Using Discord in Agile Practices
In this last two years, there is a shift in the dynamics of working culture. Due to the appearance of Covid-19, many companies are forced to adapt their working culture from a office-based setup to remote working setup. In the beginning, this pose a significant challenge as employees and employers alike scramble to adapt to this change. Thanks to apps like Zoom, remote working became much more tolerable.
But the question remains, how effective and efficient is remote working? Many companies, especially those in software development, adhere to the Agile methodology in their working culture. That includes us too at FILPAL.
What is Agile?
The entire Agile experience can be summarized in this 3 key words:
Dynamic — Ability to adapt to changing variables in development process
Momentum — Ability to maintain speed and pace in a dynamic development environment
Simplicity — Ability to retain a straightforward communication without bloating the working model
When done correctly, it would create a project management that is “agile” in nature. Now here’s the catch. In essence, the concept of remote working poses a direct challenge to maintaining the Agile methodology. So, when forced into a remote working setup, developers rely heavily on services such as GitLab ticketing, Whatsapp and Zoom calls to stay connected and informed with other team members.
One other service is becoming popular recently and has the potential for meeting the Agile requirements. The service is called Discord.
What is Discord?
Discord is a community/team-oriented, multi-channel communication platform with features such as voice calls, video calls and text messaging. Originally designed as a platform for different gaming communities, Discord is starting to branch out its usefulness into the education sector and now, the industrial sector. It is available on nearly all platforms (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux and Web browsers).
Why Not Whatsapp?
But hold on, what makes Discord different than the many text messaging services out there such as Whatsapp and Telegram? The key word is “spam”. The problem when trying to stay connected as a team using services such as Whatsapp is everything that happens, they all happens in the same channel. To prevent clogging up information, team members are usually advised to reduce conversations to a bare minimum or even to bring the conversation to a private channels. Making multiple groups to cater to a single project is also not a viable alternative. Thus, important information get lose in the conversation very easily and is hard to trace back.
Discord Provides Compartmentalized Discussion
A Discord group is called a “server”. One can either creates a server or join one (by an invitation link). Server admins can create and arrange multiple channels according to their own likings. There are two kinds of channels:
Furthermore, these channels can be grouped into categories, with each category able to have an assortment of text and voice channels focused on discussing various topics related to the category it falls under. These groupings are highly customizable and can be freely moved around at anytime by the server admins.
Take for example you have a project that develops “software A”. You can then create a category call “software A” and under it you can perhaps create text channels on “general discussion”, “debug and testing”, “enhancement suggestion”, “software installer” and “resources”. The choice is up to you!
And since you can create as many text-channels as you want to focus on different sub topic discussion, you can achieve compartmentalization of your discussions. This means, for a team member who is only focused on working on “software installer” for example will only need to pay attention to conversations happening in “software installer” channel and he probably do not need to pay attention to other channels such as “resources”. For that team member, it will be far more easier to isolate information and discussion that concerns him and can safely disregard the rest.
This streamlined discussion will surely help increase work efficiency and response because instead of paying attention to every chatter that is happening, if a discussion starts in a text channel that concerns him or her, he or she will immediately recognize his or her involvement in it.
Discord Discussions are Highly Visible
Although discord channels provides the crucial compartmentalization and organization needed to easily convey information to the related team members and prevent spams, it does not reduce how visible are team discussions in them.
Usually, daily discussions happens in a contained and private conversation. Discussions on places like GitLab are reserved for more concise discussion and are usually not for discussion that requires more back and forth. Sometimes, conversations happens in private message and thus other team members are not aware of the progress of other part of the team. With Discord, all types of discussions and conversations can be centralized in one platform and is easy for every team members to be informed of the current challenges, decisions and progress of the entire team.
Imagine you are one of the team leader or manager and you want to be informed of the development process of the team, through Discord, it is easy to switch between channels with a single click and stay updated with the various discussions that is happening with the team members. Similar with checking messages on Whatsapp, same goes with checking message on Discord, except that you can check it on almost any platforms and unlike Whatsapp, any documents and images sent through Discord will not be wiped and deleted over time.
Easy Impromptu Meeting Setup
So far we have only talked about text messaging channels. But aside from text channels, Discord also provides voice-channels that can be used for meetings. Similar to Zoom or Google Meet, it allows video calls and sharing screens.
Besides, it is possible to even adjust the volume of those you can’t hear clearly in the meeting. This is done without affecting other attendees of the meeting.
The main strength of this feature however lies in the simplicity of arranging on-the-spot meetings remotely. Without the need for a meeting link, all participants have to do is to join the voice channel and they are instantly connected. This is useful in many instance where spontaneous short meetings are needed to discuss issues without the hassle of needing to setup the meeting link for all involved. In effect, it will normalize team communication over voice, which is challenging to achieve in a remote setup. The ease in holding “short and sweet” meetings will then translate into efficiency and help team members to cope with the dynamics related to the development process.
There are many more interesting features by Discord. But there is one more worth mentioning that has the potential to truly make Discord a “one-of-a-kind” team communication platform.
Introducing Discord’s ability to host “Discord bots”. In some ways, bots are like users. They have to be invited to a server, their online status are displayed together with us humans and it has the abilities to access any discord function provided it is given the permission. So what are bots? They are customized scripts that are designed to perform an automated function for the server.
Bots can perform functions from as simple as sending a meeting reminders and making announcements to advanced function such as logging a GitLab ticket or plotting a graph.
Discord For Agile
In the beginning of the article, we mention that Agile is simply put the ability to cope with dynamics in development process, the ability to stay in momentum and the ability to achieve the said two with the most simplest model possible.
If we consider Discord and what it has to offer, it is safe to say that it has the potential to help create an Agile development environment in a remote working setup. There are many more features by Discord that is worth mentioning, such as its potential to bridge the gap between customer base and developers in a common platform and its ability to create a tight community centered around the products/services a company offer.
But for now, perhaps you may want to give Discord a try to enhance your team efficiency?
Originally published at http://filpal.wordpress.com on February 13, 2022.