Agile Tour Toronto (October 20, 2009)

On Tuesday, October 20, 2009, I attended the inaugural Agile Tour Toronto conference.  As a certified Project Management Professional, I strongly make use of Agile as part of my project management methodology.  I intend to get my SCRUM Master certification later this year to compliment my PMP.

Agile software development is a methodology responsible for significant improvements across key metrics.  Of those surveyed, a vast majority agreed that they saw significant improvements in productivity (82%), quality (77%), and stakeholder satisfaction (78%) by adopting an Agile culture.  Agile focuses on iterative development by self-organizing cross-functional teams.  This enables the team to deliver working software that primarily meets the business priorities while minimizing wasted effort and bureaucratic overhead.

The Agile Manifesto outlines the principles of the Agile methodology.  The manifesto was written by seventeen of the leading Agile Methodologists back in 2001.  Their goal was to provide a lighter development methodology as an alternative to Waterfall approach.  The principles of Agile are found in Extreme Programming, Scrum, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature Driven Development, and Pragmatic programming.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on

the right, we value the items on the left more.

Twelve Principles of Agile Software

Agile Tour 2009 was taking place in 17 cities around the world.  Within Canada, Montreal and Quebec were also hosting an Agile Tour event.  The Toronto event took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Not to be outdone, the Waterfall community had their own conference in Niagara Falls on April 1, 2006.  Due to its sequential presentation format, their conference should be completed any year now.  The conference features separate tracks to ensure no collaboration between business units.

This entry provides an overview of the Agile Tour 2009 Toronto conference.  Additional entries will delve deeper into the sessions that I attended.  If you know of other blog entries from this event, please link to them via the comment section.

My Thoughts Enclosed…Rb

Agile Tour Toronto

Agile Tour Toronto was coordinated by both the XPToronto/Agile User Group and the Toronto Agile User Group.  Both user groups have free monthly meetings that are well attended by GTA code-dwellers.  The two groups formed the Toronto Agile Software Development Community for the purpose of promoting Agile within the industry.  The new non-profit organization oversaw Agile Tour Toronto with primary sponsorship from intelliware and Microsoft.  With its large local following and talented speakers, the event quickly sold out (Blog).

Keynote: Agility at Scale: Agile Software Development in the Real World (Scott W. Ambler from IBM)

The Agile Tour Toronto keynote speaker was Scott W. Ambler.  Scott is the Chief Methodologist/Agile for IBM’s Software Group.  He has co-authored nineteen books on relevant Agile topics.  He is also responsible for numerous Agile methodologies.  These include Agile Modeling (AM), Agile Data (AD), Agile Unified Process (AUP), Enterprise Unified Process (EUP), and Agile Process Maturity Model (APMM).  Scott W. Ambler focuses on resolving the scaling issues on Agile.  Scott contribute heavily on the subject via his blog: Agility@Scale: Strategies for …

Scott W. Ambler keynote addressed the emerging growth of Agile within larger Enterprise projects.  Scott has been spending significant resources researching the means to scale Agile.  He discussed complex Agile issues such as large distributed development teams, regulatory compliance and governance.  Scott also shared insightful survey data on the adoption rate and success rate of Agile.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts of Scott’s keynote speech in a separate entry.

Adam Goucher posted an entry on Scott’s keynote (Blog)

Open Space (Alistair McKinnel)

Open Space was a new concept introduced to me.  The Agile Tour Toronto Open Space was coordinated by Alistair McKinnell.  Held in parallel to the presentation, the Open Space sessions were attendee defined.  The Open Space Technology approach highlights the self-organizing nature of Agile.  The informal nature of Open Space, was only formalized through the use of a wall-grid for scheduling and location purposes.  Attendees were invited to post topics of interest in empty time slots.  Fellow attendees attended the round-table discussions of their choice.  The actual discussions were self-led and moderated accordingly.  At the end of the conference, a designate presented their highlights and resolution to the rest of the attendees.

In the future, I plan on making better use of the Open Space format.  I found the four principles and one law of Open Space quite insightful.  The four principles of the Open Space philosophy are:

  • Whoever comes is the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it’s over, it’s over

The only rule governing an Open Space meeting, is the “Law of Two Feet.  This law states that “if at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go to some other place where you may learn and contribute.”

