Digital Marketing & Communications

We've seen 1s and 0s you wouldn't believe

Topic: One Hour Upgrade

One Hour Upgrade - March 2017 edition

📥  One Hour Upgrade

This March we brought the sunshine with a productive One Hour Upgrade.

We had a record 19 stories submitted to the backlog, pruning those down to a manageable 8 with careful voting and some team discussion.

Participants opted to pair on 4 of the stories, with all the pairs comprising of team mates from the same discipline - content, development or design.

What we got done

  • Sean and Justin K got stuck on writing tests whilst trying to update our inventory parser to allow output ordering.
  • Rod attempted to tackle a tidy-up of our Google Drive account. He made some progress but had to admit defeat this time around. Due to Rod's competitive nature it's likely we'll see this story again next month.
  • Hanna and John mapped out an entirely new approach to our training processes and documented this on Trello.
  • In his first One Hour Upgrade, Rhodri reviewed the proposed audio for a project page screencast. He also discovered a new-found liking for his own voice.
  • Tegan and Dan investigated the accessibility of our main site navigation and came to the conclusion that nothing needed to change. They then updated various wiki pages documenting browser accessibility plugins.
  • The dynamic design duo also looked at creating a new Slack icon for the digital team. Ideas were sketched out and a few worked up in Sketch. Final designs will be put to the vote with the team later this week.
  • Tom looked at allowing content item editing via URL in the Content Publisher. The story's in review and will be finished off soon.
  • Iris remedied the weird title truncation in our filtered lists. It's in accept/reject and should ship soon, so no more chopped off titl…

What we learned

  • We should encourage more cross-discipline pairing on stories.
  • Directory tidy-ups seem like an easy win but rarely are. Because files come from across the team it's almost impossible for a single person to judge their relevance.
  • Before undertaking a One Hour Upgrade dev task consider tests that might need to be written first. Can both be the tests and the work be done in the hour?
  • Representing the digital team in a 128 x 128 icon is tricky.

 

One Hour Upgrade - January 2017 edition

📥  One Hour Upgrade

The first One Hour Upgrade of 2017 was a compact but busy event with a number of interesting proposals put forward for consideration.

In total, there were 16 new stories added to the backlog by 7 participants. Of those, 8 stories proved particularly popular, receiving at least two votes. Given the small team on this One Hour Upgrade we experimented with each participant having fewer votes than usual.

5 stories eventually made their way on to the ‘To do’ board ready to be tackled on the Friday.

What we got done

  • Dan tidied up the User Research section of the wiki, pruning out old, redundant info and creating a centralised location for our User Research efforts.
  • Tegan fixed an accessibility issue with links in our calls-to-action. Apparently a combination of bright pink and yellow is not exactly AA compliant.
  • Iris and Sean updated the Content Publisher header with an updated product name. Tom T provided a code review within the hour.
  • Justin O and Tom D made further updates to our travel advice pages, working on a collection to bring all of the information together in a single place.
  • John worked through a number of outstanding blog posts, ensuring our blogging editorial calendar stays on track.

What we learned

  • Having fewer votes available meant participants focused on voting for stories they'd actually like to work on during the upgrade hour.
  • One Hour Upgrades should be scheduled so that they don’t fall on a Show and Tell Friday. Otherwise our available working hours on that Friday are significantly reduced.
  • If a technical or design story is in review at the end of 60 minutes, it will be considered ‘done’ and moved to the relevant board.
  • Stories that could involve soldering are not good candidates for One Hour Upgrade. However, everyone is keen to upgrade the Dragon of Deployment.

What’s next?

Our next One Hour Upgrade is scheduled for 17 February 2017.

 

One Hour Upgrade - December 2016 edition

📥  One Hour Upgrade

The inaugural monthly edition of One Hour Upgrade was a quieter affair than usual as the Digital team was ravaged with Christmas plague. Thankfully our numbers were bolstered by a couple of One Hour Upgrade neophytes eager to get involved.

Fewer participants meant fewer stories added to the backlog (11) and a higher than average occurrence of pairing on stories. In fact, there were no lone wolves in this upgrade.

As always, we started with a Thursday prep session where upgrade ideas are jotted on post-its and pinned to the wall for consideration by the wider team. On Friday, we took a few minutes to organise ourselves, pair up and decide on the tasks we wanted to take on.

