One Year of Event Storming

In a way, each new client is my favorite client for a few days. This is the time period when you get to know the people and dive into understanding their problems, which of course requires understanding what they do in the first place (as a matter of fact, "what we do" is sometimes not very clear to the employees, let alone the developers).

Each client has their own history, and thus their own set of problems, and being able to understand both quickly is one of the most rewarding – and challenging – aspects of an IT consultant's work. About two years ago, when I started to work with a new client, I would usually ask them for process diagrams, to help me understand the domain they are working in.

The two most common answers to this question are either "we have them, but they are very outdated", or "we do not have any". Everybody always agrees that somebody should document the processes, but somehow it never gets done, except in the rare case where process documentation is a legal requirement.

Of course, I had heard about Event Storming at the time. ThoughtWorks had already put it on their technology radar back in 2015, but it had never really occurred to me that Event Storming might be the right solution for my problem with the missing process diagrams.

In January 2016, we attended the very first Domain Driven Design Europe conference in Brussels, and pretty much everybody at the conference mentioned Event Storming at some point. This is a sure sign either that something will turn into the new buzzword of the year, or it indicates something that is really worth looking at (sometimes, even both). Subsequently, we started looking into Event Storming.

About a year ago, Sebastian and Arne started working with a new client and were faced with a very technology-centric group of developers. There seemed to be quite a few misconceptions about the domain the client was working in, so Sebastian and Arne spontaneously ran a Big Picture Exploration Event Storming session. They managed not only to get a clear picture for themselves but also to improve the common understanding of the domain for the whole group. Following the workshop, some participants even mentioned that they now finally understood what the company was all about. And they had been working on the business side of the company.

By that time, we clearly knew that we were onto something. A few months later, Arne and I attended Alberto Brandolini's Event Storming Master Class at Domain Driven Design Europe 2017. This workshop made me realize that I had seen at Event Storming far too much as a documentation tool. In fact, it is a facilitated collaborative learning experience, and, as such, the perfect solution to my problem with the missing process diagrams.

Nowadays, I tend to use Event Storming – in variations – almost every time I start to work with a new client. Within two or three hours, given the right group of people, it gives me an excellent overview of the domain my client is working in, plus, and far more important, it literally always points at the hot spots that require further attention.

Now we are one year into more or less heavily using Event Storming, both the Big Picture Exploration and the Process Design flavor. For software developers, we feel that Process Design may even be more useful than Big Picture Exploration, at least on a day to day basis. Modeling a selected business process, in whole or in part, using the color-coded sticky notes usually sparks off very constructive discussions, which build a common understanding, and the result can be transformed into working software very easily.

Arne and I will run an Event Storming workshop at the International PHP Conference in Munich this fall. This workshop focuses on how we model business processes and quickly turn the result into working software. We are looking forward to sharing our experiences, getting feedback, and refining how we use – and teach – Event Storming. Sign up for the workshop or contact us if you are interested in how you can benefit from Event Storming.

If you want to try out Event Storming, have a look at EventNotes.io.

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Stefan Priebsch
Stefan Priebsch
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