Improving Data Warehousing with Pragmatic Agility

Mandy Simpson DevJam News

To help Children’s Minnesota tap into a new way of thinking about data warehouse work, Kevin Burns worked with Laura Madsen to pragmatically use agile methods with her team. In Laura’s own word, “My goal was simple; I needed more repeatable and predictable ways to work. The team needed the ability to understand who was doing what and when they needed to do it”.

Kevin taught the team to iteratively discover which design patterns would work in different situations. Shorter feedback loops helped the team quickly adjust to new ideas for improvement. The team decomposed work into smaller deliverables increasing their predictability, placing an emphasis on building in quality from the start. Kevin and the team also implemented a production support triage process which increased the signal to noise for the team.

A project retrospective nicely captured some of the significant discoveries:

  • Reducing the noise related to production support reduced confusion regarding conflicting priorities and it reduced context shifting cost.
  • Planning became easier as teams learned quickly what worked and didn’t work as they took ownership of their learn-and-adjust cycles as well as throughput potential (velocity).
  • Estimating became easier as team members became more comfortable with each other and their domain.
  • Design collaboration working sessions resulted in faster solution identification and testing.

As Laura put it, “Our experience with DevJam was in a word: phenomenal… Our transition to agile practices started with a simplified sticky-note-board so that today I can tell you what we can do and how quickly we can do it with startling precision. We were so successful in the level of transparency that now more parts of the IT organization are getting into (or back into) agile methods. I can’t thank Kevin, David and the team at DevJam enough. Our transition to agile has radicalized not only how we work but breathed new life into an often challenging project.”