Kanban Sessions

Outside of the Open Space sessions, the conference featured numerous presentations on diverse Agile topics.  The conference program had multiple tracks targeting those new to Agile, the more advanced practitioners, and management in general.  To coordinate attendance of the individual sessions, the organizers implemented the Kanban technique.  Kanban is Japanese for a signboard/billboard and is used extensively at Toyota.

Kanban cards were printed for each of the available sessions.  Only a fix amount of cards existed for each session.  This ensured that each session would be limited to the capacity of the room.  The attendees were thus aware in advance if a session was at capacity and could pick an alternative ahead of time.  Each Kanban card had the title of the presentation, who was presenting it, what room the session took place in, and what time the session started and ended.  On the back of the card, was an out-of-ten rating scale and comment sections.  Using a “perfection game” the attendees indicated what they liked and what could be done to make it perfect in the future.  Attendees needed to present their card to enter the room and submitted their completed survey upon exit.

OLOMP Session Overviews

Given the fact that each session was limited in audience size, the organizers made use of the OLOMP technique.  OLOMP is an acronym for “Opening Less than One Minute Presentation.”  Each presenter was given 45 seconds to promote their session and outline its focus.  This provided valuable guidance to the conference attendees in selecting their Kanban session cards.

At the end of the conference, the organizers elaborated on OLOMP for the closing remarks.  Within the same 45 second limit, the session attendees were asked to stand up and present their comments to the rest of the attendees.  In addition to the “perfection game” comments on the Kanban cards, the presenters left the conference with valuable insight to perfect their presentation.

From Start to Success with Web Automation (Adam Goucher from Zerofootprint)

Adam Goucher is a software testing professional and an active member of the Association for Software Testing.  Adam presented the test automation tool Selenium as a solution to the bad reputation of GUI testing.  By leveraging lessons learned, Adam discussed what makes for a successful automated test from both a Technical and Non-Technical tester point of view.

A Gentle Introduction to Agile (Michael Sahota from Agilitrix)

Michael Sahota is an Agile and Lean practices coach with eight years experience.  Michael removed the confusion around the clutter of Agile methodologies.  By using Waterfall for context, he guided the audience through the history of interactive development.  The audience left the session with a better understanding of the principles of Agile.

A Product Backlog is Not Enough (Gil Broza from 3PVantage)

Gil Broza is an Agile coach who has assisted twenty companies with their implementation and transition.  Gil blended the lines between formal PMP processes and informal Agile philosophies.  He outlined that even using Agile, there remains a strong need for Project Charters, Mission and Vision Statements.  Through these added artifacts the team would maintain a stronger focus and business alignment while remain Agile.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts on this session in a separate entry.

The Pomodoro Show: Plan Your Free Time (Gino Marckx from xodiac)

Gino Marckx has been active in both the Canadian and Belgian Agile community.  Gino introduced us to the Pomodoro Technique for achieving a sustainable work/life balance.  The technique involves using a kitchen timer  to focus on particular tasks by reducing multitasking.  Gino outlined how this technique could be integrated into an Agile framework.  He left the audience with a valuable concept that could be applied to any setting.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts on this session in a separate entry.

Strategic Management Using Stories (Lawrence Ludlow from intelliware)

Lawrence Ludlow is a Professional Engineer with over twenty years of experience.  Lawrence is also a Project Manager in one of the premiere Toronto Agile development shops.  His specialty is using Stories for planning and scoping of projects.  Through case studies, he shared his insight on how Stories improved the organization of requirements.

Large Scale Testing in Agile Time – Experience Report (Thanou Thirakul from intelliware)

Thanou Thanou has been an Agile developer for over nine years.  Thanou is the lead for his company’s “Green Team” and facilitates the new Developer workshops.  He outlined methods for testing large scale Agile projects.  Using examples of systems with thousands of integration and unit test and millions of lines of code, he shared his experience in reducing test cycles from over 11 hours to under two hours.

