Ship in Six: How Does It All Work?

As a software development consultancy, our approach is structured around iterative six-week sprints — designed to account for the inevitable unknown. But how does that process actually take shape? Learn how we chart a course through uncharted territory.

Ship In Six is a value shop, which means we’re in the business of solving problems for fellow visionary leaders. You bring us your back-of-the-napkin idea, and we figure out together how to make it real — it’s that simple.

Or at least… it often seems that simple. Behind the scenes, doing something that has never been done before requires intention, structure, and a tried-and-true process. Ship in Six is our answer to that: a unique approach to solving new and unknown challenges.

Powered by a team of Automation Software Engineers, that approach boils down to two fundamental phases: shaping (when we figure out what to do), and delivery (when we do it).

Shaping (Figure It Out)

In common automation vernacular, this might be thought of as the “design phase.” But Shaping is specifically intended for ideas that have never been tried before (as opposed to incremental or repeatable projects). And because every possibility is brand new, exploring it means entering uncharted territory.

This requires us to frame up the idea, concept (or “shape”) a solution, and anticipate as many challenges as possible in advance — enabling our Delivery team to hit the ground running. Activities related to the Shaping Phase typically include:

  • Discovery & Assessment: Interviews, site visits, and progress updates.
  • Deep Dive: Analyzing existing code bases for improvements.
  • New Machine Concept: Matching technology to solutions.
  • Architecture Design: Crafting the blueprint for the solution.
  • Code Reviews: Ensuring quality and efficiency.
  • Testing: Utilizing virtual tools to identify issues before deployment.
  • Spiking: Testing small code segments to prove viability.

The Shaping team is made up of people with senior expertise in supporting disciplines: Project leads handle the big picture idea development and work with the client to understand their needs and desires. A technical shaper helps make sure the solutions are technically feasible. Then, the New Machine Concept specialist creates the architecture for the project.

This work is scoped upstream, and together we determine a retainer proportional to the challenge. Work is billed hourly and duration is flexible, as this phase is designed to be an ongoing process that adapts to emerging insights.

Delivery (Make It Real)

The outcome of Shaping is a six-week sprint, the software philosophy from which Ship in Six derives its name. Each sprint produces a shippable, finished version of the product or feature in the short term. This timeline is long enough to build something meaningful, but short enough that the deadline looms from day one — necessitating laser focus.

That focus is possible thanks to our forethought in the Shaping phase. Having thoroughly assessed the challenge, meticulously designed a solution, and anticipated many of the possible pitfalls, the Delivery team can spend the next six weeks focusing on nothing else besides… well, delivering.

When new opportunities or challenges emerge, that learning is passed to the Shaping team to be addressed in future sprints — allowing us to respond to new discoveries without compromising momentum. Each sprint is unique and priced individually, but multiple can run concurrently — tackling different parts of the project at the same time.

What could we Ship in Six?

Working together, this system creates an ongoing cycle of sprints and shaping that yields superior outcomes for our clients. The result has been greater efficiency, innovation through iteration, and ultimately better products.

In other words, we’re revolutionizing automation software engineering… one six-week sprint at a time.

Our approach is based on Ryan Singer’s Shape Up. For more info check out his awesome video Shaping In A Nutshell.



David Nichols