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Charlie's Golden Tickets

By Ned Vaught
22nd May 2023
3 min read
charlie and his golden ticket animation

Have you ever written your own ticket? If you’ve ever been a Product Owner in an Agile software development project, then you’ll probably have written hundreds of them. 

In tech-terms, a “ticket” is a defined piece of work that is assigned to a developer to accomplish before moving on to the next task. In Agile development, ticket writing is normally the preserve of the Product Owner - the client’s spokesperson and representative on the development team - How effectively they write those tickets can have a big impact on a project’s success. 

A Rocketmakers client recently asked Rocketmakers lead developer Charlie Farrington to take on the ticket writing instead, as they lacked someone with the time and relevant expertise.

The project was a huge success, and Charlie’s masterful ticket writing was credited as a significant factor. We asked Charlie to give us an overview of his process, and he was happy to explain.

How Charlie writes his tickets

“The ideal ticket is a very well-defined and very small task,” he explained. “Being well-defined reduces confusion and the need to ask for clarification. Keeping tickets small - as thin a “slice” of work as possible - is another way to make them easier to understand. This is especially helpful for less experienced junior developers.

“Smaller tickets have another important benefit - it’s much easier to estimate the time they will take to complete. This is really important. When you know how much time each task will take, you can plan accurately and the project has a much better chance of being delivered on time. Getting the time estimates wrong can cause knock-on effects and introduce a lot of complexity.”

“In other words, it’s much better to have lots of small tickets that are easy to understand and easy to make plans with than to have a few enormous tickets that are vague, unclear, and impossible to finish on time.”

Given how successful Charlie’s ticket writing was for this project, we asked him if he thinks asking Rocketmakers developers to take on this task is something that should be more common.

“Good ticket writing is part of what’s known as ‘Developer Experience’ or ‘DevX.’ As a developer, this really interests me because when developers know exactly what they need to do and can deliver everything at the time expected, everyone is happy and it leads to a great result.

“I wouldn’t want to write tickets all the way through every project, though. I’m a developer and that’s the work I really enjoy most. What is sometimes a good idea, especially for projects with a first-time Product Owner, is to have the lead developer write the tickets for Phase 1, show them how successful the small ticket model can be, and then hand it over for Phase 2 and beyond.”

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