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How do we Shape Up at Ambit

nicolasini profile image Nico S___ ・3 min read

Basecamp released last year their e-book on how they approach software development.

Shape UP is for product development teams who struggle to ship. Full of eye-opening insights, Shape Up will help you break free of "best practices" that aren't working, think deeper about the right problems, and start shipping meaningful projects.

It is a great reading that will yield many ideas and improvements to those who have the opportunity to work on their processes.

At Ambit we have evolved our Lean process to a place that resembles many of the Shape Up practices. Here is a write up of how we work.

Shape UP at Ambit

Pitch and Bets

It all starts with our Company strategy, set by the Board of Directors and Founders. This in turn drives the Product strategy, crafted by the CTO and senior management. As a result we have a Product Roadmap that gets constantly reviewed and prioritised to match any changes in strategy or business opportunities.

In this aspect we differ from Basecamp, and we have a more traditional "top-down" approach to Product priorities.

Shaping

This is the key aspect of our process. Each Roadmap Item (RMI) needs to be shaped in order for the work to be done.

When an RMI is created, the Product Manager, alongside with relevant team members, create a Problem Description for it. This Problem Description describes what we are trying to do and the value that we expect to bring to our customers. It describes what Success looks like for this RMI, and it also explicitly lists what is Out of Scope for it.

When the Problem Description is ready, we hand the RMI to a team member to lead the Shaping work. The team member (could be a developer, tester, designer, anybody, regardless of seniority or skills) will recruit the help of others to come with a Solution Design for the RMI.

The Solution Design covers all aspects of delivering a piece of software:

  • UX/UI design
  • Architecture design
  • Test plan
  • Release and operation plan
  • Adoption and marketing strategy
  • etc

Finally, we slice the RMI into individual Tasks that can be worked on by team members. We aim to apply the (INVEST)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INVEST_(mnemonic)] principles in our Tasks, so that the work can be continuously delivered.

Cycle

Here is another point where we differ from Basecamp, we work on a Lean Kanban approach.

Our RMI Tasks, after they are Shaped and sliced, go into our Kanban pipeline. This means we don't fix the time we are "allowed" to spend in a project.

We adapt the scope dynamically when needed, sometimes we cut things off, sometimes we change or add scope as we discover more information. I guess you could say that we try to keep this aspect agile.

Conclusions

Is very easy for teams to fall in the trap of applying a particular methodology "by the book". This is specially visible in the countless anecdotes of teams struggling with Scrum. Shape Up is no different in that regard.

Basecamp crafted this process to suit their needs, which is very likely different to yours. Certainly different to ours at Ambit. And this is the first and most important insight you should get from this article.

There are great tools, practices, and resources that can be used to craft the best possible process for our particular needs. The key is to keep evolving as the business, product, and team changes.

This at least how we see it at Ambit. I hope you enjoyed this article. I look forward to discussing it in the comments section!

Discussion

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cescquintero profile image
Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴

This means we don't fix the time we are "allowed" to spend in a project.

Does it mean you don't do estimates? Or you do but are ok if they don't feel like close to a deadline, if any?

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nicolasini profile image
Nico S___ Author

We only use T-shirt size (small, medium, large) for Roadmap Items
We’ve found that trying to estimate Tasks, either time or points, gives us no benefits