Agile Manifesto 12 Principles: An Art Wall

I’ve been meaning to post this for quite some time now but life keeps getting in the way.  We (Valpak) moved into our new office space back in December, but I figure this is as good a time as any since we are a Coolest Office Spaces Finalist with the Tampa Bay Business Journal.   At our new location, each department like Marketing, IT, Business Development, etc has a custom art wall installation designed by our very own Creative Services team.  The art wall in IT is a tribute to the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto and measures the longest of all the art walls at a whopping 80 feet wide.  At that size, trying to capture this art wall in a single photograph is impossible.  That said, here is a digital image so that you might appreciate its awesomeness.  Having the 12 principles so massive and visible helps us to keep the Agile Manifesto top-of-mind in all the we do.

Agile_IT Wall

 


The Top 10 Impediments You Avoid at OnAgile

Some of you may recall that this is my first year serving on the board of the Agile Alliance and … OH MY … have I been busy.   In my typical go-big-or-go-home style, I’ve taken on chairing our first ever virtual conference, OnAgile, alongside the almighty Declan Whelan. This year’s theme is “Navigating the Future: Emerging Technical Trends and Practices”.

I like to think of OnAgile as the world’s most convenient Agile event … and you can’t put a price on convenience, right?. In fact, there are many an impediment to avoid by attending a virtual conference and OnAgile is no different. With that in mind, I have for you “The Top 10 Impediments You Avoid at OnAgile”.

  1. Experience an amazing speaker line-up without having to get up from your cushy ergonomic chair or even leave your plush 10,000 thread count bed (if you choose to stay in bed, beware laptop burn which would create a whole other impediment). It’s like having the likes of Martin Fowler, Gene Kim, and Liz Keogh over for lunch, except you get to control their volume and even mute them on occasion.
  2. No need to miss your morning stand-up … unless of course you really wanted an excuse to.
  3. No need to beg your boss to fly you across the country to attend a live conference.   In fact, you are doing him a favor … better yet, you are doing the company a favor. And, at the cost of a couple extra-large pizzas, you could always choose to foot the bill yourself and avoid talking to your boss altogether.
  4. No pat down from the TSA because you forgot to leave your Snoopy toe nail clippers at home.
  5. Clothing optional! That’s right! So you missed laundry day because you were in flow for 12 hours on your latest side project. No clothes, no problem! Go commando for all we care. However, if you will be experiencing OnAgile from your office, we strongly encourage the use of clothing.
  6. No waiting in line to ask a question behind that guy that brought along his 10,000 lines of “dirty” code for Uncle Bob Martin to “clean” up.
  7. So your all-too-diligent ScrumMaster has you already booked to groom the backlog on May 14th. Don’t fret! You don’t have to experience OnAgile live to experience OnAgile. All of the speakers’ presentations and content remain available to you to access over and over again for up to 90 days.
  8. With a front row seat to OnAgile, there’s no chance of getting caught next to that guy that came straight from an all-nighter at the conference party.
  9. No more racing to get to a conference room to see Jez Humble before it fills up. Trying to convince the volunteer that you are fine to stand the whole time never quite works out. At OnAgile, everyone gets in to see the speakers.
  10. With a super-modern virtual conference platform displayed on your monitor, you will look plenty busy when your boss stops by to give you a new assignment or your spouse asks you to take out the garbage.

If you are interested in avoiding all of these impediments and then some, be sure to register for OnAgile 2015 at http://agilealliance.org/programs/onagile-virtual-conference/. The event will be live on May 14th and then available in a recorded format for 90 days thereafter.


MVP: The Zen of Software Development

Guest blogger, Toby Morris, is back with his take on the importance of Minimally Viable Product (MVP) in Agile.  Toby, known around these parts as “The Amazing Toby”, is a software developer at Valpak.  Enjoy!

When it comes to agile learning, development and growth, one concept rises to a level of importance few, if any other, concepts rise. With this one concept, if you grasp it, you will grasp the very heart of agile. If you can’t, you will struggle to reach the level of efficiency you should be able to reach.  Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the soul, wit and zest of agile.

To me, agile is about maximizing the value and speed of delivery of the products my customers need and want. It’s about cutting waste and inefficiencies out of the development process. MVP is the deliverable with the absolute least number of features that will satisfy your customer’s needs. Period. Anything more or less isn’t good enough. Not enough features and the product may not be useable. Too many features and you’ve wasted resources and delayed getting the product to the people who need it most.

