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Agile Software Dev Project Management

The importance of a decision log 🎋

It’s no secret that I love writing and love documenting things. This is where I’m a bit different to a lot of people I work with who prefer writing code to documentation.

I have a lot of project management responsibilities as part of my current role, and I’m a big fan of “fixed time/variable scope” as a way to get rapidly get important things done. This works in that we can say to our product owner how long do you want to spend on a feature, which then enables us as a development team to do everything we can to get as many things done in that time.

There’s two things I have found that are crucial to succeeding in this approach:

  1. Documenting and maintaining a list of up-to-date things that need doing that is constantly refined and re-prioritized based on discoveries; and
  2. Documenting decisions as they take place in some form of “decision log”

A decision log isn’t for blame. The reason a decision log is crucial is it allows us to decide, document and move on. This enables velocity since we don’t ruminate on decisions. It’s also good during conversations where you feel “déjà vu” as we often forget what we’ve decided previously, and it’s easy to refer to our log and say “we’ve already talked about this and we decided this for that reason”.

I like the simplest decision log that will possibly work for your context. Ours is a Confluence page with a table in reverse chronological order (so the newest decisions are at the top):

QuestionDecisionMade By / WhereDate
Do we want to limit the max records?We should limit it to 50. That’s a sensible limit and we can adjust based on feedback.Product owner during Slack Conversation (link)28 April 2020
An example decision log

This doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind, flexibility is crucial, we just need another decision log entry to show we changed our minds 😊

How do you make and document decisions? Are you a fan of fixed time/variable scope?

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