Tuesday, September 30, 2008

November Scrum Breakfast: SwissICT and the Journey to Agile

The SwissICT, largest IT and Communications association in Switzerland, has agreed to support an initiative from Ueli Kleeb, Reto Maduz (to name just of few the the interested people at Zühlke) and myself to form Specialist Group ("Fachgruppe") Lean-Agile-Scrum.

The November Scrum Breakfast will serve double duty as the founding meeting for the Lean-Agile-Scrum Group. All people interesting in promoting and developing Agile and related practices are invited to join us.

For a special event, a special keynote: Manfred Reindl, Vice President Engineering for Borland’s Lifecycle Quality Management division in Linz will discuss with us:

The Journey Towards Agile

While agile practices are starting to make their way into large enterprises, in most instances this has been a “bottom up” movement driven through grassroots efforts. But, as success stories draw attention to the benefits of agile practices, an increasing number of executives are considering making a company-wide agile transition of the R&D organization.

What does an agile transition look like when it comes as a mandate from the top? How do you scale agile principles from a single team to an enterprise with multiple teams working on multiple projects? How can the use of development tools help to implement Agile in an organization? How to track the progress on agile maturity?

Manfred Reindl shares practical answers to these questions, addressing issues such as the role of management in creating an agile culture, establishing new roles such as Scrum Masters and Product Owners and how to introduce Agile in geographical distributed organizations. Manfred provides insight that can help you translate agile principles from theory into practice for your enterprise.

Bio – Manfred Reindl

Manfred Reindl is Vice President Engineering for Borland’s Lifecycle Quality Management division, driving the development of tools and solutions for Test Management, Functional Testing and Load Testing. He is a key contributor for the transition of Borland’s Engineering to Agile development.

Prior to Borland, Mr Reindl ran at Segue Software an Engineering lab for the development of software testing tools, and as the SVP Engineering he was a key participant in the development of Segue's corporate strategy. Mr. Reindl brings over 25 years experience in the software development industry. In 1992, he co-founded ARC - developing and marketing SQLBench, one of the first load testing products for client/server applications. Prior to forming ARC, he was Assistant Professor in the database group at the Institute of Economic Informatics at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria. Mr. Reindl holds an MS in Computer Science and a Ph.D. in Business Informatics.


Date: November 5, 2008
Doors open: 8.00
Presentation: 8.35 to 9.20, followed by discussion until 10.00
SwissICT Lean-Agile-Scrum group founders meeting, 10.00 to 12.00.
Location namics ag, konradstrasse 12/14, 8005 Zurich (ZH, Switzerland) 
Language: English or German


Please register via xing.

If you cannot attend in person, this talk will be broadcast live as a webinar

Please register separately for the SwissICT Lean Agile Scrum Founder's Meeting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What is Agile?

I almost didn't go to the Agile Business Conference in London, but I am glad I did.

My introduction to Agile was Scrum, through which I discovered XP and Lean. Artem reported from Toronto that Agile seemed to be focusing around Scrum and XP, and that the two factions were putting their internal rivalries behind them and calling the results 'Agile'.

Scrum and XP were not very visible at this conference. Present yes, for instance in the Keynote from Borland, but both ceded the limelight in deference to DSDM, the host of the event.

I discovered agile is a much wider than 'just' Scrum and XP, so wide that it risks turning into a bandwagen and losing all meaning. Many methodologies and frameworks were present, including DSDM, RUP (an excellent presentation from BJSS discussed developing a real time trading system using what was clearly RUP, even though they didn't call it by name), and OpenUP.

OpenUP is an attempt to turn RUP, a humungous methodology which usually needs extensive tailoring, into a slim framework which can be complemented with useful practices. However if they really want to end the "Process Wars," OpenUP's proponents should send fewer barbs and FUD in the direction of Scrum. At this point, I should probably refrain from saying that you can tell this comes from IBM. Oops.

I even heard one company say, 'we eliminated most documentation, so now we are agile.' Dilbert lives.

There were several really excellent talks, including three keynotes, and the discussions in the halls was just amazing. I learned a lot and met many interesting people! I even learned that RUP can be agile, and it is possible to develop successful projects with it.

