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Posts Tagged ‘Learning Agile

Scale in London – Part II

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What a grand conclusion for a year of Agile Success Tour events! High that my expectations of yesterday’s event in London were, the actual delivery and interaction with the participants surpassed them. As a matter of fact, I have not done as many customer 1-1’s in any of the previous events. Some of the interactions were with folks who came to the event from the continent. Remarkably, various customers stayed after the event to spontaneously dialog with other participants.

Speaking for Memex, Jim Mccumesty established the tone for the whole event. Agile to Jim is about:

  • Making a real difference
  • Changing patterns of individuals and teams
  • Transforming ‘life styles’

Have no mistakes – Jim had a lot of hard methodical and technical data that he shared with the audience. It was clear however that for Jim the whole things is about doing good things through Agile. His passion was contagious.

Trevor Croft viewed the decision to go Agile by Misys as a matter of fitting software methods to business circumstances. Agile was chosen to due to intrinsic characteristics of their Business Intelligence projects. Specifically, Trevor highlighted the following factors:

  • BI requirements would be constantly dynamic in breadth and depth
  • Needed to be quick to market from vision to delivery
  • Higher revenue –> emphasis on innovation
  • Break out of waterfall nexus of first trapping all requirements
  • Highly modularized factory production line approach for delivery

Trevor’s good points resonated with the trend highlighted by other panelists – the emphasis in Agile is moving toward:

  • Delivering the right products; and,
  • Delivering innovative products

Paul Lazarus of SpilGames equated Agile with growth. At the heart of it, SpilGame’s fast expansion from Holland to Poland and China was characteristic of the role Agile plays in the knowledge economy. Projects flow to the teams and to the talent, not the opposite way around.

David Hicks gave impressive highlights from the Nokia/Symbian/RADTAC work on the Symbian operating system over the past ten years:

  • >50 MLOC!
  • In a little over one year they are reaching the level of >1200 software engineers Agiling furiously in >120 teams
  • All these folks/teams on a single software product with synchronized release trains every 8-12 weeks

It is enlightening to combine David’s data with Dean Leffingwell’s reports on his experience at Nokia. The affinity of their insights is remarkable. Dean, in collaboration with Juha-Markus Aalto from Nokia, published an excellent paper on the subject. Moreover, Dean is actually ‘binding’ together his insightful blog posts to publish a new book entitled Agile Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs and the Enterprise. The book will be published by Addison-Wesley in early 2010.

Much more could and should be written about the London event. Until I have the opportunity to do justice to the subject, I will just mention my overarching conclusion from the event. The business interest in Agile in both the UK and in EMEA is as strong as the one in the US, if not stronger.

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Scale in London – Part I

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No, this is not (yet) the report from the Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) in London. You will need to wait another week for my report from this forthcoming event. Rather, this post is to advise folks in the greater London area of a an intriguing thread we will be discussing in the Rally event there on Thursday, October 29.

The choice of companies for the event enabled us to offer participants the full spectrum of Agile scaling experiences, all the way to some 1,200 Scrummers on a single product in one case study. As a result, the richness of the forthcoming panel presentations is unprecedented. Time permitting, we will discuss the following subjects, and then some:

  • Three-layer enterprise Agile model
  • How to maintain integrity of a vertical feature when it has to be delivered by many Scrum ‘component’ teams?
  • Bringing multiple teams and multiple SDLCs together on one workflow
  • Cultural differences vis-a-vis Agile between Belgium, England, Finland, Holland, India, Israel, Poland and China.
  • How do you accomplish Fully Distributed Scrum under the cultural diversity indicated in the previous bullet?
  • The use of deep immersion techniques in Agile
  • The Agile with the Masters paradigm
  • How to maintain the push/pull balance?
  • What limit should be placed on the Daily Commit?
  • Emphasis on innovation – not “just” faster, better, etc.
  • Advantages of Software as a Service (SaaS) in the Agile context
  • How to tie  the Agile initiative to strategic investment considerations?
  • What was the ‘secret sauce’ of BMC’s Agile implementation? How can you apply it in your company/organization?
  • What is likely to be the hottest frontier in Agile during the 2010-2012 period?

