AgileTODAY is a publication associated with the Agile Australia conference that is run by SlatteryIT. It is published quarterly and I have been lucky enough to have articles in the first two editions.
Volume 1 – May 2011
In this edition I featured in a profile entitled “60 seconds with Craig Smith”.
With 15 years of software development and eight years of Agile practice under his belt, Craig Smith is an experienced and vocal advocate of the Agile methodology. He has regularly spoken at both the global and Australian Agile conferences, and currently spends his days as an Agile Coach at Suncorp’s Agile Academy.
Craig is a Certiﬁed Scrum Master, a member of the Scrum Alliance and Agile Alliance, an advisor to Agile Australia, and will be speaking at Agile Australia 2011.
Everybody starts their Agile journey somewhere. What was your ‘a-ha!’ moment?
My a-ha moment was in the days before many folks were even calling it Agile in 2001 – 2002. I worked on a project to write a lending application written in Java where we overtook a small meeting room, started writing tasks and designs on a whiteboard, split designing screens down via CRUD and core functionality and we paired and worked as a team to get things done. I could never go back after that. What has been your greatest challenge when introducing Agile to an organisation?
How did you overcome it?
In the early days it was trying to get people to take you seriously, as not delivering reams of documentation at the start of a project was seen like being a cowboy yet we were delivering faster than the teams around us. It felt much like working in a bubble because when we went outside our team environment we had to fall back to the waterfall processes used by the rest of the organisation. When Jeff Smith joined Suncorp, it was refreshing that someone in higher management had similar views, and since that point it has been a challenge to ﬁ nd approaches to make our IT teams (and now the entire organisation) to work more effectively.
What is your favourite Agile-related quote?
I am always having to remind people that “our job is not to do quality Agile, it is to deliver quality software or solutions”. We just use Agile values, principles and practices to help us do that. I am quite concerned how much the term Agile is overloaded or used as an excuse by many people now, so have started a movement to come up with a new label, and joked we should call it “raccoon”. (in hindsight I should have come up with a better name!)
What is the strangest situation you’ve applied an Agile principle to?
It’s amazing how many situations the core practices of stand-ups, retrospectives and Big Visual Charts are applicable to. I ﬁ nd it more amazing that when getting together to plan work with other Agile coaches or working on different Agile conferences, how often I have to remind people to visualise their ﬂ ow or do a reﬂ ection on progress.
If you could have a total career change, what would you be?
I never set out to work directly in IT, as I did a dual IT – librarianship degree at university. Part of me still wants to tick that box at some stage. But if I could ﬁ nd a job that I had the skills for that related to my love of motorsport, that would be awesome.
What is your favourite thing on your desk right now?
I don’t have a desk, so I live out of a backpack (one of my colleagues calls me “the turtle” because I carry my desk around). So when I do ﬁ nd a real desk, a power pack is usually pretty good. As for the cool stuff, I have a Spongebob Squarepants and a bunch of Simpsons characters on my desk at home!
Volume 2- September 2011
In this edition I wrote an article entitled “The Wow Starts Now”
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ‘Agile Manifesto’. This historic document was the culmination of the ideas of 17 passionate guys who got together on a mountain outside of Salt Lake City with the aim of focussing on delivering quality software rather than following mundane process.
This document was not the invention of Agile, as approaches like XP and Scrum were already around at this point, but it was the document that gave us the label ‘Agile’.
In the years since, we have seen the rise and rise of the adoption of Agile methods. However, while its core values and principles have remained the same, many new and improved practices have evolved.
We saw this in June this year when we held the third annual Agile Australia conference in Sydney. It was full of buzz and enthusiasm from the 700-plus attendees and it brought home to me what I appreciate most about being part of the Agile community. The fact that everybody – both your friends and competitors – are willing to share their experiences, good or bad, is something that I am sure would not have happened ten years ago.
On the flipside, one of the criticisms I have heard of late, is that there is no “WOW” in the Agile community anymore.
This got me questioning. Where has all the “WOW” gone?
I think in part, Agile is now seen as having well and truly crossed the chasm into mainstream. However, have we gone so far that have we have actually jumped the shark?
Judging by what I have seen at this and other recent Agile conferences, there is in fact “WOW” happening everywhere. You just have to notice and appreciate it.
These range from small examples like the different ways that people tackle retrospectives or organise their iteration planning, right through to innovative approaches to testing and deployment. We need to bring these innovations out of the shadows and shine a light on them, and not be too quick to dismiss them.
My thoughts are that we need to make sure that people who are still on their Agile journey have some basic practices and approaches to build their Agile foundation – which is a huge “WOW” on its own. For the rest of us who have made the leap, we need to remember the twelfth Agile Manifesto principle: “
At regular intervals, the team reﬂ ects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”
In other words, we need to continually adjust and share our findings, and every now and then we might just come up with a “WOW” moment. That’s how practices like user stories and test driven development were invented.
My challenge to you, reader, is what is your ‘WOW’? Sharing our experiences, good and bad, is what makes the Agile community great. We need you to share your war stories and your improvements on existing processes and practices (and if you do, we welcome you to share it at the Agile Australia 2012 conference!)
To paraphrase Martin Fowler in his closing keynote at Agile Australia 2011: If you say Agile is no longer relevant, then essentially you are saying you are happy to go back to the ways of the past. If you have truly used Agile in your organisation or team, then you would agree there is no going back – and that is the greatest WOW of all.
Craig Smith is an Agile Coach at Suncorp and an advisor to the Agile Australia Conference.