Discovering A New Domain And Trying The Event Storming For First Time

Imagine you’re preparing for a greenfield project. The domain is well researched. You’re getting into it, you have a vision from sketches, user stories, example maps, etc., and… suddenly the business announces that you and your team have to deal with something more important. We’re agile, right?

Well, there are two things you can do. You can either start complaining about it and probably start it anyway OR you can think about that as an opportunity to learn something new. The second option sounds better, right? We had to act fast and use tool that will support it.

We chose to use the Big Picture Event Storming.

Why Event Storming?

I heard about Event Storming some time ago when my colleagues attended the workshop, where they learned the technique, back then needed for a new project.

I did hear that it is amazing but I didn’t dig into it.

Some time ago I started following developers from Poland on Instagram and I’ve heard about the Event Storming once again. There also was an online workshop where Mariusz Gil and guys from Piątki Na Produkcji (Production Fridays) did the discovery process of In Post parcel lockers. Then I did realize the potential of a workshop, where people use sticky notes to discover and learn an unknown domain. Wow. That was a thing.

The opportunity to experiment

So once again, the opportunity showed up. I knew that it might be a good chance to experiment with the Big Picture Event Storming.

Wait… experimenting it during the work?

What can I tell you… we have a culture where risk is appreciated. There’s no loss, you can only learn or win. I had to talk to a few people first. I wanted the team to believe that this is a good idea (I might be wrong initially right? It might not have been the right tool for a job). I was also looking for an ally. Someone that also knows the basics of EventStorming and believes in its value (despite the fact that he didn’t attend real workshops previously). Luckily for me, there was the right person. The goal was clear, we were looking into discovering the new domain and how it fits into the current ecosystem.

Knowing those facts, I started preparing for the first session.

Preparing for the first Big Picture Event Storming workshop

When we set up the workshop date I started preparing myself. I was both the attendee and helped with facilitation (but only when there were doubts about the next steps). The reason for that is obvious, it was quite a new thing and we had to join our forces the make the session productive and valuable. There’s only one chance to do the first impression and the WOW effect was desired.

I already had some notes prepared – from the online workshop, so I revisited them.

I read a few chapters (those that focused on Big Picture Event Storming) from the Introducing Event Storming book, by Alberto Brandolini.

We selected the Miro board as the place for our online collaboration. The goal was clear, the discovery of the new domain. We’ve invited people with expertise in the domain. The meeting was set for 2 hours. People get distracted and lose focus in an online meeting after such time.

The Event Storming workshop – first attempt

You know that feeling when there’s something new, that everyone heard about, and is excited for it to start? That, plus a little bit of anxiety was hanging in the (online) air. Then we just started by explaining the goal of the session. The next step was to introduce the definition and notation of the domain event. We assumed that the icebreaker in the online workshop might be harder to get than in the offline one. Because of that, we prepared one of the domain experts a little bit upfront, so he would post the icebreaker, encouraging other people to join the chaotic exploration.

After some time production of stickies went down, we took a quick overlook. After that, we started setting the result of chaotic exploration on the timeline.

When looking at the events, the inevitable happened. Part of us started discussions that led to nowhere. Then we introduced hotspots. It was not hard to explain why they’re necessary. Participants appreciated it!

During setting the stickies on the timeline, we identified pivotal events and put them into separate swimlanes (that happened a little bit accidentally, to be honest 🙄. Worked well anyway).

And… the workshop time was over. We were happy with the results and starving to continue the discovery process.

Learnings

Of course we made a few mistakes that became clear after visting the book for second time.

  • Hotspotting too early. Perhaps we lost some data here. We did introduce hotspots for everyone. The book says, that in the beginning, it should be the facilitator’s duty
  • We didn’t mention to try to keep the events in order from the beginning. It was harder to place them on a timeline
  • Using the communication tool that doesn’t support rooms
  • We forgot to look for values and opportunities

The experienced facilitator would probably spot much more of them. Nevertheless, the session delivered a lot of value to us.

  • We were able to build the Big Picture of part of the business that is related to the new domain
  • The development team learned A LOT about the domain
  • We discovered inconsistencies

I think we did not have the WOW effect after the first workshop. But it was good enough to continue 🙂. And it keeps going until now.