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Alef Education is a fast growing start-up established only in 2017? and we are now delivering our blended learning platform to over 55K students in over 150 schools in the UAE and a few in the USA.
Starting small, with a handful of developers, working Agile was easy peasy. Nowadays, with over 70 developers in 13 teams things got a lot more complex and retaining agility a constant challenge. In this presentation, we will cover a few of the issues that we faced and how we dealt with it. We will cover the introduction of DevOps, applying scaling techniques, dynamic re-teaming, organize around microservices and the introduction of CoP's.
Don't expect a huge success story, however... we are still learning and experimenting and we certainly don't have all the answers yet (or ever will). But we know that what we have experienced is of value for many companies and we are not afraid to share our mistakes as well for the sake of learning.
How Alef is Solving Issues in Education?
Improve Quality of
Content and Questions
❏ 1 feature team
❏ Monolith Architecture
❏ 1 Pilot School
❏ 3 teams
❏ Monolith to Microservice
❏ 11 Schools
Alef Education Growth Story
❏ 4 teams
❏ 15 Microservices (+) Monolith
❏ Bigdata Team
❏ 31 Schools
❏ 9 teams
❏ 30+ Microservices (-) Monolith
❏ Data Science Team
❏ Business Intelligence Team
❏ 150+ Schools
❏ 350+ Schools
Schools in UAE & US
Questions Answered a day
Data Points are collected every day
Alef Education Facts
Engineers as Scrum Masters
Due to company growth
the role of Scrum Master
got more complicated and
requires new skill sets.
Hire a bunch of
Masters for the teams
Ambitious team members,
experienced with scrum,
wanting to learn and take
responsibility, taking turns
in scrum master role.
Implemented solution: Scrum Master Community of Practise (CoP)
● All SM’s get together regularly to discuss subjects like estimating, retrospectives and
● Benefits are improved skills, cross-team bonding and knowledge sharing
● Follow-up: More CoP’s for PM, TA’s and test-automation
Team Silos and Stagnation
Productivity and learning
stagnated and teams were
becoming more self-oriented. The
status quo was not motivating to
try new things.
Fixed teams with
ambitious members, top
of class, want to be
Implemented solution: Dynamic re-teaming
● Individual attention from leadership and coaches will signal wishes from team members
● Make a switch when an opportunity pops up. Accept lower productivity at first
● Benefits: People (and knowledge) stay in the company, team members know more about the
whole system and manage dependencies better, inter-team communication and less effort/costs
for hiring new team members
Lack of Communication
It’s hard to keep up with
what other teams and
departments are doing and
inform them about what
you are doing.
Due to growth teams focus
on their own operational
excellence but missing the
overall vision and goals.
Implemented solution: Radical Transparency
CoP’s to share knowledge and experiences Invite business people to sprint demo’s
Demo day every month School visits by tech teams
Weekly Scrum of Scrums Sharing failures (Postmortem)
Company wide retro after start of school year Team pages on Confluence
The number of teams kept
on growing, integration
and releasing taking more
time, piling up code.
Extend the DoD for all
teams to include
Done is not DONE, teams
deliver their stuff to a
system team who do
integration, testing and
● Automate integration tests
● Invest heavily in building CI/CD pipeline, automate everything
● Focus on test automation in all teams
● Push back activities from System team to development teams (shift left)
Develop Integrate Deliver
Long Term Planning
Expectations from the
business are not met and
priorities changed faster
than the long term plan.
Be more precise and invest
more time in planning to
ensure things don’t change
Plans are made for a
complete (school) year and
need adjusting after every
Implemented solution: Short Term Roadmap Planning
● Use 3-4 months planning horizons. Current increment has fixed scope, next increments are
described in high level objectives.
● Measure the impact of features to base next steps upon (feedback on your hypothesis)
● Visualize the roadmap on a central wall for everybody to have complete visibility
● Communicate during town-hall meetings, not just the plans but also the outcomes
“You build it, you run it.”
—Werner Voegls, Amazon CTO (2006)
Team Topology - Multiple Teams with Microservice
Inverse Conway Maneuver
"Conway's Law asserts that organizations are constrained to produce application
designs which are copies of their communication structures. This often leads to
unintended friction points.
The 'Inverse Conway Maneuver' recommends evolving your team and organizational
structure to promote your desired architecture. Ideally your technology architecture will
display isomorphism with your business architecture."
Aligning Team Boundaries Maximizes Continuous Delivery
● A ‘team-first’ approach to
● Limit the size of software
services/products to the cognitive
load that the team can handle.
Alef Teams Topology
Maximize team autonomy and
optimize flow of change
Dependencies are Inevitable
Team collaboration is important to
deliver rich user experiences using the
cohesive capabilities delivered by
The challenge is to strike the right
balance. Ideally, 80% of the work should
be within a team boundary.
Align business, teams, and software architecture
for fast flow
early and often
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase
perfection we can catch excellence”