Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:59:00 GMT)

The Art of Delivery, part 2

Posted by Thu, 22 May 2008 18:42:00 GMT

Two years ago, I wrote an article titled, The Art of Delivery. I wanted to post a few updates based on how our process has evolved since then (and continues to).

Over the past few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on quite a diverse collection of projects. This has enabled us to work with many different clients and solicit feedback on our process. This has given us an opportunity to evolve a set of best practices that fulfills the long-term project goals/budgets of our client while making sure that we’re able to maintain a design and development process that is agile.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our team typically bills work per-iteration on projects rather than per-hour or a flat-bid per-project. Since iterations are bite-sized pieces of the entire project and limited to 1-2 weeks, our teams estimates are much more accurate and we’re able to keep things rolling and on track.

stay on track

The basic structure of our project looks like this.

  • A Project has many releases
  • A Release has many iterations
  • An Iteration has many deliverables
  • A Deliverable has many tasks

Before we begin working on an iteration, we outline a set of goals that we want to create solutions for. This process comes out of discussions between our client and us until we agree on what is the highest value/most critical to the success of the project, based on our shared understanding of where we are today. These goals translate into Deliverables, which in a typical iteration might require Interaction Design, Interface Design, or Development. We tend to break our process up into stages so that Interaction Design on Module XYZ would be implemented in a following iteration. This is because it’s unrealistic to expect someone to provide an accurate estimate on how long it’ll take to implement something before you know how people will interact with it.

Within any given iteration, our team is spread across several sets of deliverables. As a team, we breakdown these deliverables into smaller sets of tasks. It’s our aim to keep tasks smaller than a full days worth of work as it’s much easier to measure progress across the iteration when we can track tasks at a granular level.

Essentially, tasks are the individual steps needed to achieve these goals. We don’t go out of our way to list each one of those during an estimate process as some tasks take less time than it takes to generate an estimate for them. Each person providing estimates should avoid getting too granular and aim to find a good balance that compliments their workflow.

Like most things… mileage may vary.

Through this process, we can get calculate the estimated costs for each deliverable, which then provides us an cost for the entire iteration. In addition to deliverables, we also budget a set of hours/days so that we can be compensated for handling small requests, bug fixes, and project management. It’s important to factor these things into your process.

In future posts, I’ll discuss how we’re handling this process while working on multiple projects… as that’s where it can chaos can start if you’re not careful. ;-)


How does your team work? As we’re always evolving our process in an effort so that we can be more efficient and speed up our delivery cycle, I’d love to learn from those in the community.