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I Should have Asked for Equity, Not for Cash

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In 2004 I was asked by the London Office of Apax Partners to conduct due diligence on a start-up name of Tideway. Flying all the way from Seattle to London was not something I was looking to. However, a promise to put me in The Hotel at the Chelsea Football Club proved irresistable. I packed my bags and went to London.

Apax paid me nicely for the due diligence – no complaints whatsoever. However, I woke up today to read the following news in The Register:

Systems management software maker BMC Software continues to snap up other software players as it bulks up to do battle with the likes of IBM, CA, Hewlett-Packard, and now EMC in its chosen market. Today, the company paid an undisclosed amount to acquire British software company and BMC-partner Tideway Systems.

I wonder whether I should have asked to be given equity instead of cash….

Written by israelgat

October 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Paulo Coelho’s Good Counsel to the Agile Champion

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I am already used to the way things are. Before you came, I was thinking about how much time I had wasted in the same place, while my friends have moved on, and either went bankrupt or did better than they had before. It made me very depressed. Now, I can see that it has not been too bad. The shop is exactly the side I wanted it to be. I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I am used to the way I am.

This magnificent paragraph from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, captures the nature of the Agile transformation better than any Agile book, article or presentation I had ever read, seen or listened to.  The issue for the team the Agile champion works with is not objectify-ing Cobol, calculating Cyclomatic Complexity or learning how to play Planning Poker. The heart of the matter is members of the team struggle with the innermost feeling “I am used to the way I am.”

I very much doubt that I can summarize Coelho’s counsel on the subject. It would be like trying to capture the wisdom and charm of Saint-Exupery‘s The Little Prince in 500 words or in 140 characters . To fully grasp Coelho’s good counsel, you will need to read The Alchemist cover to cover.

Sign of the Times

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As I learned the hard way, the post Technical Debt on Your Balance Sheet missed an important risk associated with technical debt.

I got an email today advising me as follows:

Debt Con Expert is now following you on Twitter!

The good services provided by Debt Con Expert are debt consolidation loans, help with bad credit situations, how to tips on filing bankruptcy, etc.  As I do not owe a penny to anyone in this solar system, I am inclined to conclude I am being followed as a result of yesterday’s post on technical debt.

Please be prudent with technical debt. In addition to elevating the error feedback ratio of your software to an unacceptable level,  it might also lead to your mail box being flooded with debt consolidation offers.

Sigh.

Written by israelgat

September 30, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Don’t Take Your Boss to Lunch

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During my Agile 2006 presentation I made the following recommendation to the audience:

Don’t take your boss to lunch; take him/her to the daily stand-up meeting.

The point I was trying to get across is straightforward: there is no substitute to “touching” Agile and being touched by Agile. Instead of preaching the benefits of Agile, get your executive engaged in the Agile process.

Last week, colleagues Ken Collier, Jonathon Golden and I were on a Cutter Consortium consulting engagement. The CEO of the company we were consulting to immersed himseld  in the workshop. I would say he spent about 50% of his time in the three day workshop in which we worked with his team on Agile and refactoring.

This CEO certainly got it [Agile]. And, he took his CTO and us to lunch.

It might have been a breach of my own counsel don’t take your boss to lunch…

Written by israelgat

September 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I Believe I Set a New World Record

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Coming back yesterday from the Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) event in Boston, I picked my car at the Austin-Bergstrom airport from the spot in which I parked it a few days earlier.


Today, flying to a Cutter Consortium consulting gig in Salt Lake City, I found the very same spot at the airport available to me. I am actually fairly certain the spot sort of smiled with familiarity at me. I, of course, returned the smile.


Quite a record, even if I have to say so… is there a message here somewhere?!

Written by israelgat

September 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Hand Crafted Sausages – a Metaphor from Josh Kerievsky

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Reflecting on the Rally Agile Success Tour in Los Angeles, I discussed the “sausage syndrome” as one of the more painful issues between the Agile champion and his/her executive(s):

The “sausage syndrome”: “Don’t bother me with details how you do the software – just get it done” seems to be the attitude of numerous “business executives.”  I must admit I still don’t get it. Software is becoming pervasive on an unprecedented scale. And, software is becoming bigger and bigger component of just about any product in which it is embedded. Ditto for software as part of the business process. What is your recipe for success if you (as an executive) don’t get down and dirty on such a major component of your business?!

Joshua Kerievsky and I discussed the metaphor during an elevator ride in Agile 2009. Josh’s pointed out how delicious hand crafted sausages are. Moreover, he emphasized how intentional and thoughtful a good chef is about the ingredients going  into such sausages.

I used this metaphor in a teleconference I had earlier today with a CEO contemplating a large scale rollout of Agile. He chuckled and enquired about the right kind of beer to go with the sausages. Caught empty handed (was “Pilsner” the right answer?!), I promised an answer no later than my next elevator ride with Josh..

Written by israelgat

September 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Using a Combat Metaphor to Apply Agile Principles to the Company

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The Cutter Edge has just published my article Using a Combat Metaphor to Apply Agile Principles to the Company. The metaphor draws from Britain’s struggle for survival during WWII:

The agile team goes through psychodynamics similar to those of the combat unit when it expects “casualties” in the form of forthcoming layoffs. A record-breaking Scrum implementation 12 months down the road is not too meaningful for an employee who suspects he or she might not be with the company in six months. Under such circumstances, you must satisfactorily answer the question on the minds of employees, “What is in this agile rollout for me?!” Agile team dynamics are likely to be jeopardized unless this question is answered.

What is needed under such circumstances is a reconstituted social contract between employers and employees. Without a working social contract, the friction and antagonism can bring down a system. For example, in 1942, the turning-point year of WWII, 833,000 person-days of coal mining were lost due to strikes in the UK coal industry. Even a world war in which the UK was fighting for its life could not compensate for a broken social contract.

