12Sprints has been available in public beta for a few weeks now, and I thought it would be useful to share how the 12Sprints Product Management and Engineering teams use it in our day to day work. We probably use it as much as any other group, so we make a good test case on how to take advantage of collaborative decision making in day to day work. At first we used it because we had to, as an essential part of learning the use-cases needed to make the product better. But as the product has evolved and matured we now use it by choice as part of our standard set of tools.
There are a number of ways that we use the product, but there seems to be two major requiring scenarios that make up the majority of our 12Sprints use:
1. Supporting on-line and on-premise meetings
2. An escalation to long e-mail threads
Supporting on-line and on-premise meetings
One of the gruesome realities of my job, like many information workers today is that we have to attend a large number of meetings. Many of these meetings are face-to-face, but a very large portion of them are teleconference meetings often with the aid of a desktop sharing tool like Cisco WebEx. Generally the purpose of the meeting is to get together to make a decision, or to educate on a specific topic. To ensure that our time is used wisely and to ensure that we accomplish our meeting goals we often set up a 12Sprints Activity before the meeting to share the agenda and decision objectives.
People often share the agenda in the meeting request, but that generally makes it impossible for it to be updated by meeting members to take notes, jot down deliverables, or ask for feedback in tools like our Pro/Con or consensus tools. Generally by the end of a meeting we have a nice record of what was discussed and what we agreed to.
Some of the tools that I have found very useful in meetings are: Agenda, Descion, Quick Poll, Pro/Con, and Consensus.
An escalation to long e-mail threads
A scenario that many people are familiar with is the ever expanding e-mail thread. So for example, server X keeps crashing and an e-mail thread gets started to discuss the problem. Everyone and their dog gets added to the thread and we start to get input from engineers, the operations team, and product management team, soon the thread spirals out of control. Does this sound familiar to you?
The 12Sprints team has learned to recognize these threads and we have started to nip them in the bud by creating a twelve sprints activity. Usually we are able to recognize these threads within about 3 replies to the original thread. Once this happens we quickly reply to our 12Sprints e-mail alias and add notes “Creating Activity”. This automatically creates an activity with the e-mail thread as content and it invites everyone on the To and CC list to the activity.
Now we have a single place to go to discuss the problem or question that we have. We also have a way of tracking the decision that’s made and getting formatted feedback via the different decision tools that are available.
To enable the E-mail feature I described above click on the “Extensions” link at the top of the 12Sprints menu. You can then turn it on and grab your individual e-mail address that allows you to create new activities.