Author Archives: Stephanie Davis

About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie is now VP of Product Excellence at LeadingAgile focused on the growth, development, and delivery of some amazing agile products.  Recently, she spent the past two years as Executive Director - Enterprise Agility Office at Catalina leading another top-to-bottom, inside-out agile transformation.  Prior to that, Stephanie was Senior Director of Enterprise Agility at Valpak. She was with Valpak for 13 years, most of which were focused on leading their agile transformation to what became a world renowned success story published in case studies and demonstrated to over 50 different companies through the years via agile tours.  Prior to Valpak, Stephanie held past positions in the project management domain with AT&T and IBM. Stephanie's academic credentials include a BS in Marketing from the University of South Florida and an MBA in International Business from the University of Bristol in England. She also maintains the Project Management Professional (PMP), Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP), and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Stephanie is big on tech community involvement!  Most recently, she served as an elected board member to the Agile Alliance, a non-profit organization with global membership, committed to advancing agile development values, principles, and practices. In addition, she serves her local community as an organizer for Tampa Bay Agile, the largest and most active tech Meetup in the area, and the annual Agile Open Florida event. In 2016, Stephanie was awarded Tampa Bay Tech’s Technology Leader of the Year and the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s BusinessWoman of the Year (Tech) and Emerging Technology Leader of the Year.

PoweredUP Tampa Bay Tech Summit: “Agile Portfolio Management at Catalina”

I have been asked (and somewhat unwittingly and reluctantly agreed) to speak at the upcoming poweredUP Tampa Bay Tech [virtual] Summit on the topic of “Agile Portfolio Management at Catalina“.

At scale, agile requires a well functioning portfolio management process to make the system truly hum. In agile, there is no one right way to do portfolio management. Take a tour of Catalina’s Agile Portfolio Management process to see from top to bottom how we manage priorities and make progress to deliver great value.

Those that know me well know that this must have been an extroverted moment for this introvert as it’s a rare occurrence that I’ll do a talk.  I’ll participate on panels all day but a stand up talk is different.   I guess I figured virtual and only 20 minutes, so why the hell not? Sign up here.


Let’s Party at Agile Open Florida 2019

Join me and 300+ agilists from across the state of Florida and beyond for our 6th annual Agile Open Florida on Friday October 25th at Polk State College in Lakeland, FL.   Our theme this year is Livin’ La Vida Agile! Celebrating The Values & Principles.  This is a community celebration of all things agile and the values and principles that make us so. 


Agile Open Florida will be facilitated using Open Space Technology (OST), with the ultimate goal being to connect, learn, and share. Using the Open Space Technology (OST) approach, Agile Open Florida encourages agile practitioners to self-organize around topics that are most important to them. Participants with common issues and interests share their experiences and learn from others. There is no preset agenda or presentations for the event, rather, sessions are created “live” by the participants at the start of the day.  In order to get the most out of this event, reflect on our theme and come prepared with topics that are of interest to you, either to learn more about or to share your experiences.

I look forward to seeing you there.  Let’s party!

For more information and to register, visit and follow us on Twitter @AgileOpenFL 

Relative Value: Simplified Story Points for the Portfolio

22533434957_9d47ae9dc3_bAs I set out to establish the agile portfolio management process for Catalina, I searched for any new methods around how to best express value.  All I could find were complicated formulas or different variations of Value Points.  I wanted something simple for my diverse portfolio team, mostly leaders but from all over the world and from all sorts of backgrounds.  I wanted something that required no real knowledge of agile.  I was hoping to find something as simple as t-shirt sizes for Story Points.  I didn’t … so I invented a new method:  Relative Value.  Relative Value is to the portfolio what Story Points are to the work of the team.  In other words, Relative Value is basically analogous to Relative Effort for which Story Points are used.

