Archify’s CTO: Do Not Overmanage Your Project

Today we are talking to Archify – the providers of an awesome personal archiving service – and their CTO Gerald Bäck. The company is based in Berlin, but their team is distributed across the whole Europe – and Gerald shares how they manage their development process.

Tell us about yourself. What does your company do?

I am Gerald, the CTO of Archify. Archify is a company that helps you find things again you have already seen. Let’s say you have read an article on a website, or saw a video somewhere – if you do not exactly remember where you have seen it, it is often very complicated to find it again. Archify can help you with that. We are recording and archiving every website you browse with a screenshot and the full text, and we are also archiving every update in your social stream, including your friends’ updates on Facebook and Twitter. Archify captures all that and makes it searchable for you.

Great. Can you tell us about your development team? How big is it and how is it organized?

Currently we are a team of four – and it is spread all over Europe. Max and me are the founders of the company – and we are based in Berlin. We both still work as developers, as we really enjoy developing. We also have another guy who does front end development and design – he is currently living in Portugal and will join us in Berlin next year. And we have one more developer in Ukraine. Not really a very centralized team.

Can you tell us about your development process? What are the steps and, how often do you deploy, and so on?

We are trying to use Scrum – it does not always work, but it is getting better every week. We have sprints – and the sprints are one-week long. Initially we started with two-week sprints, but then we discovered that we can actually do the same work in one week, just by cutting the sprint time to one week. We also looked into Kanban, but our team prefers to work with deadlines – so when we have a deadline to deliver to every week, that works really well for us.

Do you do stand-up meetings?

We are doing stand-up meetings every day at 9:30 Berlin time – in three time zones. The stand-up meetings usually last for only five minutes or so. We use GoToMeeting to as the video-conferencing software – we tried several services, but GoToMeeting is by far the best and the most reliable one. The stand-up meetings are about what has been achieved yesterday, what is planned for today, and what are the obstacles.

Why did you decide to adopt Scrum? Did you adopt it from the very beginning?

No, we did not do it from the very beginning. We did stand-up meetings from the very beginning, but did not do Scrum. We used Pivotal Tracker as a project management tool, but in the beginning it was just Max and me, so it did not make sense to implement the whole Scrum process for such a small team. We did what we thought was the best, there was not much planning involved. But as soon as our first developer joined us, we started using Scrum.

OK. And what are the biggest challenges for you in when it comes to project management?

One challenge is deployment and keeping the code up to date. We are only four people, but it is still a challenge to avoid merging conflicts and deploy the right stuff. In the beginning we had some problems with that, but we have established very strict rules and testing protocols for deployment. You cannot just deploy, even if you change just a comment somewhere, it needs to be tested.

Do you do the testing by yourselves or do you have a dedicated tester?

We do it by ourselves. We have four developers and two other team members, who work with  marketing and communications, but they also do the testing. Developers do the automated testing – I would say 80% of our testing is automated – but you also need non-developers to test the software.

Another challenge we encountered was that it is not always easy to handle a team in different locations. But we manage that with a lot of video conferencing – and you also have to be very precise in the communication with the team.

What changes to your process do you plan to implement in the future?

We are currently thinking about implementing continuous integration process. It might be a bit too early for that right now – but we are currently looking to hire two or three new developers, and then I think we will need continuous development or continuous integration.

What would be your advice to other startups and CTOs?

I would advise not to look too much into the project management, because there is always a very high chance to overmanage your project. And then you end up filling a lot of checklists, but someone has to code – so do not do it.

Thank you very much!

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