PROCESSES AND TOOLS
We have understood that the essential ingredients of literally every bigger project that aims to be a success is the Triple-I: Institutions
The basic foundation of every successful project is developing good relationships with both involved institutions and individuals working in them and around them. We do this by organizing meaningful, goal-oriented meetings, fostering both written or oral communication, using the most efficient interaction depending on the context and communication needs. Fostering inspiring interactions between institutions and individuals alike is what keeps people working on the project motivated, energized and connected, while the project is constantly moving forward.
On the most pragmatic level, project needs and objectives are much better understood and project requirements can be clearly, unambiguously defined and constantly refined when institutions and individuals are constantly engaged, while regularly interacting among themselves. In a nutshell, the Triple-I is the prerequisite for keeping the project pace before ultimately fulfilling the well understood project objectives.
Our project is managed in a modern, innovative way, based on a tailored combination of agile processes
SCRUM and Kanban on one side, and modern, efficient meeting styles, such as Open Space and World Cafe, on the other.
Agile processes: SCRUM and Kanban
Some principles of SCRUM
are used for planning purposes
and making sure the deadlines are met. It implies team estimating the amount of work based on prior experience on the project and increasing the reliability of those estimations, while the Scrum Master ensures that the team is productive and focused on its goals. Short, effective scrum meetings are designed to include necessary feedback, to-do plans and previously done tasks, which makes the work flow much smoother.
is a new online technique for managing a development process in a highly efficient way. It allows monitoring of the project in real time and in a transparent fashion both for the work and the process of the work flow. Users of the Kanban charts can see the effects of their actions or non-actions on a daily basis. In order to assure the continuity of improvement quality response to change is more valued than following the plan strictly.
Our team uses Kanban
to schedule and prioritize out work
based on demand, i.e. externally defined priorities, which is an approach requiring us to pull in the next most important task instead of pushing them into to-do lists. Kanban effectively allows us to burn down through an array of relevant tasks "hanging on the wall" as fast as possible.
Since it looks like a nicely organized board on the wall, the visualization provided by Kanban has proved to be very psychologically rewarding and motivating for our team.
LeanKit Kanban was approved by EACEA for REFLESS project use and the first board was made on kick-off meeting in December 2010.
Since we are the pioneers in using Kanban in the area of education, we were happy to share our working experience on “Informatics 2011 - New trends in IT development” conference
, in May 2011, and at conferences such as London Scrum Gathering
Facilitation methods: Open Space and World Cafe
To deal with inevitable meetings, especially when more revolutionary approach and lateral thinking is required, we rely on Open Space
meeting style, which stimulates freedom of contribution, interaction and creativity. In a way, it's wiki for meetings where every participant can equally contribute to the collective meeting output, since participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around topics they consider important.
is another creative meeting style adopted by REFLESS team since the very beginning of the project in December 2011. This facilitation method underlines the ability of listening, the importance of participation, exchange of ideas and perspectives, increasing in this way, the possibilities for new insights. Meaningful topics are discussed in a very comfortable, cafe-like setting, which stimulates creativity of thinking, while the possibility of moving between tables encourages interactions. The overall process of interchange of ideas is captured and shared in reflective graphics (or graphic recordings) that serve as the group memory.
Given the number of project partners and participants, as well as the fact we're physically distributed across Serbia and EU, we use in our work online tools flexible enough to be tailored to our specific and sometimes changing needs. These tools range from shared documents that can be collaboratively edited and chat, to Skype that has turned out to be indispensable for our daily SCRUM sessions.
Our concern for efficiency is also reflected in use of Doodle, an online tool for scheduling meetings. Instead of wasting our time, money and energy on indefinite, and mostly unnecessary phone calls, we just propose several dates and participants decide online what’s most convenient for them.
While it is great to see tasks being done and a project moving forward, it is important to ensure the results are meaningful to the intended beneficiaries of those results.
Internal monitoring is being done through Kanban and transparent financial transactions.
Marija Sola from University of Belgrade is responsible for financial monitoring, field monitoring visits
(unannounced) are done by National Tempus Office and EACEA. Intermediary report is very important and it is being done for EACEA after the 70% of the budget of the first part are spent.
Feedback through interviews and questionnaires
We constantly track and verify what we have done, and we also review and review often the quality of the work we do. We do this by getting the earliest possible feedback from our end users, the beneficiaries of both intermediate and final results of our work. Using carefully designed questionnaires
allow us gain insight about the requirements before the work on an activity has started and after it has been finished to assess and ensure quality. The necessary evaluations of internal control will be provided by the Steering Committee, National Tempus Office
, the Executive Agency of the European Commission and the Rectorate. Every aberration from the user expectations, either specified or discovered later in the project is considered and assimilated into the project requirements, which are kept documented and up-to-date.
On the highest level, our work is monitored periodically by external skilled entities - independent revision is being done on complete documentation and spending at the end of the project, just before the last 10% of the budget are being paid.
When QA is part of the projects on different levels, we can maintain high confidence levels because the project is kept on the right track, which keeps us motivated and engaged.