Chris Roos by Chris Roos

Week 416

Happy new year folks! I trust you’re all well after the Christmas and New Year break.

We spent our first week of 2017 working on a variety of smaller tasks.

Smart Answers retrospective

James and I had an internal retrospective about our work on Smart Answers. We’d talked about doing this in the past and finally made the time to do it before our memories of the project faded too much. I found this to be a useful exercise and it’s now something we’re planning to do for all future projects.

As part of the exercise we came up with the following list of things that we’d like to try to do better in future:

  1. Be more explicit about the way we work

    We think that teams are more effective if everyone shares an understanding of how the team is working. We’d like to get better at explaining how we work in the hope that we can use that to help a team come to a shared approach.

  2. Publicise the work we’re doing within the organisation

    While we’re always happy to talk about the work we’re doing, we’re not very good at going out of our way to promote it. I think we possibly underestimate the utility of publicising what we’re doing and we’d like to get better at it.

  3. Be more vocal about non development related problems

    We want to get better at talking about non development related problems we notice. High developer turnover, for example, can make it harder to collaborate/pair.

  4. Be more confident to make decisions that affect the simplicity of the system

    We ended up making the Smart Answers code slightly more complicated by catering for some behaviour that we think had probably been accidentally introduced. In hindsight we were as well placed as anyone else to make the decision to simplify the system.

  5. Collaborate with people who are better at bigger-picture thinking

    We think there’s a lot to be said for incrementally improving existing codebases and, in general, for avoiding software rewrites. We’re aware that this might mean we miss a bigger-picture opportunity that someone else might spot.

Task management

We’ve been relying on a single Trello board to manage a whole variety of tasks for a while now. This means we end up with recurring tasks (e.g. pay wages) alongside one off tasks (e.g. respond to email from accountant) alongside ideas and tasks for things like Mocha and our website.

This has historically led to a long backlog of tasks of varying size and importance which can prove motivationally challenging. We’ve recently started to move some of the project-specific tasks to their own board with the intention of prioritising our time at the project level (e.g. spend a day working on Mocha) rather than at the task level (e.g. pay our wages and then respond to this Mocha PR). Time will tell whether this is an improvement.


Our accountant reminded us that the Annual Return has now been replaced by the Confirmation Statement. This was a particularly useful reminder as it made us realise that our mechanism for ensuring we submitted our Annual Return no longer worked! We were relying on the Annual Return event in our FreeAgent calendar triggering a task to be created in Harmonia. Unfortunately, the date of the Confirmation Statement isn’t fixed (as it can be submitted multiple times during the year) and so doesn’t appear in our FreeAgent calendar. We’re now using an event in our own calendar to prompt us to submit the Confirmation Statement instead.


We responded to a couple of leads that came in at the end of last year/the beginning of this year. We try to meet everyone that gets in touch in the hope that we can at least offer some advice even if we might not be able to help in the long term.

One-time passwords

I finally published a blog post about one-time passwords that I’d started writing at the end of last year.


We continued to make progress with the GDS procurement process. Fingers crossed it looks like we’re very nearly there!

Show & Tell

We organised our 28th, and first of 2017, Show & Tell. We’re holding it at Forge & Co on Wed 11 Jan. Get in touch if you’re interested in joining us.

Until next time.

– Chris

If you have any feedback on this article, please get in touch!

Historical comments can be found here.