Minimum Viable Product is a concept that wraps up many agile principles, and it’s a tool for slicing through extraneous features. When looking at any user story, a first thought should be “how much of this is needed for a working product?”. Use the MVP blade to cut away at fluff and “wants” to get to the heart of the product. Try defining the product in a catalog blurb. If a feature isn’t in that blurb, then it’s probably not needed. Every feature that isn’t a core feature of a product is a wasted time in not only development, but also support.

Use the MVP blade to cut those extraneous features out of the current user story and add them to the backlog. If they are valuable, they will make it back into the sprint plan and into the product. If they never make it into a sprint plan, then they weren’t valuable. You just saved yourself, your company and your customer the time and resources that feature would have cost.

We’ve had customers at our company that ask for every possible feature during the early stages of a product’s development. They share a belief that if they don’t get everything in the first round, we’ll put features they want on the backlog, only to never find the time to get back to them. And that’s true. And that’s how it should be. If a feature belongs in the product, MVP will force you to include it. If it doesn’t belong in the product, MVP will relegate it to the backlog, where it will die a slow, cold death.

The Minimum Viable Product concept applies to anything you create. Anything you do. It’s the Zen of software development, and every other creative process. Whether you’re applying it to an entire application, a single feature of an application, or even a component of a feature, if you let it guide you, you will be surprised at how efficient you become.


OnAgile is On The Way

OnAgile 2015 Banner

Some of you may be wondering what I’ve been up to lately.  Besides my day job, I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  As part of my responsibility to the Agile Alliance board, I’m working with Declan Whelan to put on their first ever virtual conference — cleverly named “OnAgile” — on May 14th.  The theme for 2015 is “Navigating the Future: Emerging Technical Trends and Practices”.  Check out the Save The Date blog post on the Agile Alliance web site for more details.

I’ve planned a wedding (well, two weddings to be honest), I’ve planned an Agile Open (Agile Open Florida, that is), and now I get to plan a virtual conference.  And yes, we are being agile about it, employing not one, but two Kanbans from the start.  Super exciting!  I’m sure this is just the first of several blog posts on my experience in putting on OnAgile.


Musings of a New Agile Alliance Board Member

The Agile Alliance board gathering for the start of our meeting in Bellevue. From near to far, Declan Whelan, Samuel Crescencio, Pat Reed (slightly hidden), Linda Cook, Ola Ellnestam, Rebecca Parsons, Phil Brock (Managing Director, and our facilitator is the one standing. Missing from the photo are Shane Hastie, Juan Banda, and me.

From near to far, Declan Whelan, Samuel Crescencio, Pat Reed (slightly hidden), Linda Cook, Ola Ellnestam, Dr. Rebecca Parsons, Phil Brock, and our facilitator (standing). Not pictured are Juan Banda, Shane Hastie, and me.

Some of you may recall that I was nominated to the board of the Agile Alliance for the 2015 to 2017 term.  Well, 2015 is upon us and I am officially on the job.  This month, I traveled across the U.S. from sunny Florida to cold, rainy Washington for my first official board meeting hosted at the CenturyLink Cloud offices in Bellevue.  What a lovely quaint downtown Bellevue has to offer and OMG! … the restaurants and pubs are unbelievable (I highly recommend Lot No 3) … anywho, I digress.

Bellevue was my first official board meeting but not my first board meeting.  I had met most of the board at Agile 2014 in Orlando (except for Samuel) and was asked to attend the Chicago board meeting in September to “observe” which means I didn’t have a vote yet.  In Bellevue, I finally got to vote! … Not once, but many times.  Oh the power! … MUAHAHA!

What I found in Bellevue, and previously in Chicago, was that you can always learn a thing or two from the board meeting experience.  The board brings in a professional facilitator for the thrice yearly face-to-face meetings and they always come with a bag of tricks.   In Chicago, I was introduced to the Lean Business Model Canvas.  This time in Bellevue we performed two very engaging exercises: 1) Future Trends and 2) Customer Persona Expectations.

  1. The Future Trends exercise had us looking towards the future so that we can determine what opportunities to pursue or what risks to mitigate.  We kicked off the 3-day meeting with this exercise.  It really opened minds to all the possibilities before us.
  2. The Customer Persona Expectations exercise was used to identify all our various customers and what they expect of us versus what expectations we are delivering on.  Very eye opening in terms of over-served and under-served customer groups.

By the end of the 1st day, we got to meet Pam Dyer, the new Agile Alliance Chief of Marketing, and grill her on her plans for the brand and the website.  And, let me just say, Pam said a million right things just within the first ten minutes.  Under Pam’s leadership, 2015 is truly going to be the marketing awakening for the Agile Alliance.

