How we adapted to an interesting time

Agile Stationery started the year trading well. We were settling into a new location, working on some custom orders, scaling production of Estimation Poker and sales were up. It was looking like a great year. Then, obviously, it didn't look so good. This was the moment when we showed we don't just make things for agile people, but we were able to be agile ourselves.

Our products were designed primarily for people gathered together, and like many businesses with physical products we noticed a sudden drop in demand. Unless we changed our offering, and fast, our business would be a casualty of lockdown.

Two weeks were spent working every available hour to bring new ideas to life. We produced our Video Conference Cards - for signalling needs on video calls; our Virtual Agile Ritual Cards - an expanded single player deck of Estimation Poker; and converted our Thank You stickers to Appreciation Postcards. Together, these products achieved respectable sales. Demand for the existing range, particularly in the US via Amazon, slowly recovered over the summer.  Our pivot had given us room to breathe.

Since we work in small batches we were able to iterate the design, content and packaging over the course of the year culminating in jolly red boxes for the Video Conference Cards just in time for Christmas. They did well as gifts and their Spanish translated version by Alejandra García Romero. Between these and our cybersecurity products, we had a good Cyber Sale. The last job was delivering Christmas gift parcels to locked-down IT consultants in Italy. We had made it through the year.

Our range of remote working tools created at the start of lockdown

We brought forward plans to create a physical deck of Matthew Skelton's Multi-Team Software Delivery Assessment, and adapted our design to include the right cards in each deck so you could perform assessments easily on Zoom. Matthew Skelton and consultant Benedict Steele presented the new model with us at Leeds Digital Festivalin October 2020.

Elevation of Privilege was still doing really well across the world and we concluded that customers valued the detailed content present in that deck. You don't need to be with anyone, or even play a game, to learn from a deck of Elevation of Privilege. We continued to adapt the range with a focus on card-decks that are rich in content.  

OWASP Cornucopia is a version of Elevation of Privilege for eCommerce websites. It is also rich in detailed content and it was difficult to get hold of physical copies without some form of commitment. We lavished attention on an ambitious packaging concept and are selling this as Cyber Security Cornucopia.

While we loved the fact we now have two threat modeling card games, we felt we could do more to support remote players. In person, it's really easy to shuffle and deal out cards so that each player has a random hand of cards to play. The random element is important, but is harder remotely, and so this needed fixing. We produced an online tool, Croupier, to take care of the shuffling and card-dealing. We documented the revised format for those sessions, and successfully ran two Play to Learn sessions with Grant Ongers and Adam Shostack. We are very grateful for their input into those sessions and plan to run more of them in the new year. 

Team Topologies Modeling Shapes created by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

Partnerships formed a key part of 2020. We've joined forces with Team Topologies, the hit technology book of the year, to deliver modeling shapes. These allow managers to model their departments and test team topology changes without inflicting those changes on real people. We are also stocking the book Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.

Matthew Skelton is also helping us bring-to-market Conflux products including those Software Delivery Assessment decks, DevOps team topology posters, and the Book Continuous Delivery for Windows and .NET which he wrote alongside Chris O'Dell.

With Adam Shostack we are now supplying his Shostack & Associates threat modeling tools which include his own brand Elevation of Privilege card decks, which we manufacture, as well as an A4 dry-erase notebook and stencil, reflecting the importance of sketching in threat modeling activities.

Next Year

Things in 2021 will surely be better than the year before. As the New Year hang-overs begin to fade, talking heads will be arguing over relative merits of the bold shiny mRNA vaccine vs the slow and confusing Oxford adenovirus vaccine. Fun choices!

The option to return to the office will be available before many are ready to consider it. At Agile Stationery we see our role as providing great, thought-provoking experiences. We will prepare to help those choosing to gather together to reflect upon, and adapt, their working arrangements to whatever new situation is emerging for them. We will help them make the most of synchronous collaboration, embodied group cognition, and we'll be making a weird emotional moment seem fun. 

Regardless of where you are working, Q1 is a time for design and delivery of new features and requirements. The viruses that don't make you sick are still around, as is malware, phishing and novel supply-chain attacks. In the past these cybersecurity threats have been ignored, or "left to the end" and promptly forgotten. We will be helping teams shift-left and make plans with cybersecurity included from the start. We'll do this promoting our range of remote-worker friendly games and toolkits for planning and threat modeling. And as always, watch the space for more events starting with Paul Goddard talking about his Sprint Planning Kick-Start cards in January!