What we got done

  • John, Rod and Phil added a touch of Yuletide glitz to the office, with a decoupage Christmas tree made from stationery, some Health and Safety-baiting boughs of holly and artisanal paper chains.
  • Miao designed beta badges for our new starters who had yet to receive them. As a result she was then officially sworn in as a licensed beta badge creator.
  • Justin and Rhian added much needed disabled access information from our main travel advice page.
  • Dan and Tegan improved our default link state colours, in particular by removing the inaccessible yellow 'focus' state.
  • Tom and Iris added ‘last edited’ information to the status bar in our Content Publisher app. This makes it a lot easier to see when a content item was last changed and by whom.

What we learned

  • Even a small team can ship real improvements in under an hour.
  • Holly fixed at eye-level to a doorframe with sticky tape is not a good idea.
  • If a One Hour Upgrade task needs further technical or design review, it *will* overrun into normal sprint time and should be captured as a new story in Pivotal.

What's next?

Our next One Hour Upgrade is scheduled for 13 January 2017.

 

One Hour Upgrade part 5

📥  One Hour Upgrade

A photo of Phil prioritising the One Hour Upgrade improvements with post-it notes

Prioritising the One Hour Upgrade improvements.

The idea behind One Hour Upgrade is for each member of the Digital team to spend 60 minutes working on their own initiative to make our digital processes, infrastructure or products better.

Using the lessons learned from our previous upgrades, we spent 30 minutes on Thursday making suggestions and prioritising them by voting for our favourites. On Friday, everyone picked up items either by themselves or in teams and focused on delivery. After 59 minutes, the countdown kicked in.

Things we did

  • shipped a new 404 page (we had to add some Google Analytics tracking later)
  • brought the Travel Advice transition Trello board up to date and shipped one of the two remaining pages
  • built a new Trello board for managing blog posts with an improved process and guidelines for publishing them
  • designed a form for submitting new requests to our support helpdesk
  • built a prototype video extolling the many and varied virtues of working with us (spoiler: cake)

Things we learned

  • we have a whole lot of ideas for improving almost every aspect of what we do (36 submissions during planning, 18 of which got votes during prioritisation)
  • separating planning from the upgrade hour works nicely
  • technical improvements are hard to get shipped in the time - these should always be paired
  • we love doing this and are going to make One Hour Upgrade a regular thing that happens on the first Friday of every month

One Hour Upgrade part 4

📥  One Hour Upgrade

The idea behind One Hour Upgrade is for each member of the Digital team to spend 60 minutes working on their own initiative to make digital communications at the University of Bath better.

Things we did

  • improved the automated response when someone submits an item to our What's On calendar
  • installed the NVDA screenreader on an office laptop and wrote some instructions on how to use it
  • sourced a selection of photos for later use on our First Year student landing page
  • installed a plugin on our Opinion research blog to link back to The Conversation when a post appears in both places
  • optimised our SVG logos, improving the rendering on different screen sizes and reducing the overall file size
  • fixed some of the biggest 404 errors coming into the site over the last month
  • set up our continuous integration server to automatically check our Ruby code with Rubocop and generate an HTML report.

Five of the tasks were completed within the hour, the other two were completed within a few minutes after the whistle but we made some allowances since this was our last Upgrade for a few months whilst we turn our attention to developing our new beta website.

Things we learned

We used the experience of the three previous Upgrades to set up a sprint board for our ideas in the morning and then reserved 15 minutes before the hour deciding who would do what. Six of the tasks had people pairing on them and Kelv took on the Rubocop setup by himself.

We've only spent four hours in total performing these upgrades but have seen dozens of concrete improvements across many of the areas we work in and look forward to the next one!

 

One Hour Upgrade The Third

📥  One Hour Upgrade

We’ve held our 3rd One Hour Upgrade. This follows two previous fruitful outings.

The idea behind One Hour Upgrade is for each member of the Digital team to spend 60 minutes working on their own initiative to make digital communications at the University of Bath better.

Good things

Here’s what the team achieved this time around:

  • built up our accessibility testing toolkit
  • updated the accessibility information in our publishing guidelines
  • put the Omnibus (the University staff society) pages in the latest page templates
  • became expert users of BrowserStack, a tool to do automated tests of different browser types and versions
  • progressed a performance dashboard for display on a large screen
  • investigated how to deploy to our blogs hosting (WPEngine) using Bamboo, our continuous integration app
  • sorted out a set of consistent icons for use on the board that tells the team who is in or out today and over the next month.
Iconography stencil

Iconography stencil

Third time lucky

Besides the deliverables, the One Hour Upgrade also serves as a training exercise because we run it like a 'sprint in miniature' (a dash?) to fine-tune our agile delivery skills. For example, after each Upgrade we have a retrospective to identify what we can do better next time.

