New team, new project, new country

Finally time for an update on this blog.

I am writing this from an hotel room in Belgium, and while I am still establishing myself around here, the work side of things is taking off!

Since last October I have been flirting with D Square, a Belgian data mining startup company, with the interest of becoming the lead architect for their new, innovative and core software product. We have finally come to an agreement and all the necessary paperwork is done, so here I am, Sint-Niklaas (for the time being), Oost-Vlaanderen, Flemish Region, Belgium.

The company is on the second round of Venture Capital raising, with already some very solid local venture companies on their board, a solid recognition for their capability to deliver solutions in the services department, and highly acclaimed management team.

The project is named M2IS, and will revolutionize the data mining software scenario in the process industry. More information about the product can be found at the company website.

I am really excited about this project. After stressing over the subject of agile methodologies, we decided to adopt SCRUM and Extreme Programming as the center guidelines for our development team. We are using test driven development, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and a no nonsense approach to the agile practices.

Here is our pretty iteration board.

Some may call it kanban, but we are not adopting any Lean concepts right now, so I would not call it that. It serves as a big, visual reference for the tasks. It has the power to provide a sense of urgency to get the tasks moved to the done column, but also a very rewarding feeling when we do move them.

To those using considering doing this using post-its, one word of caution (well, maybe 2) – adhesive tape. Use a small piece on each post-it to glue them to the wall/whiteboard, or they will fall. We had an unpleasant surprise after we finished setting our first iteration up and cards started falling off.

This team has so far been the best I have worked with. The daily meetings are actually “daily coffee breaks”; and things just come out naturally, without having to stick to the usual formula of “What did you do yesterday, what do you plan to do today and what is blocking you”. We obviously address those topics, but no one actually asks those questions, it just flows.

We are still only 3 people on the team, and things may change when we scale up, but right now, even XP practices that people have a hard time with, such as pair programming, just flow naturally, with 2 of us working together most of the time, but switching pairs frequently. Tasks are chosen, not assigned, and while only one person is held responsible for one task, everyone is willing to help in order to see the burndown chart plot move closer to the x axis.

I will describe how the project bootstrapping was handled in the next post this month, and also the lessons learned from our first iteration. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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