Working In A New Agile Team

Sara Somerville, Systems Development Manager, IT Services

When the student mobile app team came together in July 2020, we were three months into a global pandemic. Joining a new team is hard in ‘normal’ times but forming a team remotely with ‘strangers’ when you have to deliver something in six weeks is tough! Luckily for us we had two key elements on our side - we were working with some fantastic people from the transformation team and we were asked to take an Agile approach to re-developing the app.

At the beginning of the project, the Agile jargon was confusing. We initially found terms like ‘three amigos’ and ‘agile ceremonies’ a little intimidating, but then we realised that the most important thing about an Agile approach isn’t the words. Agile is about collaborating to deliver something that makes life easier for the users (our students).

Once the re-developed mobile app (UofG Life) was released at the beginning of term I realised that the key to a successful Agile team is working together towards a common goal, being empowered to release something every two weeks (even if it isn’t perfect), then working with your customer to refine it and re-release it. Working in a multi-skilled team (a user researcher, a UX designer, communications and change specialists and software developers) where each team member understands their role, has also made the design and delivery process much smoother.

The last six months have taught me a lot about agile teamwork, how empowered teams can deliver more than expected and the power of good humour under stress! 

Rory Hetherington, Business Analyst, World-Changing Glasgow Transformation

From a personal perspective, it’s been great working with and getting to know members of another department and seeing the skills they bring, and the way we work has enabled that. In my previous roles it would have been difficult for that to happen.

With a background in large scale change programmes in the financial sector my experience of the dynamic between the Change function and IT was, for the most part, a case of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Whilst naturally there was a degree of dialogue between Change and IT, we were never particularly privy to what went on over the other side of the fence, beyond helping with testing and then embedding the change.

Whilst this way of working still resulted in the delivery of a project, the experience was a very different one when compared to my involvement in the UofG Life app project, working with colleagues in IT Services. Firstly, the shared use of Agile methodology to deliver change was refreshing. In Finance, due to the scale of the organisations, not every department worked using Agile. As a result, for those that did, it was necessary to plan output to fit in with how other departments expected to consume it. However, in the UofG Life app project, working collaboratively and using the same methodology was agreed at the outset.

The groundwork having been laid, it meant that we were quickly able to being planning the work we wanted to do on the app. This was achieved collectively ensuring there was a shared understanding of the direction of travel; how we were going to go about getting the work done and what was expected from each member of the team to deliver it. This embedded a mindset from the very beginning that we were all one team and that together we will solve problems and share successes. It also helped demystify the work carried out beyond my own involvement, as once a feature was researched and designed, I could see how IT colleagues would proceed to build and deliver it.