Some thoughts on Agile 2012

26 August

Last week I was able to attend the Agile 2012 conference in Dallas, Texas, USA.   It was a great event and I came away energised and exhausted in equal measure.

The stats about the conference are impressive:

  • Nearly 1600 people attended from countries all around the world
  • Over 300 sessions covering a vast array of topics with content aimed at participants from novice to expert
  • 16 stages covering the whole range of topic areas
  • Three great Keynote talks that inspired and enlightened
  • Opportunity to catch up with old friends and make news ones in a community who live the Agile values

The Agile Executive Forum ran in parallel with the first day of the conference.  This restricted-entry event is limited to senior executives of large organisations and provides them with an environment to examine the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to Agile and share experiences and knowledge.

The range of sessions was almost overwhelming, and choosing which ones to attend was a challenge.  The first day was devoted to longer workshop-style sessions, 3-hour experiential events.  I attended a great session on Dynamic Organisational Modeling – using Lego blocks to articulate and clarify organisational change.  I wrote about that session for InfoQ here.

Another session I attended included Brandon Carlson’s talk “Stop Listening to your Customers” in which he encouraged teams to use deep analytics to identify what customers actually do rather than just asking them what they want.

Dennis Smith (who will be talking at the Fusion conference in Sydney next month) gave a very interesting and useful talk on Risk Management and how Agile adoption changes the way teams and organisations should approach risk management, taking advantage of the iterative nature of Agile practices since “Agile has risk management implicitly built in”:

Feedback cycles (Product, Progress, Process, and Capability) are built in throughout the Agile cadence
Co-located teams (individuals and interactions ) facilitate shared understanding
Agile teams may explore alternatives through spikes and dialog
Continuous delivery of working-tested software

Tamara Runion, Enterprise Agile Coach at Intel, presented a talk about Intel’s journey “Transversing the Canyon of Anarchy: Moving from Agile Adoption to Agile Transformation”.  She discussed the importance of changing attitudes and behaviour in order to make Agile stick and gain the organisational improvements possible from true Transformation.  She pointed out that this needs change in the way people work, the organisational culture and the leadership approach to enable the new ways of working.

The closing Keynote talks on Friday morning were about extending the philosophy and values of Agile beyond information technology into the realm of social good.

Dr. Sunita Maheshwari spoke about her role as “Chief Dreamer” for Teleradiology Solutions, and organisation that provides  teleradiologic interpretations to hospitals in the US, Singapore, Georgia, Puerto Rico and now in remote areas of India.  She is active in the social arena in India where she runs 2 trust funds. People4people puts up playgrounds in poorer sections of Karnataka and funds activities for children. Telrad Foundation provides teleradiology services to poor areas in Asia that do not have access to high-quality medical reports.  She traced the formation and growth of the company and showed how a focus on social good while being commercially successful has created a sustainable, innovative organisation that is fun to work in, profitable and humanistic.

Joe Justice closed the conference with an inspirational talk about the work of WikiSpeed producing a 100MPG motor car using Agile techniques, as the foundation for “rapidly solving problems for social good”.  He states:

We have found team morale to be a multiplier for velocity.
The Agile Manifesto applies to all industries. When we read it and its 12 principles, and switch each mention of “software” with “customer visible value”, we have an elegant methodology that applies to all business.

During the conference, a group of volunteers worked together to build a WikiSpeed car which was unveiled at the end of his talk.

He pointed out that building energy-efficient vehicles is but one of the WikiSpeed backlog items – teams around the world are tackling other problems including drug distribution and research, clean water supply and more.  He invited the audience to join WikiSpeed in making society a better place.

Craig Smith posted his thoughts on the conference on his blog, and a number of podcasts on the Agile Revolution website.

The Agile Alliance hosted the conference, and many of the speakers’ slides/notes are available or download from the conference archive

Dates and venue have already been set for the next two Agile 20XX conferences – Agile 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee and Agile 2014 in Orlando, Florida.


Posted by Shane Hastie