There are times when 3rd party dependencies are unavoidable. Many teams attempt to avoid playing cards through the wall until they are sure 3rd party work is complete and won’t become a blocker by the time the developers pick up the work. But, the devil is always in the detail and hand-offs are inevitable in certain situations. I’ve also seen situations where a hand-off mid-development is part of the process.
When you do have a hand-off scenario many teams simply stick a blocker sticker (magenta post-it) on the card. This is fine for many situations where the 3rd party can give you a really fast turnaround. However, if the 3rd party is going to take several days or weeks to resolve the issue then teams get frustrated with a blocked card taking up a slot on the card wall – essentially undermining the limits.
Here’s a quick explanation of the example card wall above to demonstrate how I’ve visualised the hand-off mechanism:
- The Analysis Done column and the 3rd Party Done column are considered a combined buffer.
- Developers pull work from the Analysis Done column or the 3rd Party Done column when they have the capacity to deal with it. An important conversation must take place at this point with the Product Owner to ensure the card with the highest priority is selected for development effort.
- If a card requires 3rd Party work (a hand-off), cards move from the Dev WIP column to the 3rd party WIP column upon hand-off.
- When the 3rd Party have completed there work and essentially are handing back, you move the relevant card from the 3rd Party WIP to the 3rd Party Done column. Yes! This is a right to left flow, but this is important.
- As per the second point above, the Analysis Done column and the 3rd Party Done column should be seen as a combined buffer to pull from.
- I’ve seen cards go around this loop several times as local teams and the remote 3rd Party work through the layers of the integration ‘onion’.
- Column limits within the pipeline are still in place and you may want to think about placing limits on 3rd party columns, although in practice I’ve found this to be a challenge.
- Another way to look at the 3rd Party section is as a normal dev WIP and Done, but with a left offset and the columns reversed. Not sure if what I written makes any sense so hopefully you catch my drift?
As always I’m interested in feedback, thoughts, or constructive criticism on this technique.