What are my key learnings?
  • Agile is first and foremost about values. Honesty, openness, trust, courage and a responsible attitude towards money. Values are an excellent place to start the agile discussion with top management, particularly since the symptoms are magnified at that level.
  • Adopting agile values is the place to start. It is a strategic decision by top management. It is in their interest, even though they will need some convincing
  • The dangers of just 'doing agile' are substantial. So use a name brand framework and follow it to the letter for your first agile projects. As you do it, that framework will evolve to meet the needs and character of your organization. But if you start off by improvising, you will end up with a mess.
  • As a manager, start doing Scrum as the first concrete step in this direction. Scrum is a simple management practice to effectively organize teams. It's OK to start with small steps to build confidence. As confidence increases, Scrum can be applied in a broader context.
  • XP is the next step. (If you're a developer, start here, but try to get some sponsorship from higher up). The teams are encouraged to introduce solid engineering practices. XP's vision of a tightly integrated customer is what a Scrum Product-Owner should evolve into.
  • Lean principles provide additional important context for making good decisions to improve effectiveness, but don't get preoccupied with getting too lean too quickly.
Where will this take us? Agile offers a vision of dramatically improved communication, because the impediments to communication (e.g. mistrust) are removed. Dramatically improved effectiveness and productivity will follow.

What would it be like, when IT's ability to deliver value were not the limiting factor in your company's ability to deliver new value to your customers? It could happen and agile is making it happen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

8 Questions for Your CEO

Have you been wondering how to get your CEO's attention long enough to have a conversation about agile? Here are 8 questions, inspired by Rob Thomsett, long time Agile Evangelist and keynote speaker at this year's Agile Business Conference in London:
  1. Are project management and development free of bureaucracy?
  2. Are projects delivered fast enough?
  3. Are the project business cases well developed and managed?
  4. Is the level of transparency around projects sufficient?
  5. Are Steering Committees effective?
  6. Are the progress reports you receive accurate?
  7. Have you ever been, or do you expect to be ambushed about a project you are sponsoring?
Chances are good your top management will answer 'no' to most if not all of these questions, except for the last one. These are all symptoms of disease. This disease has no name, but it is closed, dishonest and distrustful. It poisons the atmosphere and prevents effective communication.

Agile is about openness, honesty, trust, courage, and an ethical attitude towards money. Agile can cure the disease, but is not without side effects: a dramatic cultural change in your company.

By asking the questions, you should have gotten his attention. The eighth question is, 'do you want the cure?'

BTW - Ambushed means that a peer (i.e. rival in the company) learned bad news about your project before you did and surprised you with it in meeting in front of all your peers. Very embarrassing. Operational staff often learns about an ambush through a very heated discussion with said top manager after the fact.

Update - Have you tried these questions on your CEO or executive management? How did it go?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Scrum Courses for Teams & Early Adopters

This fall I will be offering two public courses on Scrum, both in Zurich, Switzerland (Schweiz) and in German, a revised Agile Project Management with Scrum ("APMS"), once as an afternoon course and once as an intensive course.

APMS is an introduction to Scrum for developers, project leaders, business analysts and program managers who want get started with Scrum. After completing this course, your head will understand Scrum, your stomach will have digested why Scrum works, and your hands will be able to do Scrum.

The afternoon course is configured esspecially for early adopters who can't really get away from their day jobs. The course is spread over 4 afternoons on two consecutive weeks. So you can take the course and still pay attention to you day job. Monday and Thursday afternoons from October 27 through November 6. Check out the course description.

For teams: A full time course for people and teams who prefer intensive training. Two days of hands on training to get that "Wow!" effect as quickly as possible. December 4 and 5. Check out the course description.

The contents of both courses are identical. Choose your course depending on which format is better for you.

You can now register online for both courses. Register early for discount pricing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scrum Course Retrospective: Team Training Rocks!

What do we do well Last Week I held two open courses on Scrum: Agile Project Management with Scrum and Scrum Sprint Zero. Both took place here in beautiful downtown Zurich, Switzerland. The participants learned about Scrum but they also learned about the potential that a team can unleash under the right conditions.

Ball Point Game

2nd Round  - The Group comes closer together Third round, new topologyLast Round, passes are more reliable
The ball point came was a fascinating example of how teams can self organize to improve themselves. The team must produce something with tennis balls (let's just call them points for the moment). After getting an explanation how to produce points, the group estimates how many they can achieve.

The first individual estimate was 8. The first group estimate as 24. They took bets on whether 24 could be exceeded. Their first run was 18. After 4 runs, they accomplished 67 and their best run was 75 - nearly 10 times the original estimate and 4 times the first run. How did they achieve this? Inspect and adapt, i.e. using the basics of Scrum.

Sprint Zero

Those who stayed for the second course experienced "Zero and One," a simulated a project start up with Scrum. Sprint Zero: getting an initial product backlog and getting ready to start, and Sprint One - producing the first increment of functionality.

During Sprint Zero, the group was trying to figure out how to work together: Who is the boss? What do we have to do?. By Sprint One, the group had come together as a team. They got into the grove and produced startling results. I just watched in amazement.

