On Standups and Daily Engineering Activities


As we all know, the most important thing when putting together a new project and/or product is that you actually build something that people want (among the other two important ingredients):

You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible.

Part of the process of putting together a worthwhile endeavor is getting that second thing right and it really is the hardest thing to do of the three. There are a lot of products out there that are fun, neat to use, and even entertaining but they aren’t essential to life and/or business.

Naturally, we all want to build for real behavior, not hypothetical behavior, and that’s why I’ve been spending a lot of time with real customers, or more specifically, just real humans and trying to understand their needs as well as I possibly can. I’m asking a lot of questions and I’m learning to ask those questions better too.

As I’ve gotten farther along I’ve wanted to also make sure that I’m attacking real problems, again, not hypothetical ones, and if I’m lucky, daily problems that come up often. Clearly I’m focusing on developers and engineering teams so my thoughts have wandered towards the daily activities that I and many of my colleagues face every time we wake up.

On such area or activity that I’ve been spending more time thinking about is “The Daily Standup” and the early-morning activities that many engineers and their teams engage with.

The Daily Standup
The Daily Standup

Now, there are 1,000 different perspectives on how a team can do this well and “rightly” and even the methods and strategies surrounding a daily standup. And, there are enough opinions about whether they are necessary at all or if they are entirely superfluous to a highly-functional team.

And I’m not going to argue those points, but, I will say that I believe high-functioning teams have a way of communicating regularly that leads to insight, inspiration, and action. If you call that a “standup” then great. If not then that’s fine.

Regardless, many technology and engineering teams have their daily standups but not all of them are done very well and/or not all of them are done effectively. But they are done daily and for many organizations it’s a fundamental part of the day’s activities and calendar.

In gist I started to think if the engineering data that exists within GitHub can be intelligently leveraged to create a better Daily Standup. Wouldn’t that be great?

Take a look at the screenshot below (click for larger view). It’s a big image, but, you can see how much information there is from just some of the public GitHub projects like Docker:

Data is just data and isn’t very useful until it’s given context and until you understand and/or have a purpose for it. Going through exercises like the “The Daily Standup” can be extremely helpful for us to surface the data that already exists in ways that are actually useful for the team.

This, of course, is a first-pass concept / prototype, but, I think by building against real, daily behavior and events that actually happen one can get closer to building something that people really want and need.

If you have any other thoughts around engineering issues and daily challenges that you might have, I’d love to have a convo. What I want to be able to do is use the data that developers and engineering teams are already creating and allow useful intelligence and actionable advice to surface as a consequence.

Why? So that we can build better software (in a more timely, thoughtful, and productive way)!

Originally published at Building Better Software.