After thinking through the concept of Relative Value, I knew I wanted to keep it simple.  That meant coming up with something so obvious that even your mom would get it (note: my mom is an agile practitioner, so of course she got it).  Inspired by the Periodic Table of Elements, here’s what I came up with:

  • Oxygen:  Without question must be done to keep the business alive.  Think compliance, essential infrastructure to run the business, or whatever will prevent a catastrophic loss to the business.  ​
  • Platinum:  The most valuable of all, but won’t be the downfall of the business if it doesn’t come to fruition.  Think competitive advantage, attracting new clients, or something for which clients are willing to pay.​
  • ​Gold:  The second most valuable of all.  Think improved customer usability, quality, time to market, or delivering on functionality frequently requested by customers.  ​
  • Silver:  The least valuable of all but still has value at the portfolio level.  Think more internal value vs external value.​

This Relative Value method has been in use all year and has served Catalina well.  Gone are the days of vague labels like high / medium / low or over-engineered scoring systems that only serve to confuse.  Now there is a clear understanding across the business of the value of our 200+ portfolio epics.  The main challenge with this method has been distinguishing Platinum from Gold.  Oxygen and Silver are quite obvious, but Platinum and Gold not so much.  Ultimately, you can defer to any revenue and savings ROI numbers that you have available to make a final call.

With Relative Value we are further able to simplify our Quarterly Portfolio Prioritization (QPP) process by creating discrete value buckets across our four rolling quarter plan for which to further stack rank (prioritize) the portfolio epics.  I’ll leave an overview of that process for a future blog post.

Tell me what value method is working for your portfolio or how this Relative Value method might work at your company.

Walk to End Hydrocephalus

Please join me and my family in supporting the Walk to End Hydrocephalus. Either walk with us or make a donation. Your donation will go towards someday ending Hydrocephalus. My baby has already had three brain surgeries and dozens of MRIs. People with this condition are known to have many brain surgeries over their lifetime. No more brain surgeries!

Source: 2018 St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay WALK: Stephanie Davis’s Personal Fundraising Page

The Beginnings of a Transformation

It’s been four months and counting since I traded in my 13 year gig at Valpak for a new adventure at Catalina.  That and having a toddler has kept me busy every waking minute of the day.

Starting a new job after 13 years committed to Valpak was indeed strange.  I hadn’t had a first day in 13 years!  On the other hand, starting a new job in the same industry made things feel very familiar.  In many ways, it was like I was at the same company but working with new people with similar opportunities to pursue and challenges to overcome.

My start at Catalina was filled with surprises.  Within the first two weeks, I lost both my bosses, my boss and my boss’ boss.  It was a shock to the system, especially for someone that had worked for the same person for 13 years.  After an adjustment period, I quickly came to learn that this was the best thing that could have happened to me and my organization.  I now report direct to the COO (along with my org) as the Executive Director of the Enterprise Agility Office, a chance happening that the COO himself calls “serendipitous”.  I’ve since come to appreciate Catalina’s culture of change and plan to take full advantage of it to guide them through their agile transformation.

As I made my rounds and started to learn the people, the process, the products, and the problems, I heard a lot of … “we have a resource problem” (we all know an agilists pet peeve is calling people “resources”).  I was quick to observe that there was no “resource problem” but rather a prioritization problem.  There were hundreds of demands coming at the development teams and everyone had their #1 that they needed NOW.

With further exploration, I was pleased to see that there was definitely some semblance of agile across the entire Tech organization and even in some areas of the business.  Teams get an “E” for effort for doing and trying some version of Scrum or Kanban, even if most is really just “I use Jira and therefore I’m agile”.  It was evident that a big dose of training was needed along with a healthy serving of coaching and a lifetime of nurturing.

With all that said, you’re probably wondering if I’ve managed to get anything accomplished in these first four months at Catalina.  Indeed I have!

