Agile Australia 2009 Conference Report

I had the pleasure to attend Australia’s inaugural Agile Conference in Sydney supported by the Agile Alliance.  It was a 2 day event on 15-16 October.  Being the first Agile Conference in Australia, the key theme centered around Agile Adoption and how companies have adopted Agile; Why companies have adopted agile; and Issues and Challenges faced by companies in their adoption of Agile.

It was a very good conference with the ability to network and share ideas with other people during the breaks who are also working on their Agile adoption in their own companies.  I have taken some key messages from the conference to help with the Agile adoption initiatives I am working on within HP Enterprise Services.  I am already looking forward to next year’s event.

One of the more inspiring session I attended was the keynote on the 2nd day, Increasing Business value through simplicity (Lean and Agile) by Jeff Smith, CIO of Suncorp.  Jeff provided the Executive sponsorship and the vision for “Living Agile” as a way to infuse organisational simplicty into the DNA of Suncorp through the introduction of Agile and Lean principles and methodologies.  Any organisation would benefit having an Executive like Jeff to help drive their Agile adoption.  I highly recommend you watching this inspiring video!!

The other sessions I attended with some key summaries:

DAY 1

  • Panel – The journey towards the Agile enterprise; discussion on the Agile adoption journey by the respective panalist’s organisation.
    • The journey needs active executive support which permeates through the enterprise.
    • “Agile is about teams doing extraordinary things with ordinary people”.
  • 12 Agile Adoption failure modes (Keynote Day 1) by Jean Tabaka, Rally Software; based on her experience it outlines that Agile does not fail.  It is the Agile adoption mode that fails.  Organisations need to stop the denial that waterfall is really deliverying value. Most of the 12 points are quite common when adopting Agile (yes, I have experienced some of it):
  1. Checkbook commitment doesn’t support organisational change management.  Executives provide checkbook commitment to Agile without actually supporting the Agile adoption (unengaged).  Same metrics are used and it continues the illiusion that software development is very deterministic.
  2. Culture doesn’t support change.  Governance is Conformance; Standard of work is static; detailed documentation; PMO are enforcers.
  3. Do not have retrospectives.  Or they are done, but actions that are identified are ignored or there is no action.
  4. Infrastructure to support the team is ignored or inadequate and architecture becomes unstable.
  5. Lack of full planning participation.  If the right people are not part of the planning you will not get the right commitment.
  6. No or too many product owners.
  7. Bad Scrum Masters.  Scrum Masters that are Command and Control.
  8. Not having an onsite evangelist/coach at remote teams.
  9. Team lacking authority.  Empowered teams amplify learning.
  10. Testing not pulled forward.
  11. Traditional performance appraisals that reward individual heroics.
  12. Revert to old ways of doing things.  Change is hard.
  • What’s it take to make an Agile transition? by Shane Hastie, Software Education; focuses on the premise that Agile is a culture, not a methodology.  The talk examines the organisational, cultural and individual changes needed for a business to successfully embrace Agile.
  • Panel – Waterfall is from Mars, Agile is from Venus; panel discussion centered around bridging understanding and communication between Waterfall organisations and Agile teams.  I didn’t get too much out of this session.
  • Taking the Leap of Faith by Mike Allen; this was a good presentation that described the Agile journey that was used to deliver a large application transformation program.  It starts with hiring the right people, providing the right office environment (the organisation spent money to reorganise the office to be more collaborative), provide the proper training and use the right tools.   The Program started off as waterfall, but being a large program there was a lot inertia to get the program moving so Agile was introduced – Agile gets you moving.  You may move in the wrong direction, but that is ok.  Agile gets you back on course quickly.
  • Better Software Faster! by Michael Milewski; another presentation on how realestate.com.au started the Agile adoption journey. It all started with a pilot project.
  • Bringing IT back from the brink by Nigel Dalton; discussion on how Lonely Planet’s IT department was not delivering and how it used Agile to transform their organisation and brought the IT department back from the brink.  Nigel introduced “Watergile” – when you dangerously mix waterfall with Agile – “it’ll drive you mad”.  It was interesting to hear how Agile is used in a non-IT context in their new guidebook product development.
  • Panel – Distributed Agile;  Distributed agile has challenges.  Expect more travel and travel costs, but this is is offset by the long term benefits it brings.  Despite the challenges, distributed Agile is better than waterfall for projects with changing requirements & uncertainty.  Distributed Agile means you need to pay more attention to the challenges, but the Agile practices itself will help improve the challenges.  e.g. through retrospectives.  Going distributed, 3 of the 4 Agile Manifesto values are compromised.

Day 2

  • Lean and Agile in the large – principles and experiences for large scale software development by Dave Thomas; this was a good presentation by Dave Thomas who was one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto and founding member of the Agile AllianceThis presentation is worth watching. One metaphor I liked:

    Successful software development is about a winning culture

    • Software is a team sport, & like team sports, practice, constructive peer feedback & coaching are essential.
    • Winning teams need to implicitly know the moves of each player, as well as the movements of the team as a whole.
    • The ultimate expression of process is a culture where building software is more like playing Jazz!!  People just do it!!!
  • Understanding just-in-time requirements to support Lean software development by Martin Kearns; content of this presentation is self-explanatory from the tile.  I didn’t get too much out of this that I didn’t already know.
  • Lean thinking for Lean times by Alan Beacham and Jason Yip;  discussed how Kanban is used to manage workflow in Agile projects.
  • The inter-sprint break by Simon Bristow; this presentation discussed the introduction of the inter-sprint break – a period between the end of the Scrum sprint and the beginning of the next.  This concept was very similar to a previous project I have worked on and I would recommend introducing such a concept.
  • Being Agile at the Google scale by Dhanji Prasanna; this was a very technical presentation with much of it not about Agile.  It was interesting to note that Google do not follow a specific agile method (eg. Scrum, XP, DSDM, etc).  Instead Google base the way they approach work on the Agile Manifesto value “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.  Google also has a fundamental prinicple: “Maximising the amount of work…..NOT done.  a.k.a. Simplicity.”
  • Agile mistakes and how to avoid them by Rown Bunning; was very similar to Jean Tabaka’s keynote on Day 1 where Rowan outlined some of the common mistakes in adopting Agile.  He presented the Agile Metaphor:  “Agile development is like teenage sex.  Only 10% who say they are doing it, are actually doing it.  And those who are actually doing it, are doing it wrong.”

One Comment on “Agile Australia 2009 Conference Report

  1. Pingback: We’re here to change the world – Reflections on Agile Australia 2015 | HI, I'M CHRIS CHAN

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