Our PLaybook

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INTRODUCTION

Welcome. If you are reading this, you are likely interested in learning more about Light-It and about how we work as a company.

Back when we started Light-it, we had an idea of how the company as a whole should grow and function. But we knew that market demands, deadlines, tunnel vision and forces of habit usually take companies in directions that separate them more and more from their original vision. We knew that we needed a way to always keep the big picture in mind. So we wrote it down.

This document is our company Playbook. Our safeguard. Our north star. It's the blueprint that guides all of our business and development practices. We did not write this as a way to attract new clients. We wrote it for us.

Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, or if we face a tough decision, we know we can go back to the Playbook for insight. Whenever we feel like we are lacking perspective and our intuitions are thrown off balance, we know the Playbook can remind us of our priorities and values. Whenever we feel like our work is going off on tangents and too much of our time is being spent in minutiae, we know the Playbook puts forth the methods necessary to turn that around and ensure we focus on impact.

This is our Playbook. We'd like to share it with you.

HOW TO BUILD OUR TEAMS

If you could single out one factor that determines whether any endeavor is ultimately successful, it would be the quality of the team that undertakes it.

When team-building, decisions should be taken on two separate levels.

The first level is the individual level. Having a pool of great people available comes down to hiring practices. Good things come to those who wait; it is paramount to avoid rushedly hiring candidates whenever necessity strikes, but rather hire top talent, or people who we think have the potential to become key parts of our team. In the latter case, we regularly hire promising but unseasoned candidates and help them develop their full potential.

The second level is about team dynamics. The golden rule is that great teams are cross-functional. In order to build great software, teams must be made up of a mix of developers, designers, UI/UX experts, creatives, marketing people and managers.

If done right, a lovely synergy arises when team-members that were formed in separate disciplines are encouraged to collaborate and make decisions together. Some of our best decisions have come from developers and creatives working together to figure out how to proceed. Special care must be taken to foster a sense of community, and to maintain an environment in which nobody feels like they can't share their thoughts. Our biweekly company barbecues certainly help.

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ENGAGING WITH OUR ECOSYSTEM

The environment the company lives in, both physically and digitally, has an impact in countless tiny little ways.

We've known from the beginning that it was important to be physically surrounded by like-minded, ambitious, hard-working people. With that in mind, we ended up setting up shop in Montevideo's LATU, the largest technology park in Uruguay. Our offices are in the same building and zoning block that dozens of other technology companies and start-ups.

Companies in technology centers consistently have superior outcomes than companies in more isolated environments. It's pretty obvious why: constantly interacting, bouncing off ideas and consulting with competent people is fertile land for growth. But these benefits only become apparent if you exercise a healthy level of proactiveness.

That's why Light-it needs to constantly be striving to tend to their ecosystem. Some ways in which we do that are:

  • Weekly meetings with company heads.
  • Resource sharing with other companies in the technopark.
  • Once a week, we have one of our team members give a talk/lecture about any topic of their choosing in the building's conference room. An open invite goes out to anyone in the technology park.

In the same way, Light-it need to take the same care with their digital environment and community as they do with their physical one. It's important to trust that opportunities will arise when you are an active and helpful part of the development industry yourself.

Some ways in which we participate in our digital ecosystem are:

  • We contribute to the Open Source community: https://github.com/Light-it-labs. Given that we are constantly utilizing open software to accelerate our own development, we think it's only fair to give back. When we use an open source tool regularly, we often need to add some functionality to it, and it makes for a perfect opportunity to then share these updates so other people can benefit from them.
  • We participate in communities related to technologies we use. For instance, we are active in the Laravel community. We've recently flown out to NYC to attend Laracon 2019.
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OUR SKILLS

We are a technology company. That will always remain our identity. That means that the toolset that we use is constantly changing as the software development landscape progresses.

However, we are also very mindful of the fact that seniority matters, that 10X engineers are not unicorns and in fact exist, and that there's a danger associated to constantly following the latest fads and not truly becoming proficient in a specific set of tools.

