Project Practitioners > Agile 2008 – Starting out With The Best of Intentions

Agile 2008 – Starting out With The Best of Intentions

By Kent McDonald

This post will be the first in the series I am writing about the Agile 2008 Conference. Most of the posts will be while I am there, discussing things I discovered that I thought others may be interested in as well.  I am writing this particular post on my way to Toronto, intending to describe what I hope to get out of the conference. If for no other reason than to make sure I actually do accomplish some of the things I am setting out to do.  You know how conferences can go, you attend with some vague idea of what you want to learn, but if you don’t actually clarify what those ideas are you get wrapped up in the great conversation, interesting people, and fun activities. It becomes very easy to fly home exhausted, having had a great time, but not really getting done what you wanted.  Well at least I do...

I am what you could call an Agile Conference veteran.  This is my fifth agile conference.  I have seen the conference grow from 350 or so people in Salt Lake City in 2004 to an expected 1500 people this year.  The Agile Conference is an annual gathering of the agile community, organized by the non profit Agile Alliance.  The conference offers an opportunity for those with loads of experience in agile practices, as well those new to agile to get together, share ideas, and find out what this agile thing is all about and how others have used it in their organizations.

I am very familiar with agile methods by this point so I am not necessarily looking to learn more about the methods themselves, rather I am looking to get more information about how people are applying those methods to solve real business problems, and to find out what experiences people are having applying the methods in different types of environments so that I can share those stories with others, and apply those ideas in projects I work on.

I have an advantage when it comes to finding out how people use agile to solve actual business problems.  I helped organize the conference by being a Stage Producer for the Customer and Business Value stage. That means I was able to play a big role in picking a set of sessions that were all about appropriate practices and experiences for determining what to build.  This is actually an important topic for teams regardless of what methodology uses, as it is often pointed to as one of the reasons projects fail (described as not managing scope, or not understanding requirements).  As I mentioned in my article User Illusion Agile methods provide good guidance on how to build the right thing, but they seem to abdicate responsibility for determining what the right thing is to “the business”.  I know there are finally some people in the agile community working on how to make decisions about the right things, so I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say.  I am also interested in experiences you may have had making decisions about what the truly right thing is.  If you have some thoughts, feel free to share in the comments to this blog.

I am interested to hear how others are applying agile in their own environments, what challenges they are facing and how they are overcoming those challenges because I want to see if everyone is diving head first into agile, completely adopting all of the practices of a given agile method at once, or if they find that gradual introduction of the practices has worked better for them.  My experience tells me that to fully adopt agile requires the type of culture change that most organizations are not initially willing to take on.  I think stories of gradual adoptions that got teams closer to building the right things in the right way would be interesting and information to others who are looking to generally have more effective projects.  This search is also influenced by my desire to view agile from a pragmatic perspective rather than a dogmatic one.  Identify the problems you have, find practices that may help, try out the practices, and reflect and adapt.

So we’ll see as the week progresses if there are others out there in the agile community with the same ideas, or if I am some nut with some extremely practical thoughts.  Either way, I suspect I will sleep well on the way home Friday, having had a great time, having talked to a lot of great people, and maybe, just maybe, having picked up and passed along a few nuggets of useful information.

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