We have an idea … now what?

Our ALM | DevOps Ranger community consists of a bunch of smart, passionate, part-time volunteers – or Geeks – that have great ideas for solutions that could potentially be “awesome” or address a missing feature or adoption blocker. The team mapping our VSTS extension Value Stream recently asked me “when we have an idea, what happens next?” – a fairly common question from others. Time to explore

OK, we have a cool idea – what happens next?

Here’s a snapshot of us noodling on the whiteboard:

  1. We discuss the idea on the various communication channels (slack, email, etc.).
  2. When there’s an interest and a Ranger takes ownership of analyzing the feasibility of the idea we document it as a potential project on our Epic backlog. A working prototype usually created to figure out the feasibility.
  3. The lead Ranger presents the idea and proposal to the community and engineering.
  4. If everyone is “sold on the idea” …
  5. we place the idea on our backlog for triaging.
  6. If there’s no consensus, we postpone and revert to discussions.
  7. Lastly, if no-one takes the lead or no-one is sold on the idea, we close the backlog item.

Why aren’t all ideas valuable?

We get a lot of awesome ideas. However, we have a set of core criteria that must be met in order for the idea, and ultimately the solution, to be useful. The criteria are::

  • A Ranger who’s passionate about the idea, needs to take the lead, and sell the value of the proposed solution to both the community and engineering.
  • A team of Rangers who have the bandwidth, passion, and grit need to turn the idea into a valuable solution. This includes cross-functional responsibilities such as design, development, debugging, support, and the dreaded live site incident mitigation.
  • A sponsor or product owner from engineering needs to ensure that there’s also value to the commercial product, that we’re not duplicating or conflicting with other feature development, and that our prioritization falls in line with their product roadmap.

Why do “awesome” ideas vanish?

We intentionally do not add a new potential project to our Epic backlog until someone take the lead to investigate the feasibility of the idea. The drive needs to come from the lead, the team, and the community. They, not the community program management, own the idea from start to finish.

Finally, here’s a snippet of our dashboard, which illustrates the ideas flowing through our lightweight process of Ideas Other –> Ideas Feasible –> Flights –> Maintenance:


THANKS TO REVIEWERS – Wouter de Kort, Geoff Gray