It was a day of firsts. It was the first time where the name and logo for the event indicated the lunch menu (Yes, we had fried chicken for lunch, of course.). It was the first time that I got to see Dave West, Tasktop’s Chief Product Officer, deliver one of his clever, information rich, and hilarious stand up comedy… err… umm… keynote speeches. And, it was the first time for me discussing agile metrics insights with a large agile audience since I left Rally Software and became Tasktop’s Data Scientist.
It represented a big shift in perspective for me — from the perspective of one of the leading agile application lifecycle management (ALM) tool vendors; to a more heterogenous perspective where there is both more than just one tool’s ALM data to analyze AND there is more than just ALM data from which to glean insight.
The perspective of others about me, I noticed, has also shifted. I was Rally’s quant. Now, I’m more of the agile community’s quant. One of the other speakers at the conference heard me speak for the first time and tweeted something to the effect that he would have normally skipped a talk by a vendor as not of much value, but that he was glad he came to my talk. Before, I was biased, now I am perceived as more neutral.
It’s amazing how a change of perspective can make all the difference.
Besides my personal perspective shifts, Southern Fried Agile was representative of a number of other perspective shifts ongoing in the agile community. The attendance was up by roughly 50% from prior years. They sold out in terms of attendance (over 600) AND sponsorship. I didn’t see a single room that wasn’t at least mostly full. Part of the credit for this goes to the excellent way in which it was run (shout out to Neville Poole and Kelley Horton, just two of the organizers that I had personal contact with). However, I think there is a shift in the industry going on here as well. We’ve been saying that, “agile is going mainstream” for a while now, but this is the first year where I think that’s totally true.
Beyond that though, I think there is a broadening of perspective occurring. It used to be that agile was the domain of developers with some input from QA. Now, DevOps, Architecture, Business Analysts, User Experience folks, and the rest of the business are getting into the act. We’re also using analytics more to make software engineering decisions. This broadening of the scope of agile is a definite change in perspective with significant repercussions.
There were many talks at the conference that representing this shift. The alternative title to Dave West’s keynote was, “Building a strategy that marries Scaled Agile, DevOps and Lean Analytics into a transformational approach that will kill any wicked witch”. Dave’s final advice was to focus on four things:
- Flow – How information moves around your organization
- Collaboration – How people cross teams communicate
- Reporting / Analytics – What information we need to see
- Traceability – How things are connected and governed
Roughly half of the talks at this conference represent this shift including:
- Eric King & Dr. Victoria Ann Kline: What Does Agile in the Non-IT Space Look Like
- Tim Wise: How to Successfully Scale Agile in Your Enterprise
- Roy Miller: NoOps: More Dev Less Ops
- Linda Butt & Todd Biedrzycki: Scaling Agile in the Real World
- Brad Murphy: Moving from Agile Software Dev to Scaled Business Agility & Radical Innovation
However, one talk more than any other represented this shift — Mark Wanish, David Poore, and Richard Thomas: “Optimizing the Whole” Development Business & Architecture Delivering in Harmony. I got the sense, both during their talk but perhaps more so when speaking to them outside of their talk that it currently takes a certain kind of leadership and a ton of determination to spread agile outside of the development teams at a larger organization like Bank of America, where they work. The first step was to get the infrastructure, DevOps if you will, to work in a more agile manner. Internal IT shops are competing with (or at least being compared to) hosted services like Amazon Web Services. If you can get a virtual machine in minutes and few clicks there, agile organizations shouldn’t put up with 3-6 month lead time for hardware. They seem to have gotten past that hurdle (or wave as they describe it). The next waves for them are architects, business analysts, and user experience folks.
Note: I still owe this audience a description of why I left Rally and came to Tasktop. Now that we’ve released our Tasktop Data product, I think some folks can start to guess, but I’m now free to talk about that openly and will come back with a blog post on this topic before too long.