Making Multi-tasking Agile: the DigitalNZ approach

Andy Neale, New Zealand

One of the greatest challenges to a successful digital team is the opportunity to do more. The endless number of enhancements, projects, experiments, and ideas are a stream of innovation and expectation that can drown even the most talented folk. We’ve all done it, or seen the impact of trying to do too much at once. This workshop will introduce methods to help digital teams increase their productivity and focus, and will explore how individuals can better multitask across many different initiatives.

Bifurcation is the phenomena we see when streams branch out from rivers into many distributaries. This workshop starts with the idea that the ideal unit of work is a small deliverable that a few people can complete in under two weeks; and that these units can be driven by distributaries of work, which can in turn be part of even larger flows that are connected to a driving mission. The bifurcation approach to multitasking digital developments is inspired by Agile Scrum methods that have been adapted for small teams who need to juggle multiple initiatives. The approach is also helpful for supporting mixed initiatives where a handful of people are trying to cover off both technical development and non-technical business activities.

In this workshop we will cover:

  • How the theory of bifurcation can encourage productivity
  • Using a one-page year plan to “stream” your digital initiatives
  • Planning 10-week cycles of epic deliverables
  • Modifying agile practices for small teams
  • How to use experience mapping to find focus
  • Troubleshooting team productivity and multitasking issues

This approach has evolved over five years and is currently in use at the DigitalNZ group,  where several teams use it to guide many multiple streams of work; including infrastructure upgrades, API developments, data ingest, testing, user experience design, website builds, bug fixing, content editorial, licencing reviews, and digitisation services.

Andy Neale has been leading teams in their digital developments for eons, most recently as the head of DigitalNZ at the National Library of New Zealand. DigitalNZ has been a five year effort to link together 25 million digital items from 120 partners, and help people find share and use them. He was the founder of the Mix and Mash remix and mashup competition, and also works across the museum, library, gallery, and archive space as a current board member of the National Digital Forum. He is a Certified Agile Scrum Master, and for the past five years has been using this bifurcation approach with his teams to do more than they probably should.