Therein lies the challenge: balancing the search for innovation and the excitement of using the latest technologies, with the importance of actually spending years with some technology or framework and becoming experts on them.

We approach this challenge by making sure that we can always commit to these three statements:

  • Have a toolset that we can honestly claim expertise over.
  • Always have a few projects that use newer, innovative technologies.
  • Encourage our teams to try new promising technologies as to evaluate them for future projects.

It's important to answer how these three statements apply to the current state of Light-It.

What are we experts on? We are product builders, that's our main area of expertise and what we really love doing. We have an in-house developed roadmapping methodology, heavily influenced by Design Thinking and the LEAN approach for ideating, validating and defining the core requirements for an MVP.

The aim here is to get a high-value working version in production as fast as possible. For our roadmapping process, experts from many different areas are gathered together for their valuable input. We also like to involve potential final users for the product to better understand their needs and the extent on which our solution fulfill them.

The output of this process is: the backlog for the MVP, some low resolution prototypes (we like to call the pretotypes), and the first version of the strategy guidelines that aim to make this idea a successful product.

Then, it's time for our expert development and design teams to get involved.

Circle

The stack the company has seniority with is:

What new technologies are we working with?

  • Blockchain
  • Flutter mobile
  • AI
  • Functional programming

How do we think about LEAN and Agile?

The way that we approach new projects is not by thinking whether we'll have to use some specific technology. When beginning an exciting venture, it's not that important to come up with the perfect technology stack or with a flawless architecture.

The key, as the LEAN mindset puts forth, is to validate as quickly as possible. What actually helps in the long term, is to put together as quickly as possible some early version of the product, that we can actually launch on the market. As soon as we achieve that, we'll start to get feedback from real users. And once you have access to real user feedback, development efforts become exponentially more effective.

You become more effective because you get loads of data that can let you know which functionalities are actually a priority, which new features people actually want, and which points of friction users experience. We are hearing from clients constantly that they previously meticulously planned year long projects from the get-go, and ended up with an obsolete, clunky, artificial feeling product.

As long as we focus on applying LEAN and Agile principles first, and the technology second, a decent balance will be struck.

PROJECT PHASES

Whenever we are approached by a client, we take some rigorous first-steps.

The first thing we'll do is figure out if our client is a good fit for Light-it. It's imperative that the client is open to working in an Agile development cycle, or even better, eager to do so. If clients insist on traditional fixed 2-year-long development cycles, we simply might not be a great fit, and we'll point them to other companies who are willing to work with that philosophy.

The next step is the initial project stage, which is called Roadmapping.

During Roadmapping, our main goal is understanding what sort of value we will be delivering to the final user. We'll take a look at existing alternatives to the pitched project, and figure out what we'll be doing different.

We'll work with the client in order to put them in the shoes of their potential user-base, and go through the process of understanding their pain points and current frustrations.

Most importantly, we'll work to figure out what is the LEANest possible way to deliver an MVP. How can we quickly deliver a Minimum Viable Product that can actually be of value to users?

After this, we'll move onto the Wireframe stage. The goal of this stage is to visually mock-up and validate the product.

We'll mock-up the product and give it some proof-of-concept behaviour, allowing us to understand the basic functionality of the product without writing a single line of code. Like usual, we'll validate these wireframes with real users, so we can get some feedback on the interface design and usability. The main drivers of this stage are designers and UI/UX experts.

Once both the client and the Light-it team is comfortable with the current vision for the project, we can move to the actual Requirement Specification stage.

Of course, given our insistence on Agile development, requirements are written in the form of a backlog of User Stories. With User Stories, requirements are written in a language that is natural and intelligible for both developers and the client. We then proceed to development with a modified version of the SCRUM framework.

~ Oops! You have reached the end of our Playbook! This is an unfinished and always evolving snapshot of our companies practices and aspirations. If you read this far down you probably have an idea of what we do and what our core values are. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.