Our job was to build a Software Release planning process for Windows Phones. A new organization had been thrown together and the clock was ticking. There were new partners, new suppliers and a completely new technology. We pulled it off. Within 8 months the first device shipped which was about half the time it usually took.
After the news of the client dropping Symbian phones sales fell through the floor. The company needed to make some Windows phones and they needed to do it fast. The organization was formed like a startup and was growing rapidly. A planning process needed to be put in place that was simple but could be scaled as we went along. The organization was reliant on new partners who had thier own priorities and strong opinions on how they wanted to work.
We worked directly with Senior Release management on the solution. The idea was to build a common high level view of important Features for discussion with partners so we could all get on the same page. Not only did they need to understand the features but they also needed to understand the end to end experiences we were trying to build. Next we needed for there to be a clear link between the high level items and the details of what we were building. It was only then we could get an accurate picture of the progress, trace the dependencies and integrate quickly what we were building.
The timeline was by far the biggest challenge. Second to that was working with the new key partners. In many cases they were not as collaborative as what we had hoped. In other cases there were legal requirements that limited how much could be shared. Many expected the switch to a new technology to be a challenge but it wasn't. The Microsft Development tools were fantastic and developers could churn out results fast compared to what they were able to achieve with the tools they had been previously working with.
There is nothing like a crisis to pull everyone together. Teams were empowered to deliver and management leadership was first class. We started with the absolute minimum and built the process as we went along. This gradual and incremental approach meant we could deliver value from day one and adapt quickly to changes. We were also very hands on with the teams. We could get a call one day to support a new team and we would have them set up and working the next day. There was a lot of energy and commitment. Everyone knew we needed to make it work.
This project more than any we have worked on demonstrated the benefits of agile planning methodologies. Pick the highest value items and implement them, empower self organizing teams to do what they do best and react quickly to feedback to iteratively improve the way of working. Ultimately how the market situation played out was unfortunate. Windows Phone never got sufficient traction against iPhone and Android but we are incredibly proud of the work that was done and the great products that were produced.