How Ebury Hold More Productive and Engaging Agile Meetings with Parabol
Ebury is a financial services company specializing in international cash management solutions. With capabilities in over 130+ currencies, they transact over $17bn per year in more than 20 countries.
No fit-for-purpose tool for agile meetings
Ebury’s web developers are the lifeblood of their organization – crafting and maintaining a complex product. From over 27 offices and remote locations around the globe, they strive to deliver a customer-first experience while complying with fintech regulations in over 20 different countries.
Their ability to collaborate intelligently is essential.
Engineering Director David Murphy leads DevOps for the thriving online platform. With well over a decade of experience with agile ways of working, he was looking for a way to better support his team as they continuously improved their work.
“We have a strong engineering culture, meaning we’re happy when we’re working in the most efficient way possible,” he says.
“I wanted to make sure that our agile process was a vehicle for the team, making sure they could lead the way and get the job done.”
When it came to running agile estimation and retrospective meetings, David had never found a tool that truly fit his team’s needs.
He noticed that every team at Ebury had their own approach.
“We were all doing some form of retrospective meeting using different tools. Some teams were using PowerPoint or Google Slides, trying to collaborate inside a document. A lot of the teams were using no tool at all, just having a conversation.”
David knew that to make the agile processes more effective, Ebury needed a solution that could:
- Provide a satisfying structure that fit each team’s approach.
- Increase collaboration and engagement.
- Make meetings more productive and fun.
So, when the subscription expired on a tool they’d inherited from a former agile coach, he started researching a better option.
“I was looking for something that could give us what we needed without lots of overhead or too many restrictions,” he says.
He explored several tools, but nothing hit the spot until he found Parabol.
Parabol made agile meetings powerful, flexible, and fun
What stood out to David right away was the flexibility of Parabol, which was crucial to making sure it could empower each engineering team to do agile in a way that worked for them.
“With Parabol, we weren’t constrained to one particular process. We could each set our own templates for retrospective meetings,” he says.
“With single sign-on, we didn’t have to start creating accounts left, right, and center. It had very little barrier to entry and fit in very easily with what we were doing.”
“As a development organization, ticketing drives everything we do. Having the guesstimation of tasks connected to Jira allowed us to push tasks to where they were appropriate, and saved us from copying and pasting action items after our meetings.”
Smooth communications for a distributed team
The Slack integration made it easier for Ebury’s teams to collaborate asynchronously.
“When we first started using Parabol, our team was about 30% remote, and now we’re fully remote. We needed a distributed tool that could meet all our needs.”
The Slack connection allowed the team to share meeting notifications and summaries within convenient channels.
“Parabol let us push notifications over Slack when meetings were happening. As soon as we realized that function was there, we turned it on and used it straight away.”
His teams run agile meetings while on a video call, allowing people to play along with Sprint Poker on their own screens while the video chat runs alongside.
“It allows us to have the asynchronous chat and the synchronous chat at the same time. Everyone can participate in updating the actions, adding comments, and creating tasks. Things just flow so much better.”
More collaborative and democratic retrospectives
“Retrospective meetings are a very important part of the process. They allow us to figure out what’s working and what’s broken. Most importantly, they let the team democratically decide what they want to focus on tweaking in the next iteration.”
The way that Parabol structures retrospective meetings brought value he hadn’t seen in any other tool.
“We could see that we were actually getting value out of these meetings, and not just wasting an hour every iteration.”
The tool improved the team’s satisfaction and engagement with their agile practice.
“The meeting templates provoked conversation, and the ability to add topics to the agenda beforehand allowed people to think about things rather than be put on the spot during a live meeting.”
High-impact sprint planning
After retrospectives, sprint planning meetings were the next biggest priority for David.
“Having a process for guesstimation of tasks was important to our people,” he says. “But sprint planning is a really difficult process to master.”
He used Sprint Poker to make sure his team was working on what mattered to them.
“Some of our teams do sprint planning, and some don’t. But the ones who do are very clearly getting value. They’re getting more consistent velocity in their sprints, their committed versus planned is more consistent, and their effort is more in line with what they’re setting out to do.”
The anonymous participation features within Sprint Poker and Parabol’s retrospective tool increased his team’s overall confidence in speaking up and gave David a clearer picture of what they were thinking. He says:
“Imposter syndrome is a massive thing in the software engineering industry. Parabol’s anonymity allows you to raise ideas without worrying if they’re wrong or silly.”
“By seeing other people’s ideas pop up, you get reassurance that you’re on the right track and the team is on the same page.”
Improved engagement, alignment, and sprint velocity
Parabol helped give Ebury’s agile meetings more structure. As a result, David’s team is getting more out of their sprint planning and retrospective meetings, including better meeting engagement, task alignment, and sprint velocity.
“It’s made a massive difference. Our retrospective and sprint planning meetings are more consistent, productive, and enjoyable. It keeps our meetings flowing, no matter who is leading them.”
The integrations and asynchronous collaboration features were a perfect fit for Ebury.
“Parabol helps us work remotely and in a distributed fashion. Being able to see topics being generated with thought and care before our meetings helps us focus on what’s important to the team.”
It also made a huge difference in the team’s ability to collaborate.
“It definitely improved engagement in the meetings and gave people more of a voice to speak their mind. Now, they’re discussing the things they want to talk about.”
The tool caught on like wildfire across the company.
“It was an organic thing. I was using Parabol with a few teams, then people took it to other teams and it spread quite quickly. The vast majority of teams are using it in some way, shape, or form. People are very happy with it.”
His thoughts for other engineering leaders looking for an agile support tool?
“If there is something your teams are struggling with in any sort of agile meeting, I would recommend Parabol. People are using it, and it has improved productivity. Unanimously, our developers want us to keep it.”