints following the current one. The act-now-high-priority support items land in the ‘personal’ backlog of Batman. During the sprint, Batman will work on them. If for any reason, Batman gets overloaded or needs help he can call out for our Wonder Boy Robin. Wonder Boy will help resolving issues, assisting Batman and returns to his development work after he helped Batman out.
Before starting this approach you should clarify a few rules, for example:
- Batman and Robin change each sprint
- They are a full member of the team and take part in all ceremonies
- All support work is also made visible on a board
Experience showed that in this case, the role of Batman required a broad knowledge of the team’s activities and the organizational landscape. It also turned out that the Batman role actually was a great way for team newbies to get to know the landscape quickly. Yet this also meant that Robin was called out more frequently.
There are many ways to mix Development and Operations in a team; this is just one of them. Besides its functional benefits, this is also a fun way to approach things, so set out for the toy store and get your team a Batman mask!
Do share more ideas and experiences in the comments or ask your questions. Have a safe sprint!