Lightning Talk: Automation Tools Can Help Your Sprints Work Smarter, Not Harder

Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Time: 10:00 - 10:15 am (CDT) (UTC-05:00)
Track: Eduwapuu
Format: Lightning Talk

Who is this session for?

scrum masters, product owners, project managers, developers, programmers, engineers, server managers, change managers, strategists, UX/UI

Session description

Do you know just where you are in your project? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of tickets in your system? Unsure if you’re still in QA or if your next release is ready to go live? There’s got to be a better way!

Well now there is: Put automation tools to work for you! During the midst of a huge migration moving the university's 300+ websites from Drupal to WordPress, a project manager and a web developer realized their current workflow was causing confusion on the team, and they embarked on an incredible journey of sprints, cards, boards, lists, rules, buttons, and so much more. This session will not just demonstrate awesome automation, but also encourage you to create an agile adventure that works for your team.

This session is for anyone who is currently using project tracking, agile development, Kanban boards, or team organization tools to manage their development process and wants to make the most of it, or anyone who is interested in using these tools and would like to learn more.


Reed Piernock

Headshot of Reed Piernock
Senior Web Front-end Developer, Georgetown University

Reed is a front-end dev who will happily spend all day engrossed in a bunch of .scss files. They are a stickler about code standards and a major advocate for accessibility. They are also a grad student focused on the intersection of culture and technology, who knits socks and sings in a competitive karaoke league.


  • Lightning Talk: Automation Tools Can Help Your Sprints Work Smarter, Not Harder

Danielle Held

Headshot of Danielle Held
Senior Project Manager, Georgetown University

Danielle, senior project manager, is responsible for helping content editors build and maintain their websites and is passionate about developing a communications strategy with site editors. She also loves baking cakes (and eating them, too) and practices vinyasa yoga.


  • Lightning Talk: Automation Tools Can Help Your Sprints Work Smarter, Not Harder

Session video

Session transcript

Reed (first presenter): Hi, good morning. I'm Reed. My pronouns are they and them. I'm a senior web developer with web services at Georgetown University.

Danielle (second presenter): I'm Danielle Held, a projector manager and my pronouns are she/hers. We'll talk to you about automation tools and how we can help you work smarter, not harder. We won't take questions because our session is 10 minutes. But submit questions with the Q and A tool and we'll answer afterward. Let's get started.

Reed: We have a lot of websites with a shared theme. We have about 15 individual sites and 30 additional sites on separate WordPress and hosted in separate Pantheon code streams. We have 2-week sprints and alternate between codebases. In the first week, codebase A and second, B and back and forth. We have roughly 1,000 editors made up of facility and students. They can get questions, feature requests and to report issues. The odds aren't in our favor.

Danielle: There are a lot of challenges with this ecosystem. First, Murphey's law. 350 websites, there's a lot of user needs and something is likely to break despite Q and A testing. Secondly, adding to codebases. There is a rocky sprint and deployment. We were asking what sprint we were on, how we deploy? How do we tell the site editors to deploy? We said, there's a better way.

Reed: If you're in the season, spoiler alert, it's automation. It can keep you on the right track. We learned this by realizing where we had holes in the process to fill. We needed to figure out how to have the tools to help us, not just how to use them. Things that throw us off are things universities go through, moratoria at the beginning and the end, with registration, emergencies, outages, people going on leave, etc. Things that can help us. As we have here, automatons. We need a simple, at-a-glance overview of what is going on with sprints. We have reminders and repeaters that keep track. We have snoozers. When we don't need to look at something, we keep out the clutter and hide it out of sight. We keep up with standardization. It's easy to know what we can use and who is working on what. We have custom fields in the task to know what the standardization is and we use them as hooks for automatons.

We have kick-off automation buttons, exactly what it sounds like. Kick-off is a series of tasks to save us time and reduces the risk of forgetting a step. It keeps up standardization so everything moves smoothly. With task assignments, we know who is working on what. It helps with accountability and the simple overview, who is working on what and what tasks are worked on.

Back to what Danielle said about editors. We have release notes and documentation to get information to editors with deployment, to know what we work on, and if we fixed a bug. There are add ons, power-ups, and ad integrations. As a team, we work with a balance, having fun with the tools and standardization that helps us keep on track.

This is a small sampling of things that help us. Two tools we use are GitHub and Trello. We have GitHub products with automatons and automated automatons. If you start a project board, it's Ken Dance style, and they ask for standard automation or set it up how you work with issues and pole requests. With GitHub and Trello, you set up the automatons. After you use your board, it will recommend automatons that will save you time-based on how you use the boards. With these things, there are cool integrations that work between GitHub and Trello and other tools that can help, too.

There's' cool stuff that does a bunch of cool things. Don't take our word for it. What you need to do is find a way that works with your team’s habits. Don't force them to learn a new method or tool. If you do so, you are running the risk of abandoning a method/tool because you feel it doesn't work when forcing a new habit. It doesn't matter the tools you use, find the ones that are right for your team. There's a plethora of those out there. Those tools will help your sprints work smarter.

Danielle: That's it for our lightning talk. Reed and I shared our information on the last slide. We'd appreciate your comments and feedbacks. Thank you for joining us.

Reed: Thank you so much.

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