Agile Release Management & Product Engineering

I’ve been doing release management and product engineering for almost three years in WSO2. By no means am an expert. Am still learning and trying to tame the beast. However I do have my fare share of experience and knowledge which I have gathered by screwing it all up and also sometimes, doing it right as well 🙂

Recently we have done a successful 1.0.0 release of WSO2 User Engagement Server and I felt writing this post as the release retrospect.

Team

Team is the most important part of any product innovation. Without a strong, competent and hard working team you cannot achieve much (period !!). You feel it when it comes to agile release management. You cannot spoon feed your team. Each member will own a part towards success. You have to believe the quote “A Team Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link”, so your weakest got to be quite smart.

Milestones are short, quality of deliverables are high. The build *has* to pass always keeping the master stable. That’s a lot of work. A lot of smart work. So the team does matter and that’s the number one.

Well, WSO2 has the best from the Best and luckily UES had the dream team 🙂

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Vision

Number two is the Vision. Its not about the person whose leading the effort need to know the product vision. The team got to have a shared understanding about the vision of the product that they develop. Everybody has to be on the same page. If a button was moved from left to right everybody must know the reason behind that decision.

Non should develop a component without knowing the bigger picture of where that component fits in. (s)He should know the future of that component, what are the improvements can be done, how can it aid to market the product and how does it contribute to achieve the product’s vision.

Reviews

Reviews play a major role. They sync up the team. First you review the design, then review the architecture, the UI/UX and then the code. You get this right, you get a complete product feature.

During UES release, we did a lot of these. Our design review meetings were war zones. We talked about architecture and clean design patterns. Applied them appropriately and iteratively reviewed them. Our UI mockups were all over the whiteboard, we iterated until we achieve perfection. We reviewed our code, identified the improvements.

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WSO2 User Engagement Server: How it kicked off from the whiteboard

We started re-engineering WSO2 Gadget Server during 2012 Winter. We were brainstorming of how we can change it to be more flexible and accommodate wider enterprise data/information presentation use-cases. We wanted to give more power to the developer, not just the ability to drag and drop widgets and select a layout. We wanted these pages to be discovered around the organization. With such ideas in mind we created multiple mind maps to get a clear idea

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GS 2.0 Mindmap (Nov. 2012)

We had plenty of email debates, F2F meetings of what we need to do ? Are we there yet ? Is this what developers/business users need ? etc. Continue reading WSO2 User Engagement Server: How it kicked off from the whiteboard

The Vision Behind WSO2 User Engagement Server

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“A picture worth a thousand words” is a known fact which doesn’t need proof. At present we discuss about the value and the power of data. We use various tools to analyze them, we do business intelligence capturing trends or anomalies. However in the end you need to express the meaning in a sensible manner for the key decision makers. Would you go write thousand words or rather draw something, summarize the findings and let the stakeholder explore for more.

WSO2 Middleware stack has all the pieces you need to harvest, store & analyze (both real-time and periodical) vast amount of data sets, but when it comes to summarizing and presenting, the stack had somewhat a week tool set. We envisioned the idea of “SOA Last Mile” since latter part of 2009 with products such as WSO2 Gadget Server, WSO2 Mashup Server and frameworks such as viskit. We experimented, wrote code and delivered enterprise grade products to achieve this vision.  For instance WSO2 Gadget Server was one of the most downloaded products during 2010 – 2011 time span, and even now people are using it for various data presentation purposes.

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The Container and the Content

– Ajahn Brahm

A local journalist called and asked me “ What would you do, Ajahn Brahm, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet?”

Without hesitation I answered “Sir, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet, the first thing I would do is call a plumber!”

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