Until recently, Mozilla has mostly focused on shipping one product – Firefox. (Yes, I know Mozilla shipped other products like Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Camino, but they used the same tool chain, and same/similar release cadence, so can be thought of as similar, if not identical, for the purposes of this discussion.). I think the tight formation flying of Blue Angels seems a good analogy!
Times are changing.
Mozilla now ships multiple very different products: Firefox, Fennec, Sync, BrowserID and soon Boot2Gecko. Each of these products are built by different groups of people, with different toolchains, different features, different processes for tracking blocking/shipping criteria, and most importantly, different release schedules.
If we want to ship a new feature that requires work coordinated across different products, we need all the different parts of the feature to ship at the same time. Coordinating this means each product needs to plan backwards in time, to coordinate when they start working on their part of the shared feature. Also, any schedule slip in any one product needs to be cross-coordinated across all products.
Coordinating the different parts of a new feature into each of these different products is tricky.
Having all products ship their part of the overall feature in a coordinated manner is even trickier.
To me, it feels like arranging transportation for a family event. Some guests live in the same town and can walk over at short notice. Some guests will drive. Some guests will take a train. Some guests will fly in – and some of those will have to get visas. All have to arrive in the same location by the “release date” (ie the day of the family event). This does not mean everyone starts using airplane ticket agents to pay for train tickets or to refuel their cars. However, this does mean everyone has to plan, according to their own release schedules, and transportation of choice, when they need to start making travel plans in order to still arrive at the event on time.
As Mozilla starts to build more complex features across our range of shipping products, we’ll need to learn this new cross-product coordination skill and get better at it, so we can do it again. And again. And again.
Kilimanjaro is the first “coordinate-what-parts-need-to-go-into-which-products-and-by-when-so-they-all-ship-as-one-coordinated-feature” project. There will be others; its cool to see the start of this really cool new phase for Mozilla.