Foodbomb's Product & Engineering team is pretty damn incredible.
They’re always working on code and designs behind the scenes, cooking up all of the handy features that make our customers' lives easier and ensuring that our ordering solution is the most beneficial and practical it can be!
Today, Foodbomb’s talented Head of Product Design, Elinor Lloyd-Philipps, tells the story of the introduction of an agile points system by which our engineers and design team structure their roadmap. This system allows the entire company to have input on what’s to come for Foodbomb, as well as quantify the capacity of our engineering team to deliver glistening new features to our customers in a timely and efficient manner.
The process begins with a conversation between our Head of Engineering, Adam Love, and our Head of Product Design, Elinor, with each Foodbomb department during which they gather proposals and ideas from all sides of the business. Each team generally uses this session to express what features they believe should next be created and despite some variations, mostly similar ideas emerge (our company is pretty tight-knit!). However, each department providing a seemingly small list of suggestions still amounts to an extensively long list for the hardworking P&E team and requires prioritisation.
Due to this, there was a need for the product team to help other departments understand how much capacity there was in the team, per quarter, as well as merge the understanding of engineering cost and pre-requisite requirements, for example: explaining why certain features had to come before others due to their technical requirements on each other. So, with 13 weeks in a quarter and 6 engineers at the ready, our Head of Engineering used agile estimation to quantify the efforts necessary for the development of each new feature.
With these estimates, the P&E team decided to allocate 100 points to the development of new features. This came from multiplying the available weeks and the number of engineers (78), and rounding up to the nearest hundred (our engineers are a motivated bunch).
When quantifying, each feature would be assigned an estimated duration and a number of engineers: if Feature A takes the energy of 3 engineers and the time cost of 2 weeks, then these variables multiplied by each other give the particular feature a cost of 6 points. With this engineer/time cost attributed to each feature, the leadership team was then given the freedom to spend their budget of 100 points however they pleased.
Once the budget had been spent, a workshop was conducted with each department to prioritise what felt most time sensitive and important. The workshop itself involved cards with prospective feature names along with how many points they were worth, and four larger cards representing the fiscal quarters of the year. Each Head of department was then asked to reprioritise these cards. Whilst there was mostly alignment among the leadership team, where there was misalignment, it prompted thought-provoking discussions as to why certain departments believed some features deserved more consideration over others.
The very physical nature of using feature cards on a table was helpful to show why certain features had to come before others and it forced stakeholders to manage expectations and understand that building features takes time. Over two weeks of sessions, a pattern for the forthcoming roadmap was established that would satisfy the most people and ensure that we were working towards business strategy. This came in the form of a consolidated company list of features that was prioritised in descending order of urgency.
By nature, tech teams work with programs and processes that aren’t immediately accessible to other departments therefore, developing a process whereby there could be visibility over technical dependencies and capacity was extremely beneficial. For all teams, playing a part in the roadmap of our product was also an incredibly inclusive experience that made everyone feel as though they had a say in the development of the overarching goal of making Foodbomb even better.
This year was the first time that P&E had implemented this process which will now be an exercise executed yearly, within the first few weeks of Q1. Engineers love having a longer term vision of upcoming features as it impacts how they build things today which, in turn, impacts what they build tomorrow.
The activity as a whole forced the business to re-align on the core focuses and consider what features are important and what can be solved offline or is just a nice-to-have. As a result, the entire business now has a view of what’s coming up this year. This is especially important for departments such as the sales team (because they can relay all the exciting upcoming features to our customers!) but all-round a motivating foresight for everyone at Foodbomb.
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