Last year we had a chance to carry out one of our open-source projects together with students from PUT (Poznan University of Technology). It was a great chance for Cognifide, the University and its students not only to work together in an innovative project but also to learn from one another and share experience. But was the project successful? What were its outcomes?
Cognifide started working with PUT a few years ago, however up until now, projects focused mainly on knowledge transfer and career services. This time, students had a chance to work with some real requirements and code. They were asked to deliver a set of new features for AET, a system that detects changes on web sites and performs basic page health checks. AET is one of Cognifide’s numerous open-source software products. Over the years AET has become quite complex and has been widely used in many Cognifide client projects. One of the problems AET users need to face every day is a great number of similar issues reported by the tool when testing at scale. Each of these requires someone to review them one by one. The idea was to develop a way to automatically group reports so that the user could focus on major issues and, where possible, address them in bulk. The whole project was designed as a part of the students’ major course work and was required in order to pass a semester.
The students were required to find a project role, choosing from systems engineers, back-end developer, front-end developers and project manager. They also needed to form their own agile team and work together using agile. The university provided a real room where they could work together.
Before starting coding the students had to agree on the development process and standards they would adopt and to carry out a definition phase in the summer semester. They also needed to understand the product they were supposed to extend. At this point they also contacted product owners, collected documentation and defined the scope of the project.
The most tricky part turned out to be a project setup which involved much effort and resulted in some delays to implementation, late feedback and fixes from the product owners. It’s worth mentioning that a self-organized team could hold planning, grooming and standup meetings as agile ceremonies that supported their ongoing development process.
As the setup took a little longer than expected we only had a limited time for fixes, but this did not stop us from project review and summary. We held a retrospective meeting during which we talked about advantages, disadvantages, problems, solutions and further actions both Cognifide and PUT students would like to address. It turned out that the project was a great lesson for everyone. Cognifide could learn how to work with inexperienced teams at the start of their career, working remotely as a self-organizing team. Students got to learn a new technology stack and delivery standards for open-source projects. They got the chance to work with an international company on a product that is used in many different parts of the world with a great chance that the set of features they delivered will be released one day and used across the world.
Working with students was a great experience for our company. We had a chance to observe how a young self-organized team can work and what are the challenges and obstacles they may encounter and how they can overcome them. It was also clear to see how students gain new skills, form and improve processes they work with and they become experts. This experience has provided fresh impetus to strengthen our cooperation with the Poznan University of Technology and to work together on other projects in the future.