Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I Learned at the AGILE 2010 Conference

Posted on behalf of Harsh Sabikhi,
Customer Solutions Engineer, MKS Inc.

Day 3 - Thursday, August 12th

Today I concentrated on learning more about Kanban, Scrum, and how it scales to large organizations. I truly believe Kanban is the next "buzz" or "flavor" in the developer community. I have been thinking of how to extend our current Agile solution to support Kanban. From a metrics standpoint, we can easily add support.

I also attended a session on managing your requirements separate from your user stories. I got a few ideas that I will prototype. The authors were suggesting a maturity model for requirements and only those that are fully scoped should turn into backlog items.

Day 2 - Wednesday, August 11th

General Observation
Most of the people here including the purist are very anti-tooling for some things. They look at tools as a nice to have. The interaction of a whiteboard leads to team collaboration hence better Agile teams. This is why Rally's of the world provide interactive storyboards. But some purists still think this is "fluff".

I had a conversation the Marketing Manager at Hansoft. They have a product very similar to ours which is a platform rather than a solution. Hansoft's value proposition is similar to ours as well: they can manage both Agile, Waterfall, lean, and Kanban projects. What they lack is a version control, and full RM capabilities. They integrate with CVS, perforce, and Subversion.

I met with a Corporate Account Manager based in Atlanta. They recently went to a SaaS model for trials and small customers only. I have briefly talked about this internally but we should seriously look at this and come up with a strategy. I think majority of the Agile vendors have a free trial/eval and we should consider this.

AppFolio Inc. - based in Santa Barbara, CA.
Met with the Scrum Master at AppFolio. They have a team of 20 developers. They are primarily using Excel.

Sessions for today:
Lean and Agile - This was a panel discussion about how to use Lean principles within Agile. The experts all agreed and said Agile is a subset of Lean. What was great and something we should look at developing are "Lean" type metrics. For example, Cycle Time - how long does it take to deliver a feature and not just a User Story in a time-boxed iteration? Management can see and track at the feature level and commit to their end customers on a timeline. Along the metrics conversation, testing was mentioned again.

Managing your product backlog
This session was okay. They just talked about visualizing your backlog and using charts such as priority (x-axis) and cost (y-axis) both measured in story points. The key here was that there are different patterns of shifting priorities.

Portfolio Management
In this session they talked about different allocations of products (New, Now, and Platform) and how we should use different techniques for each. New should use Agile, Now should use Lean and Platform should use Kanban. In addition, sustaining projects should use Lean because you want to deliver slight more value but also manage risk and resources.

Agile Program Management
This session was not what I expected. We did a simulation and created a basket and flowers! The goal was to show multiple project teams working from different backlogs towards a single Program initiative.

Day 1 - Tuesday, August 10th

Meetings for today:
I met with the Offshore Principle from Thoughtworks during my last session of the day. We exchanged business cards and I gave him some collateral on our solution. Thoughtworks is an IT consulting organization.

At the end of the day, I also met with an Analyst from VDC Research. I gave him an overview of Integrity and our platform. Also told him the competitive advantages of our Agile solution and gave him a brief demo. VDC would like MKS to sponsor their "Software & System Lifecycle Management Tools" research.

9 AM - Agile 2010 Keynote session with Dave Thomas
  • There was a lot of talk around Test Driven Development and Continuous Integration. In general, he was anti-tooling. I have been thinking about this for a while as well and would like to understand where we stand with this especially CI. It will be beneficial for us in the field to have great examples of an integration with Hudson for example.

  • Dave talked about Sprint 0 which is a learning sprint for a new Agile team. RBC called this out in their process framework document as well.

  • Learned teams should plan at only 80% of their capacity during Sprint Planning

  • Learned Lean is a top down process whereas, Agile is a bottom up.

  • Cumulative Flow Diagrams are being used by a lot of end customers now because this gives them a full end-to-end trend analysis on all system artifacts (Time spent on User Stories, remaining effort on tasks, defects, etc). They typically do this by exporting to Excel. I don't think we can do this in Integrity anytime soon so I have an idea for this. Basically utilize our Export to Excel.

  • Learned an interesting concept that feature backlog is measured in business values whereas, a component backlog is measured in feature values.
11:00 AM - Upstream Kanban session
  • Kanban is quantitative workflow management. It is about mapping the "value stream". It is similar to Agile but encompasses high-level managers in the organization to work in a single team.

  • Kanban uses an interactive story/task board just like scrum with a few changes. Each stage has a "Work In Progress" limit. Kanban limits the amount of work that can be pulled in from upstream marketing organizations to development because it uses a "pull" method.

  • Advantage is this interactive board is visible to marketing which has a downstream view on the activities R&D is working on and vice versa.

  • Advantage of Kanban is also executives get a report that shows how many calendar days a feature will take from SLA t o Production.
1:30 PM - Lean Pyramid
  • Lean principles - deliver a continuous flow of value to the end customer. Create a learning organization and a continuous improving organization.

  • Lean is about communicating the "vision" from the key stakeholders in the form of requirements or Epics down to User Stories in R&D.

  • Learned an interesting concept of categorizing user stories in a "Canoe Analysis".

  • Talked about WIP again and got me thinking how we can do this in Integrity.

  • A "Cleaner" role might be needed for cross-team collaboration. The "Cleaners" role is just to re-factor component code.

  • TDD was mentioned again and so were CFD.
3:30 PM - Agile in distributed environment
  • This was more of a hands-on technical session. Not what I was expecting.

  • We spent an hour talking about "Development practices" such as XP, TDD, FDD and how they scale to distributed teams. What the challenges are and how to overcome them.

  • We also learned the difference between Distributed Teams and Dispersed teams.
Plan for the rest of the week will be for me to concentrate on "Business" tracks. This is the first time I have attended, so I am learning to focus on each track. I think the business track will help me with the industry trends and how other organizations are doing things. This can then help us shape our product for the future.

Visit MKS to see our solution for the Agile environment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caterina, I'm trying to get a hold of the instructions for the flower-basket-making workshop at last Fall's agile conference (for something similar I'd like to do in my office). If you still have the docs, could you post them somewhere or even just take photos of them and post a link to them in a twitter mention (@BennyHauk)? I've reach out to Johanna but haven't heard back yet. -Benny

July 18, 2011 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Caterina McLean said...

Hi Benny,
We don't have any docs per say, as this was a live exercise performed at the conference. But this was considered a common practice for Agile Consulting Companies that they use for working Agile Teams. Please visit the Berteig Consulting link for more information: http://www.berteigconsulting.com/ScrumCSMOpenAgileKanbanJuly2011MarkhamTorontoOntarioCanada
Posted on behalf of Harsh Sabikhi

July 19, 2011 at 2:42 PM  

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