Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Agile is the new BLACK - Fred George - Agile India 2013

Spoiler Alert

The below post is the complete experience report (more of dump) of Fred George's presentation at Agile India 2013. I hope I am not stealing his thunder or ruining it for you if you are planning to attend his talks scheduled in near future. Also this blog post is the best I can recall from my memory and notes, so please take this blog post as my version of his talk.

Agile is the new BLACK

Fred George gave his newest talk on "Agile is the new BLACK" at Agile India 2013. The talk derives its title from the fashion industry which popularize the statements of form 

"X is the new Y" 

Similarly, now everything in Software world has to be Agile, if you are not doing Agile, people are likely to frown at you.

Agile Smell

Fred has been someone who started coding since 1968, so have seen the Agile/XP family of Software Process develop from its infancy. The essence of the talk was that in Agile, the processes should never be set in stone. Agile by the very term encourages to constantly experiment and evolve the process itself. He introduced the term "Agile Smell", similar to "Code Smells" that helps you detect if you are doing Agile wrong.

I have known Fred as someone who laid the foundation of ThoughtWorks University (TWU), the internal graduate training program at ThoughtWorks. Along with planning the initial syllabus and schedule for TWU, he also designed many of the sessions. And having spent most of the last year as a trainer at TWU, I really appreciate the engaging way it has been done. The sessions are not a monologue or lectures delivered and done with, rather it is an experience which attendees and students become part of. Something similar was in store for this session as well.

Score Card

Fred presented a "Score Card" to the audience. He would put up a question, and then give out some options. Each option would have a positive or negative points associated with it. Based on the options you have seen or applied in your project, you can give yourself marks. For e.g.
The question can be around using Tools for Project Management in Agile Software Development. Then you can give yourself -  
  • +20 if you are not using any tools
  • -10 if you are using something reasonable
  • -25 if you are using a very expensive tool
The logic being, expensive tools with complex process tends to bind the team in a rigid tool oriented process rather than allowing the team to innovate and accelerate.

Agile Smells

Fred categorized recognizing Agile Smells under different categories.

Agile is not Waterfall

Waterfall came from manufacturing process. We better know it is not suitable for Software Development. So give yourself -

  • +5 if you use Story Cards
  • +10 if you have a Card Wall
  • -10  if Gantt chart is used to track progress

Iteration Length

Smaller iteration length meant quicker feedback. So give yourself -
  • +5 points if you have 2 weeks
  • +10 points if you have 1 week
  • +25 if doesn't exists currently
  • -10 same as year ago
  • -10 more than 2 wks
  • -25 more than 1 month

Roles in Agile Team

Traditionally there are 3 roles: business, managers, development. Fred is not one of followers of DevOps movement and opposes the idea of a separate DevOps role. +1 to that. Also, any roles that has "X - certified" should ring alarm in your heads.

So give yourself -
  • +5 points to every role you killed
  • -10 for introducing new role, specially one with "Agile -" to it


Give yourself -

  • +20 if you are not using any tools
  • -10 if you are using something reasonable
  • -25 if you are using a very expensive tool

For other categories I will give a quick summary

  • Process Guide
    • Having an editable wiki over rigid document
  • Bug Tracking
    • Fixing the bug right away over tracking it via tool, having a meeting to prioritize it
  • Permission to Ship
    • Shipping incremental change in the product over having a heavy process oriented release
  • Process Experiments
    • Regular experiment with the process over having a non-changing process
  • Requirements Hierarchy
    • Tracking the progress at Story level rather micro managing at Task level


As a inventor and proponent of Programmer Anarchy, Fred shares the practices they were able to get rid of.

Restarting Your Agile

In the end, Fred shares his handy checklist of restarting the agile in an organization.

Agile India 2013 - Day 1 - Kick Off

I have been to QCon London 2012 and greatly impressed by the organization of conference. So my post is going to be a bit biased. Overall kudos to the Agile India Organizing Team to have a conference organized in India that comes the closest to international standards.

I am finally sitting in the lobby of Agile India 2013, at the posh Sheraton Hotel, Rajaji Nagar. It is not exactly in the central Bangalore, but a little outskirts near Yeshwantpur. It is about 15 kms from central region like Koramangala, so next time if the venue is same, make sure you have booked a cab for both drop and pickup. Other than being far off from the central Bangalore, the venue is pretty amazing. Not many complaints if it is in 5 star hotel, and all the conference halls on the same floor, an up from QCon where we had a full venue of 3 floors to ourselves and running across floors to attend different sessions.

In the lobby I could see few familiar faces like Craig Larman, Freg George, Mary Poppendick etc., famous speakers in the Software World :). It cannot get better than this for someone in Bangalore, India.

Getting Ready to Kick Off Agile India 2013

There are few things that could be improved by the organizers.

  • Starting from goody bag, looks like it contains only marketing material from the Sponsors - ThoughtWorks, Rally, Atlassian, Collabnet, Airtel. All the marketing handouts/templates are there. And nothing else, no schedule, pens or notebook. Looks like someone forgot to put them in as the organizer were surprised not to find it inside, and later on last minute scramble to put notebook and pencils on every chair in the conference room.
  • Confusion persisted at the registration counter for sometime after the event kick off, like giving out T-Shirts after keynote and session overview were already done. It may well have been planned that way, but if I come to the stall for registration, finish off all these formalities in one go. 
  • There were food coupons, even high tea coupons. Who came up with brilliant idea ?
  • Though the registration stalls opened at 8:00 AM, the expectation was that the attendees would have finished off their breakfast. First of all, travel to a far off venue, over that starting so early, obviously there was no way I could have had breakfast. Damn, I was hungry as hell sitting through my first session.
  • The conference started off at 9:00 AM sharp. Something worth mentioning, as well as the rest of the day went as planned with most if not all the speakers sticking to their allotted time.
  • The introduction of Craig Larman could have been much much better. In short, the introduction included 2 statements about him, one of them being he did a keynote back in 2006, and nothing about his background. Obviously someone like Craig Larman does not need any introduction, even that was not mentioned :(. Craig did a better job of introducing himself and telling more about his India connection, that he can speak Hindi and lived in India in 1978. A great opportunity missed. 
  • One of the best things I liked about QCon was instant feedback at exit. All the volunteers were given iPod Touch with application to record feedback for the session. A quick feedback saying the session was BAD-OK-AWESOME. People were excited to give the feedback, also it would have definitely helped the organizer keep the quality of sessions better. Hope Agile India 2014 have something like that.
  • The net speed sucks. Sucks so bad I want to curse it angry and loud. I was banking on a decent internet connection to do live blogging, which was obviously not possible if you cannot even load the Please, please get it fixed for tomorrow.

Looking forward to better times in conference.

Live Blogging at Agile India 2013

After a long long time, I am back to my blog.

Though the recent past have been great and lot of things to blog on, but either they have been sitting in the draft state or still in a corner of my brain. That hasn't worked obviously, so I am here, for 4 complete days at Agile India 2013, and determined to do Live Blogging.

So stay tuned and please leave your comments.