Redesigning our dev process from scratch

John Cline

Senior Engineering Manager at Blue Apron



Following a product-focused reorganization at Blue Apron, I ended up being the manager of a new team. One of our first goals was to define our work processes. Due to the very nature of the company, our priorities change often, so we decided to go with Kanban. We ended up with 10-11 stages of how tasks could progress and we set up JIRA to match our process. A few months in, it seemed that we were not using half of the stages, our estimates were off, and our deliverability was quite poor. Something had to be done.

Actions taken

Following these observations, we decided to rethink our process. In collaboration with my PM, we designed a new way of handling tasks. First, we got rid of a few stages that happened prior to coding and replaced them with one "reviewing step", during which, the PM and I would agree on tasks and specs. We then added a specific "Estimation" stage, which occurs prior to starting work. During this stage, engineers break up large tasks into smaller tasks that should not take longer than two days and give an overall estimation of the story. We also simplified the dev stages to three stages: "In progress", "in PR" and "Done". Finally, we strictly enforced these processes through Jira, with requirements for stage changes. You are now unable to update a status to "in progress" without giving an estimation. These newly designed processes have already improved efficiency. People are now more careful about their work, as the tracking is much more efficient. We also have a better overview of the team's productivity and can now plan ahead more efficiently. Engineers spend more time thinking through their features before jumping into coding. This has not only improved estimations but also deliverability. As a manager, I have much more visibility over the team's work, making it a lot easier for me to help when necessary.

Lessons learned

After designing the new dev process from scratch, I have learned that there are a few principles to remember:

  1. The simpler the better.
  2. Invest in tools (money and time) to enforce your process.
  3. Estimations are key and your process should take this into account.

"These newly designed processes have already improved efficiency." "Engineers spend more time thinking through their features before jumping into coding."

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John Cline

Senior Engineering Manager at Blue Apron

CommunicationDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesTechnical SkillsSoftware DevelopmentAgile, Scrum & KanbanTeam & Project Management

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