  • I rebranded and reinvented the PMO as the “Enterprise Agility Office”, complete with the Agile Project Leader role I originally conceived at Valpak.  I’m now fully staffed and organized for success!
  • I established an Agile Transformation Roadmap and an accompanying Kanban by which to manage it.
  • We got in place what I consider the first and most important artifact of any agile transformation, the agile org design (aka, “Agile Teams”), which lays out all the Scrum and Kanban teams, their scope, and who’s who.
  • A Common Sprint Schedule was established to put the entire enterprise on the same 2-week cadence, beginning on Mondays and ending on 2nd Fridays.  We are all currently on Sprint 11!  You can definitely expect a big celebration when we get to Sprint 100.
  • Our first wave of agile training including a Scrum 101, Scrum for Product Owners, and Scrum for Scrum Masters was conducted in March.
  • We’ve brought in an enterprise agility tool, Target Process, that is near and dear to my heart having worked with it for several years at Valpak.
  • Using a lot of muscle memory and throwing in a few new tricks (remind me to blog about how we’re doing rank prioritization and relative value), I stood up a proper Agile Portfolio Management process complete with roadmapping, relentless prioritization, and a Portfolio Kanban with weekly standups.
  • We kicked off several tribes to share, learn and grow together for Scrum Masters, Products Owners, Agile Project Managers, and even one for Agile Leadership.

So, what’s next?

  • One of my Enterprise Agility Directors, Robert Shaw, is an experienced Agile Coach so together him and I have divvied up the agile teams to begin some hands on agile coaching.
  • With a Common Sprint Schedule in place the next step is to establish a Common Sprint Review where all teams would come together to demo their sexy stuff and celebrate their accomplishments.
  • We’ve got some heavy lifting to do to get all the teams in two different Jira instances moved over to Target Process before the end of the year.
  • I’ve got high hopes of establishing more physical boards here at the St Pete headquarters beginning with the Portfolio Kanban. Maybe an agile tour will be possible some day.
  • A second wave of agile training is on the way, this time including Kanban, Agile for Leaders, and eventually Agile for All.
  • Last but not least, a passionate focus on growing my team, the Enterprise Agility Office, to be passionate practitioners of agile like myself.

All in all, I’m in a very happy place right now, making new friends, doing what I love, and taking an organization to the next level.  I’ve got good traction on all things agile and this company and my leadership wholeheartedly believes in it.  This is most certainly the beginnings of a transformation.


Turn and face the strange

                 – David Bowie, “Changes”

Changes they are a happening!

After 13 years at Valpak (all working for the same man, I might add), I have resigned my position as Senior Director of Enterprise Agility.  It’s been a good ride but now I must move on. My work there is done and there is not much more I can do for Valpak, nor Valpak can do for me.  Beginning January 22nd, I will be joining Catalina Marketing as the Executive Director – Global Head of Enterprise Agility & Delivery Excellence.  I’m excited about the future but, for someone who specializes in adapting to change for a living, change has always been hard for me personally.

Three other changes to mention that aren’t quite as dramatic as the first.

  • I ended my stint on the Agile Alliance board after serving a 3-year term.  It was an experience of a lifetime that took me all over the world working with many different people on all things agile.  I will always be grateful for that experience.  With baby on board now and his Hydrocephalus condition (I know, a whole other blog post unto itself), the travel commitments were just too much.  However, even though my time on the board has come to an end, my service to the Agile Alliance has not.  I’ve been asked to serve on the Conference Steering Committee where I can best represent the OnAgile virtual conference which has been my baby from my time on the board.
  • I’ll continue to serve on the executive committee of the Tampa Bay Tech board (previously Tampa Bay Technology Forum).  However, this year I’m stepping up as Community Committee Chair (last year I was Co-Chair).  I’ll be joined by the very driven Gina Volmuth of The Praxsys Group as Co-Chair.  This year, we’ll be focused on continuing to grow the Tampa Bay Tech Meetup Pro, a co-op of almost 50 tech user groups comprising almost 15,000 unique members, as well as some exciting D&I initiatives.
  • Last but not least, my partner in crime on Tampa Bay Agile has changed.  Ryan Dorrell retired as co-organizer and Becky Hartman graciously stepped up to help me out.  Ryan will be greatly missed!  Together, him and I (along with a slew of sub-group event organizers, volunteer presenters, and generous sponsors) grew the group from less than 100 people about five years ago to almost 2,300 members today and one of the largest and most active tech Meetups in the Tampa Bay area.  Last year Tampa Bay Agile was named “Meetup of the Year” at the 2017 Tampa Bay Tech Awards.


