I’ve been to a number of Agile conference over the years, but I ended up skipping the last 2 conferences. Now here I am at Agile 2014 in Orlando and these are my observations, in no particular order:
- The location with its glass dome and attached conference center reminds me of the Biosphere 2 experiment. It’s way too easy never to step outside any more and just live in this artificial microcosm all day every day. Nice facility though, nonetheless. Maybe it’s good I don’t have to step outside if I don’t want to because it’s HOT and HUMID out there…
- I do like the Agile crowd a lot. Fun, informal, intelligent and passionate about doing the right things in the right way.
- This conference is crowded and the sessions are filling up way early, often with standing room only. Do we need more room or fewer people?
- I don’t hear much about Agile outside of software development any more. While always an edge case, I thought it came up more in the past.
- There seem to be fewer techies here and while there are a decent number of sessions with technical focus, there seem to be fewer than there used to be. There are more leadership and management folks in attendance, less QA and developers (or so it seems). Overall the focus continues to shift away from Scrum and XP and is definitely more on scaling Agile, organizational agility, cultural shift, larger-scale transformations, sustainability, coaching,
- Governance isn’t dead, but seen as needed, although the word itself still gives people the creeps. I guess it’s a different form of leadership needed in this area with lighter-touch approaches. Enablement, not control. Cool what some companies have done in this space, e.g. Salesforce. On that note, I see more discussion about coordinated coaching and Agile groups helping organizations internally.
- The word “coach” seems to come up more than Scrum Master and Product Owner nowadays. These other two aren’t mentioned directly as much any more. Product Management isn’t very prominent either. Lean Startup on the other
hand appears to be a well-understood “standard” approach. Project management and project managers aren’t talked about much any more either.
- Metrics are tough, yet needed. Centralized, enterprise metrics remain challenging and inconsistent, also because of differences in teams’ practices. Less is more. Buy-in is needed. Bottom up is better than top down. People need to want to use this stuff and the data should be generated automatically. There will be holes especially if one doesn’t want to impose process and tool changes on teams. Very few organizations do this well.
- DevOps is a hot topic, but not overwhelming. Personally I’m not sure what to think of it yet.
- The arch-rivalry of VersionOne and Rally is as strong as ever. Funny how you got to pick what kind of badge you want and how the booths are back to back, facing away from each other. I wasn’t really here to learn about vendors or products in this space. I happened to learn about TaskTop and – while I misunderstood what it was just based on the name (I thought something related to Kanban boards – duh!) – I think it has the potential to solve some real business problems.
- SAFe remains somewhat controversial, depending on whom you talk to. Somewhat of a polarizing topic. Still seems quite prescriptive to me. Maybe I haven’t paid that much attention to the topic in the past, but for the first time I learned that there are a number of alternative approaches such as Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), the Spotify approach, etc. (Great session on Smart Scaling by Richard Dolman and Steven Spearman, BTW). One common denominator between most of the approaches seems to be a 3-level, tiered structure. Something we’ll need to think about more as well.
- I did enjoy hearing Scott Ambler. Interesting take on things. I will have to give DAD another look. Had a nice conversation with him before one of the sessions and discussed how to do this “governance” thing right. I like the pragmatic approach and how – without seeming too prescriptive – different choices are offered for each area without ignoring the cultural aspects of being Agile.
- Organizational agility and its cultural implications are something I will have to think about more. Easy to ignore and much easier to focus on practices at the team level.
- Being able to take notes on a light iPad with keyboard is a lifesaver! Gone are the days of shlepping around my laptop. Thanks Apple! That’s it for now. What did YOU see and think? Post a comment and let me know!P.S.: Having taken a break the last 2 years, it looks like I may have missed out on a thing or two. Will I be back next year? I hope so!Follow me on Twitter at @rrosendahl.