LegalMatch Work Environment: A closer look into our Open Workspace

The usual design in most offices is that each employees are isolated in their own private space or cubicles.  In LegalMatch, we tear down barriers and walls. We have one huge open space that is our common workspace.  Long tables are strategically placed so that one team can sit on both sides while working. One table represents one team. All the chairs are the same for everyone regardless of position.

 

On the walls are whiteboards where each team can freely post their discussions, work project status and progress, reminders, and anything relevant to the project development.

 

We have two enclosed conference rooms we call the Blue Room and the Yellow Room. Both are sound proof so the teams can hold their respective meetings in private and without disrupting others. Previously, while LegalMatch was still renting seats at The Tide, the work tables function as conference room tables too. In our own office, we feel the need of these conference rooms for planning, retrospective, and other team meetings.

Blue Room

Yellow Room

An open workspace is not the conventional design. I know not all are into this kind of setup. It can be both a blessing and a curse. But for LegalMatch, it works best for us in so many ways:

  1. It supports agile. It promotes better communication. This also encourages easy collaboration among colleagues and as a result, it enhances the flow of information, speeds up work completion, and creativity and productivity are given a boost.
  2. Employees have the sense of belongingness. We feel we are part of a bigger team task rather than just our own individual tasks/duties.
  3. Taking into consideration design and practicality, our office looks industrial and modern. It is very lean as we tried to do away with anything exorbitant and unreasonably inessential.
  4. We employees develop a stronger bond as we feel we can easily approach each other anytime. We interact with each other on a regular basis and interactions are more frequent and informal. The constant intermingling generates a sense of camaraderie.

Front Perks 1

 

I know you are thinking that a setup like this may tend to get noisy that may affect employees’ focus. Another issue could be the lack of privacy which may be intrusive and stressful. In LegaLMatch, the number of employees is manageable enough not to spring workplace chaos. Aside from the size, the maturity level of the group matters the most. The LegalMatch workforce is composed of mature and very disciplined individuals who are very much empowered, dedicated, and driven. Each knows the balance between knowing his/her own boundaries and upholding easy collaboration for faster information flow.

AGILE: The Why and How we do it

How do you plan for a project? How do you prioritize? Do you create your project in one go, or do you do it chunk-by-chunk?

There are a lot of process for Software Development, and there is Agile Software Development. Agile Software Development is the “thing” for most software companies nowadays. It replaces the traditional way of software development process into a more robust, fast, and feature-driven development.

So why am I talking about Agile? Well, Agile is what we do here in LegalMatch Philippines. Why and how we do it? Then, if I may, let’s proceed.

 

GOING AGILE

In reality, we still can’t call ourselves Agile practitioners, we are still learning the ropes. I have asked our Project Managers on why we choose to go Agile and what benefits do we get from it.


LegalMatch projects are scattered in different sections of the website and worked on by different teams and different skill sets. Our business team also requires us to move on small iterations for practical reasons like ease of tracking, quicker troubleshooting, and lesser effect on conversion if something bad happens. Quick feedback on each project is also needed. On projects that we worked on we also have different project drivers and dedicated teams to focus more on each feature. This scenario fits perfectly for an agile framework.” – Ariel Lim, SEO Team Project Manager


Indeed, before we transitioned to Agile, the work we are doing and how we do it almost fits an Agile Software Development model. Embedding the Agile Software Development model into our own development model makes it more beneficial in terms of time and  quality. Well, a little tweak here and there completes the trick.

 

HOW WE DO AGILE

Our previous development model was almost the same with how Agile works. Given this setup, most of our developers didn’t have a hard time in learning Agile. Well, they are still new to some Agile practices.

To go a little deeper on how LegalMatch Philippines do Agile, I have asked (again) the help of our Project Managers on how did we transition to Agile, and what methodology we are using.


When we started the teams in LegalMatch we were already implementing a semi-agile methodology and semi scrum on our project management. The transition we undergone lately was the transition from only 3 teams, front end, back end and QA to a project focused teams and dedicated drivers per team. Integration of the QAs to each team was also implemented to form a proper scrum. For the scrum part, we have started to practice sprint planning and doing regular retrospectives. For the SEO Team, we have also started to do daily stand up meetings especially that we have the interns already so everyone is looped in to what people are doing and issues are addressed rapidly.” – Ariel Lim, SEO Team Project Manager


The Agile methodology we are practicing is Scrum. As mentioned before, our previous model was a scum like setup. Using Scrum would mean a less learning curve and a smoother transition for our developers.

Here are some of the Scrum practices that we are currently doing:

Stand-ups

Stand-ups help the team in knowing what the other members are doing and if there are any problems that affect the project. Having stand-ups help in prioritizing tasks in a daily basis.

SEO Team having their daily stand-up meeting

 

Sprint planning

Sprint planning helps the team in prioritizing the user stories in the backlog. Most of the sprint planning we have are done through video calls because our Product Drivers (equivalent to POs) are in the US.

Team Venus scrum board

 

Backlog refinement

Backlog refinement happens on demand if their problems encountered during the sprint or if there are still bandwidth and some developers can still fit in a user story or two without compromising delivery.

The scrum board

 

Retrospective

Retrospective gives each individual a chance to reflect on what happened during the sprint. The team discuss on what things they have done that may be a good practice, what problems they have encountered and how to avoid them, and improvements for the next sprint.

Team Jupiter having their retrospective

There are still a lot to learn about Agile, e.g., burndown chart, user story scoring, release planning, etc., but we are getting there as agile as we can.