Based on our learning from the previous 2 Upgrades, this time round we set aside 20 minutes earlier in the week to run a sprint planning where we wrote, prioritised and allocated stories to be tackled during the One Hour. Previously, we’d attempted the planning during the Upgrade hour itself and ended up cannibalising our time.

Pairing up on Upgrade tasks was better this time. No one worked in isolation, ensuring that more got done in the time and the knowledge was spread around. It also provided an opportunity for people to work in pairs they wouldn’t necessarily find themselves working in on project work.

From the experience of this the 3rd Upgrade, we’ve agreed that (lightweight) documentation is something that we need to improve during the sprint so that the 'future us' have an record of why and how we worked on something. This is as true for 'real' sprints as much as Upgrades.

 

One Hour Upgrade 2

📥  Communication, One Hour Upgrade, Team

We held our 2nd One Hour Upgrade, following a productive first foray.

Here's what we got done in the time:

In truth, we only had a 30 minutes delivery time after we had been through the initial story review and prioritisation. So that's not bad going.

Looking forward to the next One Hour Upgrade some time in early 2015.

 

Very quick wins and failing very fast with a One Hour Upgrade

📥  One Hour Upgrade, Team

What good can you do with just one hour? Quite a lot, it turns out.

When Rich and I were at IWMW 2014, we were quite taken by the idea of running a one hour ‘makeover’ on a website (we think we heard colleagues from Manchester talking about it). Last week the University of Bath Digital team decided to find out what each of us could do to improve bath.ac.uk given the gift of 60 minutes to use as we wished. We called it ‘One Hour Upgrade’ (for want of a better name).

Is it really a ‘thing’?

Each member of the team got to pick a thing they wanted to improve about the site, which they believed they could complete within the hour. This ‘thing’ was to be a personal choice and not something from a current sprint backlog or maintenance board. Just so long as it was a lasting improvement.

We used a sprint board and throughout the morning each person stuck up their proposed improvement. Then at 3pm we got together in a stand up and each person explained why their thing was an improvement worth doing.

Some suggestions fizzled out under scrutiny (is that really a thing? can that really be done in an hour?). But most improvements were validated and refined by the team giving us the confidence to proceed. Another interesting development was that a few team members opted to help out on someone else’s improvement rather than pursue their own after hearing the other person’s impassioned pitch.

That ‘planning’ took about 10 minutes to complete. Valid improvements were moved through to the ‘doing’ column and then we got down to work. As the improvements were completed, they were moved through to ‘review’ column and at the end of the hour, we had another stand up to ‘test’ whether the improvements were done or not.

What did we do?

What didn’t we do?!

  • Iris, Rhian and Rich switched http://www.bath.ac.uk/study/ug to a template that was less text and more task orientated.
  • Liam and Dan removed the use of a spyglass icon on the search field on /students replacing it with the word ‘Go’, bringing it into line with other pages.
  • Charlotte and Dan made sure extra curricular (which is wrong) was replaced by extra-curricular (which is right) plus some other style guide enforcements.
  • Paul banished residual metadata referring to us as Web Services, which is what we were called back in the day.
  • I made sure that every blog has a tagline (which they should) and that no summary closed with a full stop (which they should not).

What didn’t get done?

So you can achieve a lot in an hour. But there are limits.

  • Kelv and Tom Natt didn’t manage to complete a functioning dashboard on the office screen showing the status of Bamboo builds.
  • Tom Trentham couldn’t complete his improvement to the blogs deployment process'.
  • Justin didn’t have the time to restructure the content on coaching and mentoring in the HR section.
  • Dan didn’t get round to making an SVG version of the uni logo.

Was it worth all that vast amount of time and effort?

On balance, I think yes it was.

It was fun and productive. We made a number of small but valuable improvements to the site, quickly, and we deployed them immediately. It was cathartic for some of us knowing that those problems were no longer out there annoying users. While for others it was revealing.

And, it was an interesting exercise in distilling Scrum down to its raw elements, which proved a good refresher for us all.

Will there be another Hour?

We agreed that we will do it again. But we will iterate and do some things differently and better.

  • The items we put in the ‘upgrade’ backlog were written out as tasks but we should do user stories.
  • People generally worked on their own, which we usually discourage so more teamwork is in order.
  • Most of the stuff we did involved fixing something someone else had done; rather than fixing it for them it might be better to use the hour instead to educate and pass on the skill.
  • Most of what we did was fixing debt and that’s not what the opportunity is really for; the next ‘One Hour Upgrade’ should be about innovations.
  • Discovery is as valuable as delivery; there doesn’t need to be a deployment at the end of the hour.

If you try something like this yourselves, let us know how you do it.