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When I Discovered EventStorming

The problem

Through my career, in enterprise software development, I’ve worked with hundreds of organisation of all sizes. A common struggle in all of them has been lack of internal alignment. Silos that don't work well together. This causes delays and complains and makes digital transformation fail. I've worked with projects that I thought would be successful at the time, that ended up failing. More than once I took part in building solutions that never got used as intended. Or never got used at all.

I recall one client where where all the sales reps used Microsoft Word to create offers. The goal was to replace Word with a new CRM System. Management wanted to gain more control and do better forecasts. The sales reps wanted to share templates.

We conducted interviews, turned every stone in order to accommodate each department’s needs. We processed plenty of feedback. Still, to make a long story short, the project failed.

But why? We had done a solid job, right? Well, there were red flags that we missed. Some of the answers we received during the interviews were not consistent across departments. The organisation didn't agree internally on how to choose suppliers and set the prices in certain cases. So we escalated these questions to top management and they gave us the answers we asked for. This is where we went wrong.

The EventStorming logo (only text).

I think it wasn’t until I saw Alberto Brandolini’s talk from DDD Europe 2019 (the inventor of EventStorming) that I fully understood the problem:

  1. Organisations work in silos. And they often disagree internally.

  2. With isolated interviews, you end up with pieces that don’t fit together.

  3. By escalating questions to higher management you get the wrong answers. Because there is no correct answer until you have aligned the organisation internally.

The organisation is not aligned and no one has the full picture of how it is supposed to work!

The solution - EventStorming

So, what is the solution? The challenge looks substantial! We need to align the whole organisation before we can move forward? This sounds like change management? Which sounds difficult.This is where EventStorming comes in! Instead of waiting for miracles, Event Storming tells us what to do:

  • Let’s get everyone into a large room at the same time

  • Visualise everything that happens in the organisation on a giant board

  • Align the the organisation and create consensus around solutions

  • Let's do it all in less than one day!

Great, so how do we do that?

There are 3 kinds of Event Storming

  1. Big Picture – To align teams up to 20 persons at the same time.

  2. Process Modelling – To model and agree on a specific process, around 5 - 8 people at the same time.

  3. Software Design – Same a process modelling but here we take extra steps do design software components.

In our example Big Picture Event Storming would have been the way to go. There were more than 10 stakeholders from different departments who had to agree on key issues.

Before I knew about Event Storming I was never able to facilitate a truly effective meeting with such a large audience. It either turned to complete chaos or I had to run the meeting so strict that I killed the creative discussion.

Big Picture Event Storming is highly effective for both small and large groups. It's designed to make everyone in the room see the pig picture, not just their own silo. After agreeing on the big picture it's surprisingly easy to agree on more issues.

Big Picture - Summary of the steps

  1. Find a large wall, up to 16 m and cover it with whiteboard plastic.

  2. Get a lot of sticky notes in all colors.

  3. Let the participants write down Domain Events. A domain event is:

    1. written on an orange sticky note

    2. contains a verb written in past tense

    3. relevant for the business domain

  4. Let the participants place the domain events on a time line while collaborating with each other.

  5. Add additional information:

    1. people on yellow sticky notes

    2. systems on pink sticky notes

    3. problems on red sticky notes

    4. opportunities on green sticky notes

  6. Finally vote for the most important problems to fix or the most important opportunities to explore.

An Event Storming session is a massive learning experience. When every person in the room agrees on the pig picture alignment tend to happen naturally. When we all understand each others problems there is not much left to fight about. You are almost guaranteed to leave a proper Event Storming session with:

  • A new level of understanding of the business

  • Alignment across silos

  • Consensus around the most important problems to solve

Does this sound interesting? If you want to discuss Event Storming feel free to reach out. You can use our contact form here.

More info

Here are a few links with more information:

A whiteboard covered with sticky notes, mostly orange.



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