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๐Ÿ’พ Product Development

This document exists as a comprehensive version of Flexpa's product development process, including meetings, artifacts, and workflows.

Ideation and Prioritization Processes

Issues

Purpose: The atomic unit of work in our development process. Issues are the ideas - features, bugs, and backlog items to be planned. Issues are closed by PRs or when they are no longer relevant.

Output: Github Issues at Flexpa match this template:

## Why

- You should fill this section with why we should do this work. All relevant background and context.
- It is on the issue writer (or other contributing authors) to explain importance in this section.

## What

- Outline the specific deliverables, tasks, or objectives that will be achieved upon completing the issue.
- This will vary to some degree, but may include specifications, user stories, acceptance requirements

## How
* Proposed implementation specifics to be used in linked PR, if applicable

Labels exist in Github and will vary over time. Labels are intended for use primarily with issues and not PRs.

Issues come from a variety of sources, including but not limited to: * OKR items - Cross-functional collaboration on quarterly OKRs is central at Flexpa and drives the majority of the work we do. * Roadmap items - Work related to longer initiatives derived from the roadmap are broken down into issues using milestones * We use tags specific to each initiative to organize these, such as prom * Customer Request - Explicit asks from customers for features that can be fulfilled short term. * These should be tagged with the customer tag * Support Requests - Explicit asks from customers or prospects for assistance or bug resolution that requires development * Internal Requests - Asks from Flexpa team members for features to reduce toil or improve work efficiency * Monitoring - Issues may be generated from logging, observability, and other tooling we have, typically focused around exceptions and errors * Implementer Insight - In the course of writing software, itโ€™s very common to be writing code and realize that other code could be written.

Special Consideration: Not every request becomes an issue. Those that would require a quarter or more of work or represent a new product are treated differently.

Needs

Purpose: These represent customer desires that lie outside of the current solution and would represent a new product or significant work. They are considered separately to avoid cluttering the backlog and to provide insights into future challenges and opportunities.

Output: The details of Customer Needs are maintained in Hubspot, specifically in the Needs field of the Customers page.

Roadmap

Document

Purpose: To outline the product strategy and plan for the future, giving a clear direction and focus for the entire team. This typically includes key features, enhancements, and initiatives.

Output: A strategic document that lays out the direction and plans for the product over the next 9-12 months. This document is maintained and versioned through Github, so it can be updated on a regular cadence. Major changes are also communicated to the team on Slack for review and discussion.

Quarterly Presentation

Purpose: To share updates on the progress of the roadmap, key achievements, challenges encountered, and plans for the upcoming quarter.

Output: A presentation to stakeholders that includes updates and plans for the next quarter, potentially leading to new ideas and feedback. This presentation should represent a snapshot in time of the roadmap document.

OKRs

Purpose: Product will often own key Objectives or underlying KRs, with a collaborative/supporting role for other Objectives. OKRs are today not distinct from product goals and should be aligned with product work. They drive the majority of our work for a given quarter.

Output: * Quarterly collaboration with other roles on a list of objectives and associated key results that serve as measurable goals for the team * Product OKRs defined in Github with an OKR tag * OKR progress is shown in Admin. * Product direction based on OKR progress * Weekly maintenance and updating of OKRs

See also: OKRs

Milestones

Purpose: Milestones are larger groupings of planned work, generally in regards to specific projects such as PROM or Portal refresh. Milestones should be longer than a week and shorter than a month (i.e. 2-4 weeks). See also the Milestone planning meeting (below).

Output: Github Milestones are the feature we use to group such planned work.

Kanban Board

Purpose: Work is organized using Kanban. Kanban is a visual tool that helps in the management of workflow, emphasizing continuous delivery without overloading the team members.

  • Backlog: New Github issues are placed here as they are created. Backlog issues should not show up on the main Kanban Board
  • Ready: Issues that are triaged and next up to be worked if "Next" is completed. Not necessarily assigned, but otherwise ready to go and important.
  • Next: Issues that have been assigned and are expected to be the next most immediate thing. Only ever a few per person. Expected to be done "soon". Always answers the question "What's next"
  • In Progress: Issues that are currently being worked on by team members. This might include any issue that is actively being worked on but hasn't been completed.
  • In Review: Once an issue has been completed, it can be moved to a review phase where other team members can assess the work. See Peer Reviews below.
  • Shipped: Once the issue has one or more PRs that solve it, it can be moved to the Shipped column, indicating successful completion.
  • Closed: Some issues, upon investigation and work, may be completed without shipping code. This may be due to re-evaluation of the value of the work as part of the investigation, change in priorities, or non-technical solutions to the problem.

