Within my organisation we have a project that is largely about adding new content/chapters to an existing piece of software.

The content providers for this work often provide content in dribs and drabs. Therefore from week to week, my colleagues working on this project do not have a clear sense of what they will be working on as it all comes down to 'what has come in'.

How can I plan, drive and track progress on a project of this nature? I sense that some sort of framework needs to exist to move things forward effectively - and I need to be seen to be tracking this work. But it's difficult to know how to do this.


As a fan of simple approaches I would start as simple as possible. Definitely any method based on time-boxing isn't an option as they expect steady input flow of work. From your description it isn't the case.

It seems that Kanban would be a very good match for your situation.

First, it bases on pulling work, which basically means that the team adopts the way they work to reacting to changing scope of work. In short, they start working on whatever is the most important thing at the moment, but at the same time they limit work in progress so they can easily react to rapidly changing priorities.

Second, it gives you visualization, which not only is a good tool to assess current status of work but also helps you to change and improve the process you follow. Visualizing work, possibly on a Kanban board, would give you quick high-level overview of a project pretty much any time.

Third, there is measuring the flow. With simple measures like cycle time or lead time you can learn how fact you react to new tasks which appear in the queue and how much time you need to get them done.

On the top of that, Kanban is very easy to implement and adds very little hassle to use it, especially that with Kanban you don't change your initial process. You work as you used to, and then improve gradually as you learn more about the way you work and the work itself.

If you want to read more here is a description of Kanban principles.

And there is free minibook which can be downloaded presenting Kanban more extensively (and using Scrum as background).


I had a very similar problem; current 'normal' projects were relatively easy to divide up into sprints and backlogs but one regular customer could have any number of irregular shaped jobs to complete every two weeks. I adopted a Kanban board with a daily Scrum ("Scrumban").

I set up a board with a "To Do" column, "In Progress", "In Testing" and "Ready for Live". Dates for when the next deployment was due were also clearly visible. As each item was requested it was estimated in hours, written up on an index card and added to the To Do pile.

As a team member becomes available they select the work and pull it into the In Progress column, and so on.

As a manager you can hold a daily scrum to evaluate the outstanding pile of work, make sure everyone is kept busy if there is a job awaiting action, and also watch for things not progressing across the board the way it should. If there are queries or blockages you can take ownership of those at the scrum to help get questions answered.

You will also know how much available time each team member will have in a development cycle and can "tick off" their available time as they select a task. You can then see how efficient their estimating is, as well as how stretched they are.

The team felt more motivated by this as they could see the workload and critically could see it moving across the board to completion.

This site has some good resources for reading further: http://leansoftwareengineering.com/ksse/scrum-ban/

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