One other “ingredient” makes the London event very special. All previous events, gratifying and successful that they were, have been held in the US. The event in London will certainly be different from its US predecessors. In experiences, in interpretations, in points of view, in challenges, in business designs and so on and so forth.

I Look forward to meeting you in London!

Written by israelgat

October 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm

An Omen in Chicago

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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!

The Executive’s Workshop for Scaling Agile to The Enterprise

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Readers of this blog are well aware of my keen interest in enterprise level Agile. I am now offering a specialized workshop for executives on this topic.

The Executive’s Workshop for Scaling Agile to The Enterprise

This one day workshop and free follow-on coaching service prepares executives for their roles in large-scale Agile implementation.

This workshop is ideal for building a shared understanding of your company’s Agile goals and practices amongst members of the leadership team. It illustrates how executives could/should engage in the Agile process in a meaningful manner, and includes strategies for addressing common challenges.  Your team will see how to govern Agile effectively, and most importantly, you’ll learn proven practices for attaining the operational, financial and business benefits of a successful enterprise-level Agile implementation.

Objectives

Agile is shown to cut the cost, improve the flexibility and shorten time-to-market of software-driven projects. Upon completion of this service, executive teams will be able to:

  • Scale Agile to the enterprise level
  • Minimize risks associated with large-scale Agile rollout
  • Apply Agile practices in development and beyond
  • Galvanize the team around a shared, cross-functional Agile vision

Approach

The Executive’s Workshop for Scaling Agile to The Enterprise service is divided into three parts, each designed to help company leaders accelerate their adoption of Agile.

Part I: Preparation via phone interviews and web-based coaching. The workshop leader works with your executive team to gather context, discuss logistics and focus the on-site workshop on your needs.

Part II: One day on-site workshop is delivered through combination of presentation, examples, exercises and participant discussion.

Part III: Free telephone coaching and mentoring with the Workshop Leader for six months after the workshop. The objective is to help executives respond effectively to the challenges they encounter in the course of implementing Agile.

On-Site Workshop Details

Leading an enterprise adoption of Agile requires that you understand the key concepts, principles and practices of Agile without getting bogged down in technical details.  You must learn techniques for handling the expected “noise” associated with organizational change while identifying the critical tasks needing your attention and leadership to succeed. The workshop is designed to address these challenges with a minimal investment of time.

Here is an overview of the key topics you will add to your experience set:

Explaining the Rationale for Agile to Your Company

  • Why now?
  • What is the state of the art in Agile and what is our goal
  • Expected return on our Agile investment

How The Agile Process Fits into Your Company:

  • Understanding Agile as an example of  other common,  iterative, quality-oriented processes
  • How Agile works with other software development life cycle processes
  • How to run a heterogeneous software development environment that mixes Waterfall, Agile and other methods
  • Connecting Agile to your budgeting process
  • How to perform governance and portfolio management with Agile

How to Implement Agile:

  • Choosing suitable projects for Agile methods
  • Rollout strategies that mitigate risks
  • Keeping departments aligned during the Agile rollout
  • Defining the social contract for Agile
  • How to make Agile sustainable in your particular culture
  • How Agile impacts your partner eco-system
  • Succeeding with off-shoring and outsourcing

Setting Up The Agile Enterprise:

  • Determining your performance metrics for Agile
  • How to negotiate Agile contracts
  • Achieving breakthrough innovation through Agile
  • Business designs that utilize the power of Agile

Price and Availability

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.

Depth in Seattle

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To summarize it in one word, the October 1 Rally Agile Success Tour (AST) event in Seattle, WA was deep. Broad spectrum of topics – from CMMI  and SOX to Lean and “Lean+”; very knowledgeable participants; insightful panelists; plenty of hard Agile data; questions on real needs; dialogues that led to unexpected findings; and, 1-1 meetings focused on actions that could/should be taken after the event. Just like the recent AST event in Boston, MA, there was vibrancy in the air.