6 Years Agile Strong at Valpak: It’s Been Epic!

Today marks the 6th agile anniversary here at Valpak.  Six years ago on October 14th, 2011 we set out on our first sprint.  Since then, we have lathered, rinsed, and repeated the agile way for a whopping 142 sprints.  The transformation was complete a long time ago but the journey never ends.  Along the way, we’ve had good times where we thought we could accomplish anything and we delivered extraordinary value to the business.  On the flip side, we’ve had bad times where we felt so inundated with stories and tasks that we thought we couldn’t possibly get anything done.  We’ve had teams that have been together from the start and teams that have come and gone.  We’ve had teams go from Scrum to Kanban and back again and vice versa in their quest for high-performance.  We’ve conquered massive epics and nailed the art of the quick hit.  We’ve put up boards and taken down boards (and have the paper cuts and Sharpie stains to prove it).  We’ve retro’ed so much that we probably know too much about one another … too, too much.  We’ve openly shared our agile story and hosted agile tours for over 50 companies from all over Tampa Bay and beyond.  It’s been epic!

But, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the craftsmanship, pride, and heart (a whole lot of heart) of our people (not resources, but people); the people on our teams that work tirelessly sprint after sprint and story after story to deliver something that amazes our Product Owners, our stakeholders, and our customers.  And, those people couldn’t do what they do without the courage and direction of our elite team of Product Owners and our senior leaders, who themselves have been on their own agile journey.  Thank you to the people of Valpak for your collective effort in another year of not just doing agile but being agile too.  Cheers to you!

Join Me at Agile2017



Capitalization of IT Labor at Valpak

Been meaning to write this post for quite some time.  It’s not the most thrilling of agile topics so my procrastinator has been hard at work.

Let’s talk about the capitalization of IT labor!  Woo hoo!

Some of you may recall, if you’ve been following along, that Valpak was acquired by a private equity firm in January of this year.  With that came many changes including the direction from our new owners to capitalize on certain large IT projects (Valpak was previously owned by Cox Media Group which neither required nor encouraged such things).  Initially, this lead to a panic among us leaders.  How can we be agile while having to account for every minute of our time? 

After the initial panic subsided and we started doing some research, we found that there are very agile ways of handling IT labor capitalization.  In fact, we learned that there is no one right way to meet the GAAP standard.  There was hope for us after all!

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty business of capitalization, I’d like to share with you a few resources I found helpful along the way.

  • A super insightful blog post by Catherine Connor of 101 Ways on The Top 10 Pitfalls of Agile Capitalization
  • Very handy documentation from the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) folks on CapEx and OpEx with some great illustrations for understanding the concepts and options.
  • Last but not least, Pat Reed’s work on the Agile Accounting initiative as part of the Agile Alliance provides a great overview.  The Citrix case study is helpful too, but be be warned that if you contact the person that wrote it they will want to charge you $400/hour to answer your questions.

Now, let’s get down to it … I won’t bore you with the various permutations we attempted over the first few months (there was some pain involved).  Rather, I’ll jump to the good stuff … I have for you our IT Capitalization Policy as documented by myself and approved by our Accounting department and our auditors.

IT Capitalization Policy at Valpak

The following documents the policy for capitalizing software development costs at Valpak.  Not all projects will be capitalized.  Only certain large IT projects will be capitalized.  Projects to be capitalized will be identified each year as part of the budget process.

All software development work to be capitalized will be identified at the story level.  Stories to be capitalized will be flagged in Target Process as CapEx by the Agile Project Leader as part of the team’s process.  Budgeted projects will be capitalized using one of two methods, either by story count or actual hours.  Scrum teams will use the story count method.  Kanban teams will choose either story count or actual hours based on what is most accurate for their process.  The method applied will be consistent for any given team.  The Agile Project Leaders will maintain detailed calculations for all their teams and ensure auditability of data in Target Process.

