I manage a team of developers in the Presence and Commerce division of Go Daddy. We're responsible for providing small businesses with their Digital Identity. Our two main products are Website Builder and Quick Shopping Cart. Last Friday, May 10, 2013 we had our first ShipIt Day.
ShipIt Days were created by Atlassian. In their words
Every quarter, we give employees the chance to work on anything that relates to our products, and deliver it during ShipIt Day, our 24-hour hackathon. Been wanting to build that plugin, redesign that interface, or completely rethink that feature that’s been bugging you? You’ve got 24 hours...go!
Our first ShipIt Day pretty much followed the format described by that statement.
We picked a Friday to do it because Fridays are usually less busy than other days because we try and avoid them for deployments. The teams self-organized which included the skill sets of Quality Assurance, Developers, DBAs and Business Analysts. We found a room where everyone could come together and work. Tip: When you do this bring power strips, duct tape and extension cords to make sure everyone has power throughout the day. Also make sure that the wireless is working well and has the bandwidth needed.
During the day we made sure that the team was sugared up on sodas and snacks and brought in lunch and towards the end of the day we brought in some adult beverages when the brain numbing complexity of the coding was done. This allowed everyone to relax and celebrate their work and cruise into the weekend.
We delayed the judging and demos until first thing on Monday morning to allow weekend travelers to get home.
Each team had six minutes on Monday morning to show what they'd created and the Product Managers and other non-participating managers joined in the judging. As score collector I asked the judges to use whatever criteria they through appropriate but to roll it all up into a single score from zero to ten and give that to me. Decimal places were allowed and one of the judges used five criteria and sent me scores to two decimal places.
Based on the generally high scores given out by all the judges, the quality and usefulness of the work done was exceptionally high. I cannot list the features because we will probably ship all of them in one of the two products already mentioned. However, once they're shipped I'll come back here and talk about them some more.
All of the members of the top three teams each received a prize to recognize their innovation. It was a tough call because the scores were close together as all the features were awesome.
Tips for a successful ShipIt Day (not saying we did all of these but in future ShipIt Days we hope to cover them all):
- Make sure you have power, wireless and a comfortable place for everyone to work.
- Make sure the team understands what they're doing. (i.e. a feature to enhance the product that they're working on but it doesn't have to come from the backlog.)
- Let the team know the ShipIt Day date well ahead of time so they can start forming their teams and ideas around what they'll work on and cancel that vacation to Hawaii so they can be there.
- Make sure they have drinks, snacks, and lunch during the day and of course an adult beverage at the end of the day.
- Get a budget for prizes, who doesn't like to be recognized?
I'm very lucky to be working with such an awesome team of developers. They are constantly going above-and-beyond in their efforts to make world class products and it's a privilege to be part of this team.