Participant's Reaction

The participants were very satisfied with the course. All participants felt they could recommend the course. 2/3rds or more gave the courses top note -- ":-)" -- for overall satisfaction. High points included the ball point game, the retrospective as introduction to the Scrum, the open discussion about real cases, and the practical exercises.

Next Courses

The true teacher learns from his students. The next Agile Project Management with Scrum course will focus on the team learning to work together as a team and with Scrum. So "Zero and One" will be moved into that course. The advanced planning topics will be taught in a separate course, Agile Planning and Estimating.

For your calendars:
  • Agile Project Management with Scrum - for early adopters and others who cannot take two whole days off. October 27 and 30, November 3 and 6, from 15.00 to 19.00
  • Agile Project Management with Scrum - for teams who want learn Scrum and unleash their inner potential, December 4 and 5, 2008, 8.30 to 17.00
  • Agile Estimating and Planning - planning and estimating agile projects, for IT consumers and suppliers. Decenmber 11, 2008, 8.30 to 17.00
All courses will be held in Zürich, Switzerland (Schweiz) and in German. Prices and registration info will follow shortly.

Last but not least

All the photos from the course can be found on flickr. The links that I promised the class will be posted later today as a comment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

October Scrum Breakfast in Zürich: Projects Unsuitable for Agile?

The October Scrum Breakfast will once again address the theme of Scrum in the real world, this time examining the conflict between traditional "plan driven" and agile process models. A list of the topics:
  • Are there projects for which traditional plan driven process models are more appropriate, or where agile methods cannot effectively be applied?
  • What are the differences and commonalities between agile and plan driven processes?
  • Is it possible to combine the two into a 'best of both worlds' approach?
Daniel Tobler is a Software Architect at Zühlke Engineering AG. Through his daily work, he comes in contact with software projects for many different companies, which use different various process models. His work focuses mostly on interdiciplinary projects, which include hardware, software and mechanical engineering. He has been using Scrum (or elements of Scrum since 2002).

Daniel Tobler developed the latest Zühlke-Poster (SW Processes Today), which is the basis for the talk. He also teaches Object Oriented Design and Agile Software Development for the Master of Advanced Studies Program.

His talk will not mince words, so we should have an intense discussion after the talk. As usual, namics will sponsor the coffee, croissants and orange juice!

Date: 1 Octobber 2008
Time: Doors Open at 8:00, Talk from 8.35 to around 9.15. Forma Discusssion finished at 1:.00
Place: namics zürich, konradstrass 12/14, 8005 zürich, switzerland (schweiz)
2 Minutes Walk from Zürich HB, Near Tram Stop Sihlquai/HB

This talk will be given in German!

Friday, September 12, 2008

ETH Radar Station: A dieu

I received a sad email this week. The ETH weather radar will be taken off line this fall to make room for some sort of guest house. It's hard for me to judge the importance of this radar station to the ETH, its students and faculty. I'm sure it was substantial.

As an example of a valuable public service, it ranks up with there with the time table information of the SBB or ZVV. Metradar.ch provides free, up-to-date weather radar for most of Switzerland, in a form that is quick and easy to access either from a browser or an internet capable handy. The delay is negligible and the service is free.

As I pilot, I have used it to make pre-flight decisions about whether it is safe to take off. As a hiker in the Swiss alps I have used it to make decisions about whether to seek shelter, continue the picnic or attempt to descend the slopes. Living in a 120 year old building with leaky windows, I use it to decide whether to batton down the hatches when a storm is approaching.

Yes, the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, otherwise known as MeteoSwiss, will provide this information for a fee or with a 30 minute delay, but an ETH spin off did it without delay and for free. 

According the this announcement, they hope that the web site metradar.ch will continue to be active using data from MeteoSwiss. I can't help but believe that MeteoSwiss will be happy to see this service go, or become a fee-based service, kind of like the way all DSL providers have to buy their service from Swisscom. 

I hope Dr. Willi Schmid and his team at metradar.ch and meteoradar.ch find a new location for the radar station. Although I never met the station personally, I will be there at the "Going Away" party, to pay my respects.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Fredi Schmidli led an interesting discussion on the challenges of offshoring.

We covered a full range of topics from the opportunities to the different business models to cultural issues and how to do hiring.

Personally, the cultural aspect was one of the most interesting (non-)issue was the cultural aspects. A C++ programmer in Brazil probably has more in common with a C++ programmer in Switzerland than say a university professor with a construction worker in either country.

The hardest part about talking about your own company is not getting into "proud parent mode" and Fredi showed excellent restraint, by presenting the business, what works for them, and what doesn't work. With another player in the same market and project leader from a large insurance company in the room, it made for a rich exchange of information.

We talked about a few links today:
Thank you Fredi and also for swissITbridge's sponsoring of the Webinar infrastructure.