There’s a famous saying: “Practice what you preach.” It’s solid advice—and we adhere to it when it comes to Pluralsight Flow, our engineering insights tool. We promote the fact that Flow is designed to optimize your software delivery, so it makes sense that our engineers would use it to optimize our software delivery. And optimize we do.
Recently, one of our engineering teams gave an internal presentation offering advice to other teams about how to use Flow to drive down cycle time and improve overall efficiency, velocity and team health—and we’re sharing those insights with you. You’ll learn how team leads use Flow on a daily and weekly basis to better connect with their employees and team members use it to holistically improve the software development process.
How do Pluralsight’s developer team leads use Flow?
Surya Mereddy, Senior Manager of Engineering at Pluralsight, begins the week by looking at the Ticket Log report with product managers. Team leads and PMs create an understanding of what the team is doing, where they are with projects and what they can accomplish by the end of the week. They look at what work hasn't started, what’s waiting to start, etc. By using the report filters, they can see who is working on what ticket at any given time and how, on balance, their team is doing within a current sprint.
By starting the week with this view, these leaders can see which tickets are held up week by week. If the tickets sit in a certain status for too long, they can connect with the developer to quickly understand and resolve blockers.
They also use Ticket Log as the driver for team stand-ups by posting the report’s current sprint view in Slack five minutes before the meeting to assure every member is ready to talk about their tickets. This enables team members and team leads to better discuss potential unplanned work.The data doesn’t necessarily create all the content for team meetings, but leaders can build questions around the data points to drive better team culture.
After looking at the Ticket Log, the team lead switches over to the Work Log report, which provides an overview of the team activity broken out by individual. They don’t use this view to act as a “big brother” but to see if there are areas where they can help. Leaders can catch blockers that arise for developers and better assist with anything that might prevent them from completing their work.
Every task or data point within these reports has context. Perhaps someone is working on a ticket that doesn’t require a lot of code and is completely okay. The purpose of Flow reports isn’t to monitor every action but create communication around that context and build a better overall developer experience.
How do Pluralsight teams use Flow?
The team starts with the Retrospective report to review how the collective group is succeeding over time. They set their filters for the current quarter, compare it to the previous six quarters and look at data points, such as median queue time, to see how quickly things are getting pushed through the queue. A year ago, items sat in the queue for an average of 118 hours. Now they’re completed in less than a day.
The team accomplished this by having conversations during retrospective meetings after each sprint. They would pull up the Retrospective and Sprint Movement reports to find patterns and resolvable bottlenecks and better understand the cause of slower times (e.g., team member onboarding or upskilling).
They determined they had too many tickets open at any given time, which caused their queue and cycle times to be higher than they wanted. Using the Flow data connected to Median Queue Time, they discovered that a fair amount of their queue-time issues were occurring because of tickets awaiting review or action by other teams—so they adjusted their scoping and expectations.
By looking at the Retrospective and Sprint Movement reports as a part of all sprint retros, the team built out processes that allowed their metrics to improve, then stabilize. Because they are now in a healthier place with their processes, they focus their efforts on outliers. If cycle or queue time dramatically increases, they can instantly look into the spike and quickly resolve underlying issues.
Pluralsight Flow’s team leads recommend that organizations using Flow perform a value stream mapping so they can determine the steps it takes to get a piece of code through the production process. By doing this, you can build in the knowledge of when things may end up sitting in various queues or need further validation. You’ll better understand the data within the Flow reports and ultimately become more collaborative and efficient.
As Flow users, the Pluralsight team noticed that everything within the software development process is interlinked. By creating better lines of communication within and across teams, they’re able to have lower cycle and queue times, which increases velocity. As you use Flow more frequently, you’ll notice that some metrics are more tightly connected but, on balance, everything is connected. You’ll push products and features through the process faster, complete more tickets and improve overall team health and the developer experience.
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