If Santa Can Be Agile, So Can You
I recently spoke to Santa Claus about his toy development lifecycle, and I found out the North Pole had moved to an agile and DevOps approach a while back. Here’s what he found to be more effective when using agile and DevOps.
Accept requirements very late in the process
If you’ve ever seen Santa working in a mall, you know he is out gathering requirements from before Thanksgiving right up until Christmas. He is constantly accepting new requirements and gathering feedback on toys from previous releases.
Santa says the only way you can afford to take requirements this late in the process is if you use a very iterative development process that doesn’t waste effort planning to build toys nobody wants. Instead, he prioritizes them based on customer value, and once a new toy becomes a priority, the elves self-organize small teams and dedicate time to finishing development before starting on another toy.
Because customers often don’t know what they want until they see it, Santa works in short increments to build minimal viable products (MVPs) throughout the year, gathering customer feedback from initial toy sales in stores and improving them each holiday season. Internally, Santa acts as the product owner (because he understands the customer best) and gives continuous feedback to his elf teams based on customer input.
Because time is always of the essence for Santa, he often doesn’t wait for the end of a sprint to give feedback. He reviews progress and gives his feedback to the elves every day. And when Santa is busy gathering requirements, Mrs. Claus will serve as the customer proxy. Santa also involves actual customers in the process by visiting stores and watching kids play with the toys all year long.
Use continuous delivery
Because the release date is set in stone by Hallmark, continuous deployment of new toy releases doesn’t make business sense. However, Santa uses a continuous delivery process to make sure each iteration of each toy is continuously tested, so any time an upgrade is needed in the field, there are releasable toys ready to ship.
Santa understands that just because you don’t release often, that doesn’t mean you don’t practice your release process and prepare to update your product quickly when necessary. Santa’s deployment process is practiced a lot, so his teams are able to deploy on time, every time.
Focus on customer value
Santa is all about the customer and customer satisfaction. To that end, any toy that wasn’t exactly what the customer wanted can be returned for a different one at a local toy store. He has perfected the ability to “round-trip” fixes when customers tell him there are issues. If there are any safety or quality issues with a toy in production, Santa is quick to update the toy or roll back a release until things are improved.
Because Santa is constantly gathering feedback and has a proven round-trip process to make changes, he is able to address customer concerns in close to real time while also integrating any new ideas into future releases.