Getty’s Jeff Oberlander quantified the progress they made on fairly large scale releases (~900 user stories), shortening time-to-market (TTM) from 24 month to 4 months. He indicated this impressive change in time-to-market occurred in parallel with improvement in quality. Reader of this post might want to take a look at Chapter 1 of Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith for a quantitative analysis of the correlation between the two (TTM and quality).

The impressive results reported by Jeff were supported by the classification given by Liberty Mutual’s Steven Johnson. Steven observes three kinds of projects, as follows:

  • Grass roots initiatives. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 2/3 Old TTM}.
  • Organized pilots. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 1/2 Old TTM}.
  • Overall R&D transformation. Such projects typically lead to: {New TTM = 1/3 Old TTM}.

From what I know of David Rico’s forthcoming book The Business Value of Agile Software Methods, the results reported by Steven are consistent with David’s findings.

Boeing’s Ryan Kleps focused on the impact of Agile methods on developer satisfaction. He presented the following data from a survey conducted in Boeing:

  • 30% improvement in satisfaction with respect to tools
  • 25% improvement in satisfaction with respect to involvement
  • 10% improvement in satisfaction with respect to trust

Interestingly, Ryan indicated that various “pirates” were starting to do Agile at Boeing as a result of the higher level of satisfaction noted above. We did not have the opportunity to cross-correlate data from Boeing with data from Liberty Mutual. My intuitive sense is that Ryan’s “pirates” and Jeff’s “grass roots initiatives” are synonymous.

thePlatform’s Reena Kawal and Microsoft’s Stein Dolan provided insights that are not often reported. Reena analyzed the much improved ability to assess trade-offs from a customer perspective. Stein highlighted how effective emulation can be in enabling teams to deal with code that has not been written yet. Their thoughts were vividly complemented by the 4X100 relay race metaphor given by Ryan: only 1 sprinter “works” at any point in time, while 3 are “idle”. Yet, there is no faster way to get the baton to the finish line…

One part of the event that was particularly gratifying to me was the role playing during the breakout session entitled “Socializing Agile with Your Executives.” Stein and I played the role of mean executives who do not get Agile. Participants in the session who played the role of the inspired Agile champion beat us up pretty effectively. As a matter of fact, one of the participants – CyberSource’s Tom Perry – gave the report from this breakout session to the whole audience when we reconvened. He delivered a very effective “why you should do Agile in spite of all your misgivings” message.

As indicated in a recent post, the AST “train” stops in Chicago, IL on the 15 of October. We are quite likely to address specialized topics that have not been brought up in previous events. The makeup of the panel in Chicago is unlike any of the nine panels I have prepped so far…

Toward Vertical Approach to Agile

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Yesterday we held a great Rally Agile Success Tour (AST)  event in Seattle (which I will describe in a subsequent post). On the 15th we will be doing the AST event in Chicago. This post is about an intriguing element of the forthcoming Chicago event.

Every one of the 9 events we held so far (click here for sample video clips from the events) was unique in some ways. The demographics in Atlanta, GA were not like those in Boston, MA. The issues brought up in Los Angeles, CA were different from those in Washington, DC. The panelists in New York, NY addressed a set of topics that did not come to the fore in the Santa Clara, CA event. Each event was characterized by locality of reference – topics, discussions, breakout sessions and 1-1 meetings that were of relevance and importance in the context of the local Agile community.

Having worked with the Chicago panelists in preparation for the forthcoming event, my sense is that we will immerse the participants (and ourselves, of course) in a set of Agile/Lean challenges that could be quite different from those we addressed in other cities. Some very unique companies are represented in the panel we will hold in Chicago.

I actually consider Chicago on the 15th a potential pivot in deepening our understanding of the way Agile applies to various verticals. We are progressing from a horizontal approach to applying Agile toward a more vertical assimilation. The differences between the two might be subtle, but they are all important for the success of the Agile champion.

Written by israelgat

October 2, 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Events

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