When Denmark’s National Labour Market Authority (NLMA) needed a new supplier to develop its job portal, Jobnet.dk, and take over the maintenance of the site, they looked to NNIT. But this was no ordinary project: the NLMA wanted to use Scrum, an iterative framework for project management often used in agile software development. Following a training and test-run phase with an external Scrum coach, the NLMA, NNIT and external suppliers, the project kicked off in thesummer of 2011. A new way of working for all members of the team, the Scrum framework has helped create an open and honest collaborative environment – and a fun working atmosphere.
Jobnet.dk contains all the information necessary for job seekers and employers in Denmark. It’s mandatory for unemployed individuals to register each week in order to receive financial support, and Jobnet.dk also allows users to do this online. With 600 to 700,000 unique users and 2.5 million visits a month, the portal plays a key role in the Danish job market. Administered by the NLMA, a part of the Ministry of Employment, Jobnet was launched in 2002, and is maintained and upgraded by external suppliers for two to three year periods. In 2011, NNIT won the tender to maintain and upgrade the portal for the next two years. For this contract, the NLMA wanted to use a more flexible approach than the traditional waterfall method they’d used in the past. Bente Dalgaard, Senior Consultant at NLMA, explains, “We wanted to improve the site’s usability, and participate more in the decision making process than we had previously, which is why we wanted to use an agile approach and Scrum. NNIT understood our needs and knew what we were trying to achieve.”To get everyone involved acquainted with the Scrum approach before the project kicked off, two external Scrum coachesheld a one-week training session for the NNIT and NLMA teams, as well as the two external suppliers.
Over the past nine years, Jobnet.dk has undergone numerous updates, so it contains some complicated coding. Andbecause users visit the portal 24/7, bug fixes and implementing new functions must be carried out while the portal is live.Working in 14-day ‘sprints’ – the basic unit of development in Scrum – the team writes and tests the new code according to NLMA’s specs. During daily meetings, the team addresses any challenges or problems, and prioritises tasks. Despite some early teething problems and the adjustment to a new way of working, the team is now settling in to their roles andrequirements.Scrum breaks the project down into smaller parts, in which analysis, development and tests are ongoing. NNIT Application Manager Tina Su Lyn Lim explains, “It’s been a learning process for us all. For instance, the finished code is the documentation, which is a different way of working for the developers. The NLMA has workstations onsite so that theycan work directly with the developers – usually developers don’t have direct contact with the client. And if any issuesarise, we define actions to solve them, which is a great way to deal with issues before they develop into problems.”
Three or four releases are scheduled each year, and to date there have been two releases. “Working this way has made us a better client,” says Bente. “With Scrum, we’re much closer to the development process, and we’ve seen first-hand how difficult it is to meet some of our requirements. We’re now much better at providing input and, because we share responsibility, the end users get a better product.” Tina agrees: “Working in two-week increments means that if something is not satisfactory, the issue is raised and changes are made. This makes the process very transparent for the NLMA, as they know exactly what is being delivered.” With a little over six months of the 24-month contract period behind them, the Scrum team has built up a close relationship. For Bente, the best thing about Scrum, is “working together to make things better – we’re not adversaries. We’ve already seen an improvement in site usability, and we hope to build on this success with some major upgrades in 2012.”Tina adds, “The project has generated a lot of interest throughout NNIT. Word has spread that it’s a good project to work on, thanks to the NLMA’s emphasis on making it fun. There’s a huge focus on the team enjoying themselves, and the NLMA is responsible for this. We’re enjoying working together. It’s a happy marriage.”
A part of the Ministry of Employment, the National Labour Market Authority helps ensure that Denmark has a flexible, dynamic and efficient labour market. The NLMA’s main goal is to increase the supply of labour by getting people into jobsand out of unemployment.