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See You in Toronto

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: See You in Toronto

It has been quite a week. My Agile 2008 presentations are finally complete and I am ready for Toronto. This is my first time speaking at the conference and I’m pretty excited about it. This is also my first time attending the conference on the vendor side. All in all this will shake out to be a great week, I am sure of it.

I keep telling my wife that while yes, the conference is going to be fun, I am not going to Toronto for vacation. I’ll plan to keep the pictures of the VersionOne boat cruise to myself.

Before I head out, I want to give everyone a little more information on my talks, how they came to be, and what you can expect to get out of them. A few months ago I published my abstracts, but now that the talks are actually written, it is time for a little bit of an update. Every one of my talks at Agile 2008 started right here as blog posts and are based on my personal experiences running agile (and not so agile) project teams.

If you are heading to the conference, please come and introduce yourself. I would love to meet you guys!

Leading Volunteers with Agility
August 6th, 2:00PM – 3:30PM, Huron Room

This is a topic I am very passionate about.

I am involved in lots of different volunteer communities, anything from APLN and DSDM, to the small private school my wife and I help run. As I became immersed in thinking and teaching agile, I began to see significant parallels between running great software teams and running great volunteer organizations. Any time you need to engage someone’s heart and mind, their passion and creativity, or their enthusiasm and excitement, the principles and the techniques are the same.

This is a workshop so fortunately I don’t get to do all the talking. We are going to build on the ideas in my original blog and see where we can take it. We will engage the audience to help explore the problem space a little more deeply, brainstorm some ideas for agile principles that can be applied to volunteer situations, and then see if we can come up with some practical guidance to share with other people trying to lead great learning organizations.

The Good and Bad of Agile Offshore Development
August 7th, 4:00PM – 5:30PM, Conference Room H

Back at CheckFree I was really fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a great team of folks at Infosys in Pune. It is one thing to hear about the pros and cons of off-shoring, but getting to experience some it first hand was invaluable. This is my opportunity to share some of those experiences, and the lessons learned, with the broader agile community.

This talk is an experience report so I only have 30 minutes to get my most important points across. This talk does comes with a six page experience report, so if you are interested, look me up in the conference proceedings. I’ll post the report to my blog (and the VersionOne site) after the conference has concluded.

Using the Unified Process as a Scaling Framework for Scrum
August 8th, 8:30AM – 10:00AM, Conference Room C

This one is the most controversial of my three talks. Prior to joining VersionOne, I was managing a portfolio of projects supported by a team over 70 people. That team was responsible for several products, each with significant architectural subcomponents, some of which were external to the company, and which collectively spanned a wide range of new and legacy technologies.

We found out pretty quickly that some of the principles being taught in the agile community just didn’t seem to resonate when you got bigger than seven people or so. When the skillsets required to deliver became significantly diverse, and the number of people required to build the system get really big, what do you do? We could not find the answers.

Our company happened to be going through a RUP deployment and I had some background using RUP from a previous job. We basically took some guidance from the RUP and used it to scale Scrum.

We used the RUP phases to control risk and prioritize the backlog. Phases also helped us establish more agile tollgates with the business. We took some guidance on use cases and architectural decomposition and we took the ‘spirit of RUP’. We learned that doing agile at scale sometimes means you have to be more intentional about architecture, sometimes you need to write more things down to keep everyone on the same page, and we created models for helping everyone, across all the teams, work in effective synchronization.

I start my talk saying that this is not a ‘questioning agile talk’ it is a ‘scaling agile talk’. To some degree this is really a 90 minute experience report on how we scaled agile. Is this the final word on the subject? Probably not. There are others in the community writing in this space. I will be interested to see if this approach gains any traction.

Be warned, the community did not like this talk. I think I got six reviews and all of them were bad. The conference selected me anyway. I am hoping those six people are not lying in wait ready to throw rotten vegetables at me! I am not a RUP apologist, but at the same time, I am not an agile purist either. I am a pragmatist… it’s all about getting projects delivered!

See you in Toronto!

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