Agile Tales: A Cross-Functional Team Reflects On a Seamless Software Delivery

Leila Catic

Over a year ago we embarked on an exciting journey with Virgil Holdings.

Virgil takes great pride in being the largest community of hospitality talent at 5.7 million members — and growing.

HCareersistheir well-established hospitality recruitment platform. It is a real-time, tech-first solution for employers and professionals in North America’s hospitality industry.

Team members (Daria, Amar, and Ena)

With an aim to revolutionize job search in the hospitality industry, they decided to build a next-generation platformA challenge welcomed both-handedly by our team of software experts (Product Owner/Project Manager, UI/UX Designer, Developers, Testing Engineers, and DevOps Engineers).

It didn’t take long before we agreed that the Product Delivery engagement model was the right fit for this partnership. You can read more about our working principles and different Maestral engagement models here.

Once the platform has been successfully launched, we conducted a little team survey to reflect on the work done. Retrospectives are king.

The whole team

Team members interviewed:
Ena (PM)
Benjamin (UI/UX)
Alican (Dev)
Ervin (Dev)
Daria (QA)

We asked:

1. As a PM you are responsible for multiple parts of the process: managing the team’s efficiency, client expectations and end-user expectations — which skill did you find most valuable in balancing all of these?

Ena (PM): I found strong communication skills to be the most valuable asset. With such a diverse team from both our side as well as the client’s, good communication was essential to make sure we were always on the same page. Naturally, it is not always easy to communicate effectively when there are many people involved.

Sometimes team members don’t get a chance to speak or voice their opinions, so we made sure to keep our communication channels open — direct conversations saved us a lot of time. Thanks to expectations set early in the process, the communication flow was smooth. The Virgil team was exceptionally professional, meetings were productive and efficient, and every chance to have a good laugh before or after our standups was well used!

2. Working with a distributed team can seem like a big challenge. Were there any obstacles in your collaboration that the time difference caused and how did the team approach these?

Ena (PM): The time difference did not seem to be a big issue in our case. It all comes down to setting expectations on time, mutually respecting agreements and each other’s time while taking our responsibilities vigorously serious.

We organized the communication flow that suited everyone best. Slack was our main communication tool, but we reported weekly status emails to make sure we were all on track throughout the week. Besides this, we had our regular stand-ups and ad hoc meetings when needed. To bridge the distance, we used webcams during our meetings. It changed the nature of our relationship tremendously because it helped put a face to a name. I believe this was one of the key things that helped us have good communication and interaction with the Virgil team.

3. How much did the scope change since the start of the project?

Ena (PM): You don’t even want to know the answer to this question haha. A lot! Talk about agile. Joking aside, we understand that when it comes to business software, changes are an inevitable part of the process. With time you learn how to structure the agile process to handle them effectively. However, good luck is nothing but a result of good planning, so we put an emphasis on estimation, planning and direct communication.

Team members (Alican and Amar)

4. How would you describe the challenge of designing the career portal?

Benjamin (UI/UX): It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the most important factors a designer should consider when designing a product is the audience. If you plan to design a product your users will love, you must have an idea of what your audience actually wants and needs. This means user research should be an essential part of the UX design process.

A system like a career portal needed to be well-organized, understandable and feature-rich without being overwhelming. Users should be able to focus on finding the perfect career or the perfect candidate and not on searching for buttons and options all over the screen. It is always a challenge to deal with data-heavy platforms, but one I happily embraced.

5. From the perspective of a QA, what advice would you give to others testing recruitment sites? (QA)

Ervin (Dev): Automation testing should be considered mandatory for platforms like this one. Automation tests can save you when launching to production and will ensure quality over the long run.

Daria (QA): The recruitment site is like every other site when it comes to testing: every part of the application should work as expected and provide the best experience for job seekers. However, the Hcareers portal collects thousands and thousands of CVs and cover letters, so security was a top priority.

6. What were the best 3 things about working on the HCareers engagement?

Ena (PM): The team dynamic on Virgil is like no other — with a team of 13 we are a very tight-knit group.

Daria (QA): The team.

Alican (Dev): The team spirit. Working with a big team enables learning and understanding multiple perspectives; looking at things from a different angle.

Ervin (Dev): Team, great selection of technologies (the most popular in the industry), openness to new ideas.

Conclusion

It’s no secret that diverse, cross-functional teams deliver fantastic results. But it’s important to remember that this is true only when the process is properly managed and structured to support the product vision.

As with all complex processes, there are challenges. The difference with having an experienced software partner is that they know how to overcome them less painfully. The case we described above gives a unique, honest insight into a very productive client /software partner relationship. We hope this inspires you to improve on your current team organization and deliver in a more efficient manner.

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