Agile Business Conference 2008 Review

The conference was opened by BBC’s Ian Palmer, who also hosted Day 1, and he began by making the analogy between delivering a software project and delivering a news story.  There is a deadline, and a budget, but at the end of the day, its the story that’s important.

Keynote: Peter Morowski – Senior VP R&D Borland – Driving Agile Transformations from the Top Down

Peter talked about how Agile helped ‘bind’ together management and execution ‘planes’ of projects as opposed to simply ‘bridging’ them.  For example, frequent releases directly enables better market timing, customer involvement directly boosts quality and efficiency and ensures the right product is built, and demonstrations directly enable transparency and instil confidence.  His blueprint for an agile transformation is:

  1. Establish a Foundation – herd the converted
  2. Build Confidence – Guide the Curious
  3. Socialise Change – Win over the Sceptics

His results so far have delivered 100% improvement of on time delivery, smaller product teams, increased and higher moral.

Agile Development – Enterprise Delivery

This session was about delivering and large enterprise project with Agile.  My one line summary would be that the presenters showed that it is possible by using the usual tools and techniques with discipline.  Their ‘pillars’ were:

  • Risk first, architecture-centric approach
  • Quality built in
  • Monitor & Control
  • Frequent, Demonstrable Milestones
  • Development Processes & Tools

A couple of other ideas that stood out were the ideas of design documentation being a TOC into the code (necessary and sufficient) and the differentiation between a requirements catalogue and requirements detail.

The Battle of the Somme to the Present Day: Lessons in Agile

This was an interesting session which looked at various successful military leaders and battles and drew analogies between which ones were agile, and which ones weren’t.  Not surprisingly, the successful examples were agile, and the others weren’t.

Keynote: Rob Thomsett – Implementing Agile Project Management and Development – Key Learning from the Real World

A very entertaining talk.  Rob began by suggesting that Agile is primarily a cultural revolution, which I agree with.  He compared traditional engineering and construction culture, with an agile culture:

Traditional            Agile
Closed                 Open
Distrust               Trust
Dishonesty             Honesty
Lack of Courage        Courage

He then introduced Agile Project Management (APM) and its principles:

  • Simplicity
  • No Bureaucracy
  • Light Touch
  • Face to face over paper
  • Discretion

Finally, he talked about Rapid Planning Sessions (RAPS) which include a set of tools such as success sliders which can help make sure everyone has the same understanding of the project.  This sounded interesting and is something to look into more some time.

Keynote: Jutta Eckstein – Staying Agile in a Global World: Distributed Agile Software Development

Jutta began by describing some non-agiel specific research which had concluded that distributed projects worked best when there was:

  • Personal relationships
  • High Communication
  • High Trust
  • Bridging of Culture Gaps

Given that these are strongly aligned to Agile values, it can be concluded that distributed projects need Agile! She went on to talk though a list of tools or ideas she had found to be useful in her experience:

  • Don’t have a “remote side”.  Vary meeting locations and be wary of language e.g. if there is a “nightly” build, who’s “night” is it?
  • Prefer location feature teams, but its not essential.  They can be dispersed feature teams, which has the advantage of enabling cross team communication at each location.
  • Communicate with the highest available “common” bandwidth.  If one person or group is on the phone, then everyone should be.
  • Encourage discussion of common interests across locations e.g. weather, sport.
  • Have a Communication Facilitator role
  • Have location Ambassadors, who represent locations in other offices
  • Short iterations for quicker feedback
  • More frequent integration – typically 10% should be spent on integration between locations
  • Use a retrospective of retrospectives to scale the continuous improvement

Keynote: Chris Avery – Personal Agility and your Ability to Respond

Chris talked about the difference between the dynamics and the mechanics of agile, where the dynamics is the culture.  He suggested that the greatest opportunity to add value isn’t assigned to anyone, because it usually sits between groups.  He also differentiated between accountability and responsibility, where accountability is an external agreement, and responsibility is an internal ownership.  the best results come when responsibility is greater the accountability.  Chris’s model for responsibility takes the follow path upwards:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Obligation
  3. Shame
  4. Justify
  5. Blame
  6. Denial

His “Keys to Responsibility” are:

  • Intention
  • Awareness
  • Confront (as in face up to)
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One comment on “Agile Business Conference 2008 Review

  1. Hi Karl,

    When to ABC too.. reading your review is like reliving the event – super review. I postet one myself, but with a lillte diffenrent focus on my blog:

    Thank for the nice work

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