Six Years of Using Team O’Clock
When I joined Transifex, the organization had - and still does - an Agile mentality in how they built the product and had been using Scrum for two or three years before my time.
During the first team’s standup, I noticed a product the team used called Team O’clock to help them with the ceremonies facilitation. It would be later on that I discovered that I was working with the founders on a daily basis.
We used it for standups at first (and maybe planpoker, but I might be wrong on the timeline), and it felt natural. A two-minute purple circle timer around each person’s avatar was responsible for keeping us within the two minutes limit to discuss what we did the previous day, what we would do that day and if we had any impediments. After someone was done, it would go to the next person based on a random order.
In my eyes, it was a simple and fantastic way to avoid awkward looks about who should go next or people speaking for too long and missing the purpose and the essence of a standup which is to coordinate and align.
Two Weeks In
At that point, we would still do retrospectives in a more traditional way in which the facilitator would have to gather notes - or note down everything if it was an open discussion - and keep and track action items. I’m not sure if you have done this, but after a while, it becomes cumbersome, especially if it is a Friday afternoon and you’ve been trying to finish up any sprint work leftovers. Retrospective is the most important ceremony of a team, but it shouldn’t be challenging to facilitate. All the participants should be focused on the value of the meeting and nothing else.
With great surprise, on a Friday that was no different from any other Friday, our Scrum Master sent us a link to join, and we saw a new feature called Retrospectives.
It had everything needed. You could choose from a number of predefined activities and had a notes-gathering step, a notes-grooming step, a voting step and a last discussion step. Everyone would write their own notes. The note-grooming could be a team effort, and of course, no bias because you wouldn’t see what other people voted for until the discussion step.
It was pure magic. All the annoying problems… gone, and everyone could enjoy the retrospective!
A few years passed. Transifex changed, but so did Team O’clock. The product became from a simple standup tool to a full solution for agile ceremonies and team alignment. Our team even moved away from Scrum to our own agile framework, and we were still covered by what the product offers. We missed nothing!
The purple circle timer became a straight line, and the product was redesigned at some point. Now asynchronous standups are possible. You have a time difference with your teammates? Solved.
We can create custom activities in retrospectives and have sentiment analysis and other useful metrics to understand a team’s state.
Hell, I’ve even managed to use the Retrospectives feature more than once for a twenty-plus group of people, with little work and a successful result!
There are only two things I’m missing from TOC.
The first one is some music during the gathering notes step of a retrospective. I’ve made a feature request about this, but it falls into the “Won’t fix” category (I wonder why :P).
The second one is a recurring reminder in Slack about action items, which I can build by myself since there is a public API I can use to create a simple integration to do this!
Yes, I’m very happy with the product and always excited about any new addition the team makes.
Having said that, it’s worth noting that I try not to get too attached to any service.
I have preferences, of course, but I should be able to work under any conditions. But, there are some cases of products that do solve a real problem, the product serves the user, not the opposite, and on top of that, you have a great user experience.
Team O’clock is one of those cases. Just trust me, and go give it a try!