As an organization becomes more complex, we find an increasing degree of specialization in functions and roles. These bring the depth of knowledge and expertise required for managing complicated business functions.
Along with these specializations comes a need for the domain specific tools that are best suited to the work being performed. To enable our teams as much as possible, we want to give them these best-of-breed tools – the ones they want to use and will allow them to perform at the highest level possible.
The effect of this functional specialization and custom tooling also has negative consequences though – it allows islands of productivity to form that are difficult to connect and leverage for synergies. They prevent the organization from operating as a single integrated system.
At Tasktop, we have witnessed this effect first-hand as our organization has grown from 3 to 125 people and taken on multiple rounds of funding.
There have been several key inflection points where our organization has had to make an investment in specialization, each producing more productive teams while simultaneously creating a more fractured organization.
We have been willing to make this decision because the benefits of specialization are so great that they outweigh the negative cultural impacts of allowing islands to form. At the same time, we also have a plan in place to pay back this “cultural debt” through a strategy of integration, building the bridges needed to connect the islands in our value stream.
In our recent webinar, we talked about the pages from our integration playbook that have brought a tremendous amount of value to the organization. Briefly, they are:
1. Field Request Pipeline
This “first-mile” integration is between Salesforce, where our people in the Field are logging customer requests, and TargetProcess, where Product Managers are grooming the company backlog. It allows a Request object in Salesforce to flow into the Product team’s tool, and keeps the information in sync so the Field can stay up to date on the status, and even communicate with the Product team using the artifact.
2. Product Feature Pipeline
Once the Requests are in TargetProcess, they need to be triaged into Features and assigned to the right Engineering Team. This integration between TargetProcess and JIRA flows those Features over into Epics on the appropriate teams’ backlog. Again, synchronization means that the information in both tools is always accurate and up to date, and communication can easily take place right in the artifacts, negating the need for email and Slack.
3. Code to Story Sync
Once teams have broken down their epics into stories, they need to keep track of what code has changed to execute on the story being worked on. Our integration between JIRA and Gerrit uses a post-commit hook in Gerrit to link the relevant code reviews to the story. This provides developers insight into questions like “What code changed as part of this Story?” and “Which features were in which release?”
4. Asset to Plan Sync
When working on a story, developers will often request resources from IT. Our integration between our infrastructure and JIRA automatically creates an asset record in JIRA for each resource we have deployed and keeps the information about it in sync. This allows us to link resources directly to Stories and manage our infrastructure with a high level of visibility into the work that is being performed on it.
5. Value Stream Reporting
This integration allows us to leverage the tools in our value stream for business intelligence. We can funnel all the information about changes on every artifact, in real-time as they occur. We then point a business intelligence tool at the database and visualize live insights on our information radiators.
These integrations have resulted in a large reduction in waste and increase in productivity across the organization. They allow our relatively small business to service the largest banks, insurance, retail and manufacturing organizations in the world efficiently and effectively. They are also just the beginning of our internal journey into end-to-end value stream integration.
For the whole story, please check out the on demand webinar where we go into full detail about the specialization effect and how we use integration to resolve issues and enhance our value stream.