Real Projects Aren’t Just About the Sprint…

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SprintAs Graduates in the first intake of the Automation Logic Academy, Chris Mutono and I get to do some pretty special things. One of the highlights so far was our visit to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) offices to see the work that Automaton Logic Consultants are doing there.
Although central government might not sound that cutting edge, seeing the work that our consultants are doing there was pretty inspiring. The tools that we are building are helping to reduce bullying in prisons and directly improving the lives of inmates and their families.

Technology That Changes People’s Lives.

Learning about the impacts of the technology also gave greater context to the theory we have been studying. We got to see the technologies we’ve been getting to grips with used in a working environment and appreciate the effect that they can have on people’s lives. An example of this is the Prison Visits Booking system. Previously prison visits were booked manually but could be rejected if two prisoners with concurrent visitation requests had known violent relations, a prisoner did not have enough visitation days left, or there was not enough spaces in the visiting room. The new service is able to perform real-time checks of the prison database, give faster confirmation to visitors of their request. Processing time has been reduced from 7 minutes over the phone to 2.5 minutes for online bookings and has a user satisfaction rating of 89% while reducing costs by 50%. Increases in visitations has been proven to help keep re-offending rates down.

The team at the MoJ work in an Agile environment where the focus is on collaboration and adapting to changing requirements.  A facet of this is fortnightly ‘sprints’ where work is allocated according to the team’s assessment of their own capabilities.  This ensures that the team are set achievable goals and promotes an environment of trust and cooperation.  This approach is often used by DevOps teams as this kind of environment is vital to the work that we do.  Chris and I were lucky enough to observe the beginning and end, respectively, of an MoJ sprint.

Shadowing the MoJ Team

Chris:

“I visited the Ministry of Justice on Monday morning and began the day with Matt, an onsite Automation Logic Consulting Engineer.  Matt talked me through a typical day including meetings, planning and execution in addition to some of the common problems that emerge.  I then joined the team in a sprint planning meeting where the tasks to be completed over the next 2-week sprint were outlined and allocated.  We then looked over the long term objective of ‘Cloud Platform Adoption’ and I discovered how the day to day activities and sprints tied into it.

The highlight of the experience for me was to see how well AL integrated into the resident DevOps team at the MOJ.  In addition to this hearing about some of the positive impact we are having in reducing prison violence and improving the lives of inmates highlighted the importance of the work we do and so makes me eager to increase my contribution.”

Anna:

“I arrived on Friday morning and was met by Matt who introduced me to the team and showed me around the office.  We had a quick chat about the areas that the last sprint had covered and some of the projects that the team had been working on within it.  Then it was time for the end of sprint meeting.  In the meeting the team recapped the progress that had been made over the two weeks.  Cost saving had been the focus and so the KPI of total money saved was used to track progress.  Everyone spoke about the projects they had done and the level of success they had had.  After this there was a short break before we began the sprint retro.  This was a new concept to me: everyone put their ideas of things which had gone well and thing which had gone less well over the last two weeks on the whiteboard and discussed them.  Ways to tackle the issues that had gone less well were discussed and it was a productive meeting.

I really enjoyed the trip and it was great to see the sprint process in action. It was also interesting to see Automation Logic engineers in their natural habitat and hear first hand about the work that they do and the challenges they face. Some were technical: Matt and I discussed the problems associated in migrating a public facing app from one virtual machine to another with different encryption levels, but others were less so and more focused on interpersonal and inter-team relationships. I liked the emphasis on learning in the Agile process and open environment that it created, allowing the team to tackle both kinds of challenges effectively.”

Overall, we both learnt a lot from our respective visits and are already using the real world examples we encountered to guide our learning. Experiencing a working DevOps environment has given us the context for the theory which underpins the course. We are both excited to qualify as Consulting Engineers and get out there and make a difference ourselves.

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