The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

An Omen in Chicago

with 3 comments

Amazing how things come together. A gentleman introduces himself at the conclusion of my breakout session (Socializing Agile with your Executives) in yesterday’s Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) event in Chicago. I am pleasantly surprised to learn he is Cutter Consortium colleague Scott Stribrny. Within a few sentences I discover he was actually the Cutter consultant to Follett Software. As readers of this blog are well aware of, Follett Software was prominently featured in the landmark study of Agile quality, productivity and time-to market by Michael Mah. To put the icing on the cake (so to speak), Rachel Weston – Rally’s Director of Professional Services – uses this very study by Michael Mah in her keynote presentation at the end of the event…

Symphono’s Robert Schmitt started the day with a quote from one of his developers:

I don’t want to deliver just twice a year; I love to deliver!

The power of this kind of craftsman’s pride in his/her software was nicely illustrated by hard numbers Robert cited. For example, on one of their projects, Symphono observed a cost of $12K instead of the $72K they would have expected under traditional software methods.

Playboy’s Mark Row highlighted the intricacies of project managing contents alongside project managing software. In Mark’s experience, contents developers tend to be visually oriented. Writing requirements does not quite cut it for folks of such orientation. As Mark needs to manage software development priorities across all contents initiatives (and many owners), the balance to be struck between the two is quite tricky. The non-formalistic nature of Agile has proven quite effective in bringing things together. As a matter of fact, Mark indicated Playboy’s marketing teams are now doing daily Scrum-like stand-up meeting. The bottom line from the perspective of his executive management is crystal clear:

Night and day since going Agile

Pariveda’s Jim West kept all of us honest with respect to how bad the starting point for Agile often is. According to Jim, they did not start Agile from square zero – they actually started from minus two (-2)…. In spite of this far from optimal starting conditions, Pariveda been successful on two noteworthy accounts:

  • Productivity improved by 15-20%
  • The managed to satisfy the needs of other processes by incorporating them in their Agile process. For example, SOX work items are represented as story cards in their backlog

Last but not least, ShopLocal’s Brendan Flynn highlighted the progress they made with Agile contracts. They incorporate both user stories and acceptance criteria in the contract. Furthermore, they pay special attention to specifying what is not included in the contract. To paraphrase the French proverb, Shop Local’s experience is that “good accounts make good (customer) relationships.” Remarkably, they achieve good customer relationships through Agile contracts at the scale of 5+ Billion page views annually through just one of their products!

Expressive quips were brought up in the lively Q&A sessions that followed the presentations. Here are a few gems:

    Make Agile your flavor [tailoring Agile to the needs of the organization]
    Make database decisions [data-driven decisions in Agile]
    A cube empire [working environments in the 80’s and 90’s]
    Exchange requests, not change requests [Agile contract policy]

In two week the Agile Success Tour “train” will cross the channel to London. (Please, do not enquire now how the train will make its way from Boulder, CO to Paris, France – we are delaying the decision on that leg of the trip to the last responsible minute). I suspect some of the Agile topics to be discussed in London might give a mild heart-burn to UK-based ITIL aficionados. But, how appropriate it is to conclude a year of great Agile success tours with an event in the grand city London!

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3 Responses

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  1. Rally did put on a great day. I was skeptic that it would come across ‘salesy’ but it wasn’t.

    Key takeaway I had along the lines of proposing an agile change to executives – focus on what the risks of change are and how you will mitigate those risks. Too often (myself included) have focused on the benefits without soothing the risk concern of the executive. Hopefully this will help us going forward.

    Joel Tosi

    October 16, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  2. […] was a great learning experience hearing stories about how others are practicing agile. Israel has a nice summary of the event on his blog. Below is the presentation I gave on how we adapted our contracts with external clients to work in […]

  3. […] Click here to read more about the Chicago Agile Success Tour. var addthis_pub = 'shoplocalblog'; var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, google, facebook, reddit, live, more'; […]


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