Output: * The Github Project #product board contains all active and near-term work * The Current tab of the #product board represents the current work in-flight

Backlogs

Purpose: Backlogs serve as a repository of work that hasn't been started yet but has been deemed necessary or valuable. They help in prioritizing future work, capturing ideas that might get overlooked otherwise, and ensuring that there's always a pipeline of tasks to pick from.

Output: Prioritized lists of issues that are deemed necessary for the product but have not yet been scheduled for development. These are separated onto specific boards in Github Projects.

  • Organized by priority - ensuring the most valuable items are tackled first.
  • Continuously refined and reprioritized based on the evolving needs of users and business dynamics.
  • Issues in the backlog should be in the "Backlog" or "On Deck" status.

Specific boards are created around different larger initiatives to organize work, such as a product initiative from OKRs or a customer driven need. These are typically further organized using Milestones.

Development Processes

Pull Request

Purpose: The solution to Issues. Pull requests are proposed changes to the codebase that are reviewed by other team members. They provide a structured way to introduce new features, fix bugs, or make other changes to the project. Pull requests also help us satisfy change management policies. Pull requests should:

  • Require at least one approval from another contributor. Requests for reviews appear in #git.
  • Be linked back to an Issue unless otherwise approved by CTO. You can use GitHub keywords to do this automatically.
  • Run tests that test the changes made in the code (we use Jest and GitHub Actions to automate this)
  • Verify coding style requirements from tools like ESLint (we use GitHub Actions here too)
  • Should be assigned to the creator (and any co-authors)

Output: Pull requests in Github. These requests include the code changes, a description of what has been done, and why, and often a link back to the related issue. They provide an opportunity for other team members to review and comment on the proposed changes before they are merged into the main codebase.

Pull Request titles follow a standard format:

feat|chore|fix(project): Description

Where: * feat: A new feature introduced in the codebase. This is typically a change that adds functionality or improves user experience. * chore: Maintenance or routine tasks that need to be performed, like code refactoring or updating dependencies. This doesn't change the application's functionality but keeps the codebase healthy and up-to-date. * fix: A fix to a known defect in the code. This addresses problems that are causing incorrect behavior or other unexpected results.

Pull Request descriptions follow a standard template:

## Why
* Reference to the related Issue using #issue syntax with automation keywords such as Closes

## How
* Implementation details. Often a brief description of the code changed, typically taken exactly from the commit description
* Testing notes 
* Screenshots
* Tradeoffs

Peer Reviews

Purpose: Peer reviews function as a quality assurance check, improve the cohesiveness of our codebase, and also form an important security control preventing unilateral changes.

Output: Flexpa requires at least one approving review to merge a pull request. Mostly, anyone who is an active contributor (i.e. part of the product team) can complete a peer review. Peer reviews can end with either a comment, approval, or request for changes. We bias towards identifying feedback as โ€œblockingโ€ or โ€œnon-blockingโ€. Peer reviews are not individually assigned automatically but may be individually requested.

Status Checks / CICD

Purpose: Status checks on a pull request are automated tests and validations that ensure the proposed code changes meet specific criteria before merging, such as the build working or tests passing. By enforcing these checks, we maintain code quality and prevent potential issues from being integrated into the monorepo. Any time we have a โ€œchecklistโ€ item required to merge or do a deployment, we try to build that into our automated status checks.

Output: Status checks appear on every pull request. They are configured in the monorepo at .github/workflows. Status checks that do not pass prevent pull requests from being merged.

Merging

Purpose: Merging is the final event of our product development process. Merging, also known as โ€œshippingโ€, is performed on individual pull requests once they have received an approving review and all status checks are passing.

Output: The author of a pull request has the responsibility to merge the pull request. Unless explicitly requested, individual contributors should never merge a pull request on behalf of someone else. This is critically important because after the merge it is similarly the responsibility of the author to verify the successful deployment of the code. When merging, commit messages follow a standard format:

feat|chore|bug(project): Title matching pull request title

A single, tidy commit description (do not merge multiple commit descriptions without editing)

Co-authored by: <coauth@flexpa.com>

Changelog

Flexpa's Changelog provides a history of improvements to the customer-facing elements of Flexpa's product for developers and prospective customers alike. It is an opportunity to:

  1. Formally document what changes were made and when
  2. Explain the value each change brings in terms that can be easily understood by those less familiar with Flexpa
  3. Showcase a consistent and frequent cadence of product improvements

To write a changelog entry, keep in mind the following order:

  • The very first sentence of the changelog should be exactly "what" has changed. This should be as clear as possible.
  • Additional context, like a "why", must follow though. We use the changelog to provide written cues for the rest of the team to understand / announce the feature / talk about it consistently with customers.