For the story count method, stories are counted by the month in which they are completed (not necessarily released) in order to determine the percent of stories completed that are CapEx for any given team.  The CapEx percent is then applied to the number of available work hours in a given month to determine how many of those work hours are to be capitalized.  In addition, shared resources are taken into account and available work hours reduced by PTO.

In some special cases where a person on a team is solely focused on certain stories (not contributing to all of the stories in a given month), it may be more accurate to apply the story count method at the individual person level rather than the team level.   For instance, Team A completes 1 of 20 CapEx stories and that one story was the sole focus of a single person for 100% of their available work hours.  In such cases, the Agile Project Leader will determine the more accurate level at which to apply the story count method, team or person, and calculate accordingly.  Where person-level story count is applied, it will be notated in the detailed spreadsheets.

Here are several examples of the story count method applied:

  • A person dedicated to a single team who has worked every day in January (no PTO taken).  Their team completes 17 CapEx out of 20 stories in January or 85%.  There are 20 work days in January for a total of 160 hours.  This equates to 136 CapEx hours for this person.
  • A person dedicated to a single team who took a week off in January.  Their team completes 17 CapEx out of 20 stories in January or 85%.  There are 20 work days in January for a total of 160 hours but they took 40 of them as PTO for a subtotal of 120 hours.  This equates to 102 CapEx hours for this person.
  • A person split (shared) 50% between two teams in January.  Team A completes 17 CapEx out of 20 stories in January or 85%.  Team B completes 10 CapEx out of 15 stories in January or 67%.  There are 20 work days in January for a total of 160 hours.  This equates to 68 CapEx hours for this person for Team A (160 hrs x 50% x 85%) and 53.6 CapEx hours for this person for Team B (160 hrs x 50% x 67%).  If this split person took PTO, it would be taken out of the monthly available hours first.

The actual hours method may be applied by Kanban teams where it is determined to be the more accurate approach for their process.  Actual hours will be recorded by each team member for CapEx stories in Target Process.  The Agile Project Leaders will collect and report the actual CapEx hours for all team members each month.

For project leadership roles like Agile Project Leaders, a projected allocation will be applied each month to their available work hours.


My Mom, The ScrumMaster

Picture1A very special Mother’s Day edition of iamagile.

Have I told you the story of the woman that reinvented herself as a ScrumMaster in just 3 short months?  Well, that’s the story of my mom, Dottye Stewart.

As the story goes, this isn’t the first time my mom has reinvented herself.  She started out as a widowed mom to two daughters, pursuing higher education to be a positive role model for my sister and me.

After earning her MBA in Finance back in the 80’s, she did the consulting circuit for a while then quickly gained success in the life insurance industry as a marketing and business development executive.   After finding herself in a dead end job with a dead end, and morally corrupt, company last year (I won’t name names but I’m certain you could figure it out), she came to me and said, “I’m going become a Scrum Master”.  Admittedly, I laughed a little on the inside thinking there is no way someone can reinvent themselves into a Scrum Master at this point in their career.  Boy was I wrong!  If you ask my mom, she will tell you she’s been an agile leader throughout her entire work-life.  Not because she’s been subjected to my agile ways, but rather because of something called “facilitative leadership” that she learned while at GE Capital.

In October 2016, my mom began attending Tampa Bay Agile meetups regularly and, being the extreme extrovert in the family, she quickly became the social director for the ScrumMasters Guild, personally connecting with each and everyone.  Before 2016 was over, my mom had earned the Professional Scrum Master (PSP) and the ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP) and was being personally mentored by some of the best Agile Coaches in Tampa Bay from the AgileThought team.  By January 2017, my mom was gainfully employed at Bankers Financial as an Agile Coach and ScrumMaster.  That takes us to today.   While Bankers has been great training ground, she is openly pursuing new opportunities as ScrumMaster to continue along on her agile journey.

I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or, in this case, maybe the tree follows the apple.  I hope you are pleased to meet My Mom, The ScrumMaster.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. You make me so proud to be your daughter!