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Transforming SilverStripe's accounts through Agile

So how do you become Agile when it comes to accounts? Day to day, week...

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So how do you become Agile when it comes to accounts? Day to day, week to week and month to month there are jobs that are always the same, that always need doing. On first thought it might seem odd to decide that Agile was the best approach.

But then on second thought, why not? In a dynamic, constantly evolving environment like SilverStripe, there are new challenges, new jobs and reports that need to be generated and entered with the changing and evolving needs of a quickly growing organisation.

‘The Engine Room’ (SilverStripe’s Accounts, HR and Office Management team), having made the pact to become Agile, did some training with SilverStripe Agile Coach, Gavin Coughlan, who talked us through the different kinds of approaches to working as an Agile team, and after discussion, it was decided that Kanban best suited the accounts environment.

Kanban, which encourages small, continuous improvements fitted well with how we have always tried to work in Accounts, allowing us to do the every-day work, as well as all the new work that comes up. Kanban helped us work consciously, looking at all our systems, and looking at how things can be refined, improved and made more efficient. A bit like Continuous Integration.

Initially we started out with a physical Kanban Board to work out how to do it and how it worked, but after a few days it became apparent that we needed to be online as this allows us to work efficiently remotely as well as in the office.

Rachel Margaret, our Financial Administrator, set to work, exploring all the different online Kanban solutions, but in spite of there being a system called Blossom (Blossom! Who could resist?), she decided that as our lovely HR team, and others at SilverStripe already use Trello effectively and it was a known quantity, it seemed the best solution for our requirements.

rsz kanban board screencast

So then came the mammoth job of setting up the Accounts Kanban Boards. Rachel spent 10 hours over a weekend, carefully putting all the daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, annual and other jobs into two Kanban boards and working out how to make SilverStripe Accounts a truly Agile team.

And how has becoming a truly Agile accounts team been? In a word: great.

It has enabled what we do to become more visible within and outside Accounts and the Engine Room team. Since starting the process, we have decided that in order to be even more Agile, we should all know how to do all the jobs that need to be done, which has resulted in a steep learning curve for me, and a lessening of the load for Rachel.
With both of us working from the same board, and looking at what needs to be done on a daily basis, it has become easier to prioritise things - every day we have a mini stand-up to look at what needs to happen and what has come up that needs attention.

We now have all our instructions for how to do every accounting task we do on our Kanban Boards. In transferring all the instructions, we have revisited them and continued the process of refining them and our systems. Our aim is to have such fantastic systems and instructions, so should Rachel and I both decide to go ice-skating with polar bears and get eaten, someone else could step into our shoes and seamlessly continue as SilverStripe's Agile account personnel.

porthole mirror with screencast Kanban board

About the author
Eva Yocum

Eva worked for many years in New Zealand, London, New York and San Francisco in both Arts and Corporate environments in a wide range of positions before returning to New Zealand to work in Arts Management and raise a family. She enjoys the busy work environment of SilverStripe, and her part in supporting colleagues create the web.

Eva lives on Wellington's wild south coast. In her spare time she teaches Arts Marketing and Administration workshops for artists, crochets garments that she sells throughout New Zealand and pootles on the beach with her family.

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