Meetings

Weekly

Product EOW

  • Date: A section in Flexpa Town Hall every Friday
  • Time: 4:00EST - 4:30 EST

Purpose: Public commitment to work to allow for better planning. Ensuring accountability (that commitments are met). Promoting cross-functional awareness of key work and progress - GTM, user testing, and product. To celebrate wins and collaboration across the team.

Output: The primary outputs of this meeting are: * Written commitments by individual team members * Items added to the โ€œNext Weekโ€ of our Github Project * Notes and the Fireflies recording to allow for asynchronous communication.

HOP <> CTO Review

  • Date: Every Wednesday
  • Time: 4:00EST - 5:00 EST

Purpose: Every week, we will meet to discuss at least three of the following topics. We will prepare items together in advance. We will talk about all of them at least once a month:

  • Process changes
  • Mutual feedback
  • Engineering team project ownership
  • Recent roadblocks
  • Customer input

Output: Recording, notes, new issues.

HOP <> HOD Review

  • Date: Every Monday
  • Time: 1:00EST - 1:30 EST

Purpose: Product and Design have heavy collaboration and overlap. Regular thought partnership and brainstorming accelerate and align each otherโ€™s work.

Typical agenda items are: * User testing review and issues * Design considerations for the upcoming roadmap * Product ideation

Output: Meeting notes, varied tactical decisions, and issue creation

CTO Pairing

  • Duration: 60 to 90 minutes

Purpose: To engage in cooperative development and problem-solving. A chance for the CTO to provide guidance and share insights with other team members and vice versa.

Output: Ideas and insights are exchanged, specific issues or problems are addressed and/or solved, and potential new strategies or processes are discussed.

Details on pairing here.

Biweekly

Triage

  • Date: Every other Monday
  • Time: 12:00EST - 12:30 EST

Purpose: Review emergent issues (labeled with #needs-triage) to get issues into Ready state.

Output: The primary outputs of this meeting are Github Issues in a state of Ready. Additionally, issues may be updated to include more detailed "What" or "How".

Product/engineering feedback and pairing sessions

  • Date: Every other Thursday typically
  • Duration: 30 minutes Purpose: Collaborative ideation and roadmap discussion to allow team input and understanding. Pairing and testing on recent work to inform HoP. Feedback to improve product process

Output: The primary outputs of this meeting are meeting notes, issues created, and issue/PR progress.

Monthly

Regulatory Check-in

  • Duration: 30 minutes Purpose: Discussion of regulatory and legislative requirements at the national and regional level with Tusk, one of our investors.

Output: Ongoing notes. Action items on specific regulatory changes as needed.

Ad-hoc

Milestone planning

  • Duration: As long as it takes (typically starting with 60 minutes)

Purpose: To break down a bigger product feature into manageable issues that a group of people can get done by a goal date. The primary purpose of the meeting is to brainstorm what we need to do to actually achieve some future state in the product and to transform those ideas into written issues. The secondary purpose is to align the group of contributors and to delegate issues after they are written.

Output: A milestone which consists of a set of issues with a goal completion date assigned to individual contributors. There should be a clear understanding of who is working on what, within the context of the project.

Former Processes

Goals

Purpose: Goals were groupings of issues. Goals detail the overall arc of an initiative, whereas the individual Issues document discrete, atomic work to be done. Goals have largely been superseded by Milestones.

Output: Github Goals are a type of Github Issue we create to document these larger initiatives.

RFCs

Purpose: Requests for Comment were a type of issue intended to solicit broad feedback on overarching architectural proposals or principles. They did not typically have a strong timebound nature and were somewhat open-ended.

Output: The output would be the discussion and decisions that formed in the issue. However, RFCs lack of time sensitivity and priority led to many never formally resolving.

Product Retro

  • Duration: 60 minutes

Purpose: The Product Retro meeting serves to reflect on the most recent development cycle, whether that's a milestone, project, or set cadence of time. The aim is to identify what went well, what didn't go as planned, and what could be improved for future cycles. This session is a core part of continuous improvement and ensures that the team can adapt and refine processes to increase efficiency and product quality. Retro ownership is rotated to allow for different perspectives, inputs, and formats.

Output: The primary outputs of the Product Retro meeting are:

  • A Figma or another artifact showing discussion and topics
  • A list of action items with clear owners
  • Notes, recording, or a written summary of discussion