They did not do software in 1942 – all they had were Alan Turing‘s code breaking Bombe machines. The core issue – broken social contract – applies however to software development, particularly these days. Scholars such as Correlli Barnett attribute much of the post war decline of Britain to the failure to reconstitute the social contract.


Written by israelgat

July 28, 2009 at 8:35 am

Running for the Agile Alliance Board

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I am running for the Agile Alliance board. Here is my position statement:

Agile to me is about finding my voice. For most of my professional career I was entrusted with developing and bringing to market large scale enterprise software systems. Fulfilling and rewarding that so doing was, rarely had I experienced the great excitement that comes from the pursuit of a bigger purpose. Over the past few years Agile has been giving me this extra gratification. I feel privileged and fortunate to participate in and contribute to a movement that has the potential to transform quite a few industries.

My voice has been expressed in various speaking engagements, research notes by the Cutter Consortium, blog posts in The Agile Executive, and tweets under the handle agile_exec. I am primarily concerned with elevating Agile to the enterprise level, making certain Agile “islands” scale up, scale out and scale downstream. Moreover, I push toward devising business models that utilize the power of Agile instead of shoe horning Agile methods to fit arcane business designs.

As an Agile Alliance board member, I will focus on mainstreaming Agile methods with an eye toward making a significant economic impact. I share the concern Diana Larsen expressed in a recent Agile Roots panel: Agile as a term has crossed the chasm, but Agile as a method might not. The main obstacle IMHO is that our business fabric has not caught up with Agile methods. Software capitalization and Agile contracts are two good examples of areas which are not yet where they need to be. I plan to address both, and then some, if I get elected.

If we as a movement succeed in making Agile cross the chasm, the economics of software, of products in which software is embedded and of business processes that utilize software could change dramatically. As software is becoming pervasive, Agile software has the potential to become a low cost input in our economy. The macro-economic effect of this descending cost of software could be as powerful as that of the prosperity ultra cheap oil (as energy source) produced during the period 1908-1971. I am committed to doing my bit toward this worthy goal through the Agile Alliance.

Written by israelgat

July 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Preliminary Assessment of “Ask an Expert”

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Just about three months ago we started an “Ask an Expert” service for Agile practitioners in Austin. The service was defined as follows:

The objective of the Ask an Expert program is to provide free consultation by experienced Agile Austin coaches to any Austinite that wrestles with issues related to promoting, planning and executing Agile methods. The program will address the needs of practitioners in companies that produce software, embed software, or use software as an integral part of their business processes. In addition to 1-1 consultation, coaches will gladly hold discussions with entire teams.

Ask an Expert sessions should be primarily regarded as a step toward addressing concrete Agile issues that manifest themselves in a specific environment. Coaches might not be able to complete a comprehensive analysis, but will make certain to suggest what the heart of the problem might be and point out Agile resources that practitioners could use on their own.

To ensure available access to experts, consultative session time will be divided between attendees. Team discussions with any Agilists attending the program will be encouraged to maximize the sharing of experience and draw out the wisdom of crowds. One-on-one sessions are available on request, but will be time-limited based on attendance (15 minutes typical).

The program will strive to balance utility with fun. Utility will primarily be delivered through actionable insights; fun will be had through passionate exploration of Agile topics in a friendly and collaborative manner.

Our experience over the past three months indicates:

  • A broad spectrum of question/topics has been brought up. Most of the questions revolve around the “hows” of Agile. Some questions address the “whats” of Agile. Precious few get into the “whys” of Agile. Click here for details.
  • Majority of questions apply to the project team level. Only a few address enterprise level issues.
  • Many questions (and the discussions that follow) are actually about the software engineering fabric, not about Agile per se.
  • The “all singing all dancing” format of the sessions seems to work pretty well. It often leads to uncovering questions/issues we had not thought about before.
  • Having said that, we do not really know at this point in time whether some of the participants would have preferred a more traditional 1-1 format.
  • Most participants seem to have already been sold on the benefits of Agile. We do not usually get folks who are struggling with “Waterfall v. Agile” questions.

Most gratifying, some early “return on investment” indicators have been noticed. For example, one of the participants was so kind to send the following note:

Thank y’all for your help with my presentation about Agile to my VP. The meeting went well and we are moving forward with Agile. I’m going to work on a mock-up of a release and project, to show what Agile release planning and budgeting would look like. I’ll get buy-in based on this mock-up from the directors, then move on to a pilot project.
 
This is a huge step for… [company name deleted by IG], one I wouldn’t have predicted 6 months ago. The information and resources available through Agile Austin were essential in making this happen. Thank you for your help!

Written by israelgat

July 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Auctioning on eBay: 2-Hour Remote Pair Programming Session with Kent Beck

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Here is Kent’s own description of the offering:

I have spent thousands of hours remotely pair programming with clients. We cover a broad range of topics, from software process to software design to tool development to application development to theory of programming to economics to… well, pretty much anything we want to talk about that’s related to programming. This is your opportunity to pair program with me remotely for two hours. I am fluent with Java, Eclipse, and Smalltalk, but I am used to pairing on unfamiliar technologies. We can work on testing, design, implementation, review, or whatever other technical topic you would like. I have found that the technology for pair programming can be a bottleneck. It’s easy to spend an hour just getting set up. For purposes of this offer we will use VNC for screen sharing (you host the server) and Skype for audio/video. The programming session will take place within two weeks of the sales date at a mutually agreeable date and time. I look forward to programming with the winner of this auction.

Written by israelgat

June 29, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Posted in The Agile Life