On the 2nd day, we got to connect with the guys of Agile Alliance Brazil over Skype and hear how things are going on that side of the world.  Agile Alliance Brazil is fairly new but making great strides in growing and developing all-things-Agile in their country.

Then, there was the usual board-ish stuff, namely the budget review, the voting of new Officers, and the review of new and active programs.  While this board-ish stuff might sound more like bored-ish stuff, it was absolutely thrilling for a first time board member.

  • Budget  … What can I say about the budget? It was … umm … the budget.  Linda Cook does a fine job as Treasurer, so the budget review was pleasantly uneventful and went by rather quickly.  And, I got to vote!
  • Officers … The January meeting means voting for 2015 Officers, namely Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer.  For 2015, Rebecca Parsons remains Chair, Shane Hastie will take over as Secretary from Ola Ellnestam, and Linda Cook will remain Treasurer.
  • Programs … Agile Alliance works their mission through this thing called “programs”.  If you don’t know about programs, well you should.   Any member can propose a program and that includes me.  Mark Kilby, Ryan Dorrell, and I submitted a program focused on local user groups and I got a front and center seat (literally) to the proposal review.  What an experience, to say the least!  I’ve got some great notes in hand for further developing and refining our program proposal for review at the next board meeting.

So, what’s next?  Well, we’ve got our next face-to-face board meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, hosted by Shane at the Software Education offices, along with the Wellie Agile Open.  Meanwhile, I’m on the nominations committee for selecting at least two new board members plus heavy involvement with at least two new programs.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Agile 2015 conference in Washington, D.C. this year where I hope to see and meet some of you that have suffered through my blog from the start :)

As I embark on my first year on the Agile Alliance board,  I only hope that I can contribute as much as I will learn.  I am well aware that I am among an elite group of Agilists and technologists.  The positive vibes that surrounded the Bellevue board meeting has, no doubt, left me hopeful of what’s to come in 2015.  It’s going to be an epic year!

Oh, and I didn’t waste a good trip to Washington on a just meeting.  My husband, Sean Davis, accompanied me and we stayed an extra day to explore downtown Seattle and Pikes Place Market.  Also, on the first night, our friends Amber Osborne and Nate Brown had us out to Kirkland for a rock opera which was a crazy-wild experience (I’ll leave it at that).  We also took time to go see a couple movies, American Sniper and The Imitation Game (which I highly recommend both).


Shaping Our Next Agilists at East Tennessee State University

Photo Jan 22, 5 03 09 PMLast night, Bob Damato (Valpak’s Software Engineering Director), Terry Winslow (Agile Project Leader), and I had the pleasure of Skype’ing with a graduate class at East Tennessee State University on real-world Agile. Terry also happens to be an East Tennessee State University alum so that made it extra special.

This is a capstone class for graduate students who are completing a project to build a mobile app using Agile. The students provided a list of questions and Bob, Terry, and I divvied them up and answered them one by one.  It was great opportunity for us to shape and influence our next Agilists by sharing our real-world experiences.

The backdrop you see in the picture is our new Agile boards area where we hold stand-ups each morning.  It consists of 360 degrees of magnetic whiteboards we call “The Park”.  The Park is home to up to 8 Scrum or Kanban boards and also has portable TVs for display of digital boards.


Management Behavior that Will Make or Break a Robust Agile Implementation

Stephanie Davis:

This is seriously one of the best blog posts I’ve read this year. So much truth to this! Bottom up Agile transformations are extremely challenging and prone to failure. The top has a very valuable and necessary role in a successful Agile transformation. I just hope the people at the top of companies on the verge (of an Agile transformation) will read this and heed it.

Originally posted on Project Management in Real Life / Projektledelse i virkeligheden:

A couple of months ago the following statement was made at a conference by a business manager: “We want better projects, so the management of our company has decided that everyone will start working agile from January 2015”.

I was puzzled. Very puzzled. Did he honestly believe that the whole company would wake up one Monday morning in January 2015 realizing that a whole new era had begun, and everyone would leave all their old habits, attitudes and approaches behind and start being agile?

It made me wonder. Several things, actually:

“If the decision is already made, why don’t they start their agile journey today?”

“Do people really think that transforming a business from a traditional to an agile approach to projects will happen just like that?”

“Have they realized that the decision to work agile means that the management will also have to change their ways?”

“Do they know that doing agile is not…

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