Adam Goucher posted an entry on Thanou’s session (Blog)

How to Make Retrospectives the Heart of Your Agile Process (Yves Hanoulle from PairCoaching)

Yves Hanoulle flew in from Belgium to share with use his views on Agile Retrospectives.  Yves is also a Certified Core Coach by McCarthy Technologies.  He outlined how implementing retrospectives effectively into the project cycle significantly improves the process.  By gathering data and generating insight, the team can decide what needs to be done to improve the process in the next cycle.

Life Cycle of an Agile User Story (Michelle D’Souza and Brandon Byars from ThoughtWorks)

Michelle D’Souza and Brandon Byars both moved coincidentally from Texas to Calgary.  They also share a belief that user stories define the rhythm of an Agile team.  Their session walked through the process of creating stories to delivering on its functionality.  Through converting requirements to estimated user stories, Michelle and Brandon showed how proper planning would define the acceptance criteria.

Agile Executive Briefing – Situational Assessment and 50,000 ft View of Agile (Michael Sahota from Agilitrix)

Michael Sahota is an Agile and Lean practices coach with eight years experience.  Michael already removed the confusion around the clutter of Agile methodologies.  In his follow-up presentation, he outlined how SCRAP (Situation, Complication, Resolution, Action, Proof) can be used to firm our the business case for Agile.  He presented a 50,000 ft view of Agile from a business and management perspective.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts on this session in a separate entry.

An Introduction to Agile through the Theory of Constraints (J.B. (Joe) Rainsberger from jbrains)

Joe Rainsberger, commonly known as J.B, is an expert in the field of software delivery.  J.B. outlined how all of the perceived costs of Agile are actually significantly cheaper than the cost of not adopting Agile.  He used The Theory of Constraints as the foundation for this justification for implementation.  By addressing sunk cost and bottlenecks within the development process, he showed us all that practice and learning are actually profit centers and not cost centers.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts on this session in a separate entry.

Project Vital Signs (Stelios Pantazopoulos from ThoughtWorks)

Stelios Pantazopoulos is a lead consultant with 17 projects spanning his twelve years of experience.  He focussed on bringing credibility and trust to the development cycle by using Agile.  By targeting quantitative metrics, the project leaders can properly monitor and communicate their overall project status.  Stelios used a patient’s medical vital signs as a metaphor for making informed decisions.  By bring near real-time visibility to how the project is tracking, a team can take the corrective actions required to save a project from failure.

Adam Goucher posted an entry on Stelios’ session (Blog)

An Introduction to Business Value Engineering (Joseph Little from Kitty Hawk Consulting)

Joseph Little is a Certified Scrum Training with over twenty years of consulting and product development experience.  Joseph considers the majority of his job to be translating between geek-speak and biz-speak.  He presented how values, principles and practices are used to deliver business value.  By mapping the flow of practices, the business is able to isolate the weak points and deliver Business Value.  While supporting the need for metrics, he emphasized that they are a guide and not the only focus point.

Building a Learning Culture on Your Agile Team (Declan Whelan)

Declan Whelan is a professional Engineer with over 25 years of experience.  As a coach, Declan values the need for continued learning within an organization.  He outlined both the Satir Change Model and Peter Senge’s Five Disciplines.  Using this a foundation, he provide the audience with a valuable learning map to increase team productivity.

I will be posting My Enclosed Thoughts on this session in a separate entry.

Getting What You Want: Communication Protocols that Get a Team to a State of Shared Vision (Michele McCarthy from McCarthy Technologies)

Michele McCarthy and her husband Jim McCarthy started a BootCamp to teach the Core Protocols.  Michele interacted with the audience to provide them with a better understanding of their book Software for Your Head.  She outlined how these protocols enable a team to have a SharedVision.  The presentation focussed on the primary protocol: The Personal Alignment Protocol.

Code Smells > Refactoring > Unit Tests (Mark Levison from InfoQ)

Mark Levison has introduced SCRUM to organizations since 2001 and is an Agile Editor.  Mark discussed what he terms Code Smells.  He outlined how bad code always leaves a “smell”.  Through the use of design patterns and refactoring, he pair programmed good code from the bad.  He concluded his presentation with an overview of  how to do unit testing safely.


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