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How we built a workflow for an Internet of Things R&D team

Diverse nature of creation

I was always really keen on building stuff. First it was with Lego blocks, which we all know from our childhood (I still love to build Lego with my nephew). Later, it became simple fighting robots that were entered in local contests - a group of friends and I tried to build some extremely amateur electronics and mechanical structures. After years of studying Mechatronics, leading scientific society, working as low-level developer and finally as a project manager, it became pretty clear to me that constructing is not only about screws, wires and lines of code.

Building, or I should rather say creating, has multiple faces and multiple motivations standing behind it. One can build software or a device to make her life easier or present her own skills to the world. Some people focus on building a relationship with others so that are sure to live in perfect balance and symbiosis with society - either in school, at work or in local society. Yet other people love to make the work of others easier as well as build processes and workflows that help improve the quality, comfort and productivity of teams. Lately, we've decided to build everything at once!

The new kind of team

Recently, more and more of our teammates have delved into the topic known as “IoT”. The third wave of the internet, interconnected devices, a smart world… No matter what you call it, it means just about the same and is, indeed, pretty interesting! Following this rush of excitement, we decided to test our forces and build an IoT research team, the very first of its kind in the history of Monterail!

This required us to come up with an idea for how to organize a team’s work so that the team can meet its goals in a short period of time while also create a friendly environment of creative and productive work for team members. And so we did.

Workflow for R&D group

The team consists of two backend developers, one front-end developer, one designer and a Project Manager. We meet on Fridays for day long market research sessions, analyzing one pre-selected project every week. The day starts with an open discussion lasting for about an hour. It’s connected with breakfast and coffee and is a fantastic platform to share our thoughts and findings gathered over the past 7 days - all related to the IoT world from a web agency’s perspective. Usually, one of us makes a presentation about technologies, standards or interesting use cases. Right after that we select a project for analysis. A pool of projects to choose from is continuously being built by each member of Monterail - basically if somebody finds something interesting, we write it down on a list.

Once the project is selected the development team splits into groups of two - 2 backend developers working on one side, and a front-end developer with a designer as the second sub-team. They work separately for about 3 hours while taking a detailed look into the selected IoT platform, describing it in a structured way (we created a table with basic analysis criteria) and writing down some thoughts and conclusions. This ends with each team presenting the fruits of its work to the others, starting with the question “so what do you think we came up with?”. This, in turn, leads to a common creative discussion that allows us to achieve some impressive results.

To sum it up, here’s our brief agenda for the “IoT Friday”

  • 8:00 - 9:00: Food, coffee and open discussion
  • 9:00 – 10:00: Presentations, selecting analysis topic for the day
  • 10:00 - 13:00: Working in groups of two
  • 13:00 – 13:30: Lunch
  • 13:30 - 14:30: Findings and thoughts are presented, open discussion
  • 14:30 - 15:30: Jotting down conclusions, preparing for the next week.

It’s all about creativity

This approach has helped us make sure everyone is centrally involved in all the analysis, brainstorming and creative components of this job. We not only built a team, but also a relationship between team members as well as a special workflow for them with some non-obvious rules. And the point of this is to give us a better understanding of the current status of the IoT market. This allows us to quickly BUILD some show-case prototypes, select the proper technology and scope our competences to the exact point that is currently required by the evolving world of IoT.

We're just at the beginning of our journey into the world of building something unknown and new - we’re getting more excited every day. More IoT related posts will be coming soon so stay tuned. And keep your fingers crossed for our IoT research team’s further successes!

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