August 2006

Monthly Archive

And then it was over…Agile 2006

Posted by on 08 Aug 2006 | Tagged as: Agile

My time in Minneapolis was amazing with so many great moments that I found myself reeling as the week ended about what I would take away. I thought that I better get some of what I thought was important into a blog entry before it slipped too far out of my mind. Here is an overview of my experience at the Agile 2006 Conference:

  • Scott Ambler on the Agile state of the union

I thought that some good points were brought up in this framing of the current Agile community. I am still quite skeptical of AgileUP and MSFAgile and their prescriptive nature but it is good that our large corporate software leaders are understanding the shift in market to Agile values and techniques.

  • Tamara Sulaiman, Brent Barton, and Thomas Blackburn on Agile EVA

Two of my colleagues, Tamara and Brent, gave a great presentation on their "Agile EVM in Scrum Projects" research paper. The ability to calculate earned value from existing Scrum data is important for organizations which use earned value as a decision making variable. It is great to work with such intelligent and innovative people here at SolutionsIQ.

  • Jennitta Andrea on Functional Acceptance Testing: The Essentials

Many of you reading this may not know that we at SolutionsIQ have open sourced a great functional acceptance testing tool called StoryTestIQ based on Selenium and FitNesse tools. The creation and usage of this tool with our customers has shown to be incredibly valuable. Getting a true "definition of done" for our user stories in an executable tool allows for quick regression of functionality as seen by the end user and removes much of the interpretation of functional specifications. Jennitta did a great job of explaining the nuances of creating and maintaining functional acceptance tests.

  • Todd Little on Context Driven Agile Leadership

Even though I did not understand what this talk was going to be about I found the name alone was convincing enough to get me in the room. Once in I was glad that I came. Todd spoke of what they called the "Houston Matrix", loosely based on the "Boston Matrix" developed around market growth and market share, to identify the types of projects within their company. The types of projects fell into 1 of 4 groups:

    • Colts – high uncertainty, low complexity: simple, young projects which need agility and tight teams
    • Bulls – high uncertainty, high complexity: need agility to handle uncertainty process definition to cope with complexity

    • Cows – low uncertainty, high complexity: complex, mature project which needs defined interfaces
    • Skunks and Dogs – low uncertainty, low complexity: just use core practices and easy to manage

There was good information on determining where your project would fit into the "Houston Matrix". Also, there was a great video clip within the presentation revolving around a karate fight between a man and a cow. Great stuff!

  • Jean Tabaka on Homer‘s Odyssey or Her Life as an Agile Consultant

For those of you who are Agile consultants, I think that this presentation would likely hit home for most of you. Jean drew comparisons of character in Homer‘s Odyssey to situations and people she has ran into during her Agile consulting experiences. I won‘t go into detail since you must see the presentation to get the value from it but the characters were Sirens, Laestrygoneans, Poseidon, Suitors of Ithaca, Leucothea, and Argus the dog. Jean has a great presentation style and this talk allowed me to reflect on my past few years and how situations had turned out for good or bad.

  • Agile Coaching in British Telecom: Making Strawberry Jam

It was good to hear of large organizational rollouts of Agile software development. At SolutionsIQ we have transitioned our professional services division into an Agile organization based on Scrum and Agile software development practices such as TDD, continuous integration, and pair programming. Laura Waite impressed me in this presentation and then later on impressed me more with her vision of what Agile is and what it will be.

  • Mike Cohn on User Stories for Agile Requirements

If anybody has read either of Mike Cohn‘s books, "Agile Estimating and Planning" or "Users Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development", you probably appreciate the concepts that are described for helping Agile teams succeed with planning for their projects. I could reiterate the ways to develop good user stories but I thought the most interesting concepts were not described in the presentation slides. Mike went a bit off topic to answer a question. While doing this he brought up the following:

    • Abuses stories – stories from the perspective of somebody being harmful to your product. This has value for stories for cross cutting concerns such as security.
    • Wild stories – I paraphrased what he called them but these are stories which can help to innovate on a project. In Mike‘s example of this, the Palm OS folks wrote a story from the perspective of the Pope. What would the Pope need from our Palm OS? These stories may not ever see the light of day or show direct value but they do start conversations which can lead into great innovations.

It was great to meet Mike after being so influenced by his books. We have used his techniques very successfully at SolutionsIQ.

  • Monica Yap and Lance Young on Discussing the Need for Agile Certification

Another colleague of mine, Lance, and his wife, Monica, facilitated a discussion using the "Fishbowl" discussion format. I thought it was quite effective for discussing the topic of Agile certification. There were a broad spectrum of opinions on this topic. My personal opinion is that we should not do any type of Agile "certification" because I think this will go against the principals and values of the Agile Manifesto. I could go on about this but I think the best thing that came out of the discussion was an action item to create a mailing list to discuss hiring techniques for Agile teams. I will post a blog entry about this new list if and when it becomes a reality.

  • Scott Ambler on Refactoring Databases: Evolutionary Database Design

I can‘t think of a bigger deterent to Agile software development than the existing relational database market. Of course this is my own personal opinion but I have found too many projects which get bogged down in relational database details which have little effect on business value. I do believe we need to bring our database administrators and data architects into the Agile world though. Those that handle the data must be agile in order to help business succeed over time.

  • David Hussman facilitation of Community Reflections

I have great respect for David since I saw him present on Agile topics at No Fluff, Just Stuff symposium last year. In fact, I see those talks as the catapult for me to put more emphasis on agility in my projects. Upon entering the room I sat down at the first available chair that I saw. As a small chuckle came from the audience I noticed that I was sitting in a "fishbowl" discussion and had no idea what was being discussed yet. The discussion was incredibly deep regarding different topics presented at the conference.

  • Esther Derby and Diana Larson on Tuning Up: A Team Leader‘s Guide to Retrospectives for Agile Development

Esther and Diana are amazing ladies and are exceptionally skilled in facilitating Agile retrospectives. They have a new book which just came out called "Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great" which is good reference material for exercises and activities to help provide value in retrospectives. It was fun to actually run through a project and retrospective all within the 90 minute session. I picked up some good exercises and activities for use in retrospectives that I facilitate in the future.

Some of the best moments for me at the conference were not in the sessions. During lunch one day I sat with Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki and Fit, showing him StoryTestIQ and how we use it with our customers. Ward is a great guy and we talked for well over an hour. It is great to speak with a visionary like Ward and hear his thoughts on our community and tools. While out boozing I ran into David Hussman and I thought we had a great talk about Agile coaching, some ideas I am working on which I am tagging "Building Integrity In", and of course some non-software stuff like kids and family. He has a 3 year old like myself and we had some interesting stories to tell.

Overall, the conference was amazing. I will definitely be a regular. I can‘t wait for Agile 2007.