ASWEC 2009 Wrapup

ASWEC 2009Earlier last year I attended the Australian Software Engineering Conference (ASWEC) on the Gold Coast. I recently had to dig up my notes when creating a summary of my year in Agile (2009), and, since the conference was before I started blogging in anger, I decided to post up my notes now.

My impressions of the conference was that whilst its theme was “Agile, the New Mainstream”, many of the core attendees (mainly from the academic and research environments) were relatively unaware of agile in practice. My core criticism was that unlike other conferences I have presented at, this conference requires the speakers to still pay to attend. Luckily my employer was a sponsor and negotiated a free pass, but for this reason I did not submit a proposal for the ASWEC 2010 conference that is being held in Auckland, New Zealand.

ASWEC 2009 - Agile Academy

The following are my notes from the sessions that I attended.

Keynote: Specialization and Economies Of Scale

Mary Poppendieck delivered the day 1 keynote:

  • deal with complexity? – divide and conquer – along what lines do we divide?
  • “The Pin Factory” (Adam Smith, 1776) – divide by specialisation
  • 1930, Ford – the ultimate pin factory – variety is the enemy – a car for every purpose
  • cost of changeover – batch and queue – $ cost to change machines over, Little’s Law (queuing theory)
  • cost of delay – cash flow, obsolecence
  • cost of mistakes
  • cost of motion
  • cost complexity – scheduling, learning
  • use a work cell instead of economies of scale – relied on cross functional team
  • 1968, Edsker Dijkstra defined structured programming and proclaimed need to eliminate bugs to start with, the programming will be cheaper
  • 1972, Harlan Mills defined top down programming – should not have difficulty at integration
  • divide by hierarchy / organisation
  • 1972, Dave Parnas defined criteria for decomposition – modular programming, easier to change
  • 1974, Vint Cerf / Robert Kahn invented TCP/IP – each network stands alone, no information retained by routers, no global control, communications on best effort basis
  • division by matching the domain

Amazon – all about scale

  • transitioned to services, each one
  • owned by two pizza team – must be able to feed the team with two pizzas
  • eliminated communication between teams, seven people cradle to grave, cross functional, stay a minimum of two years
  • now sell as cloud computing
  • like TCP/IP, don’t need to reach agreement – eventual compatibility, don’t worry about different databases, accept and deal with failure
  • software structure meets organisation structure
  • teams need independence to be creative
  • Conway’s Law
  • 1976, Barry Boehm – SDLC – specialisation (like Ford)
  • IBM – convert 35,000 engineers world-wide to agile
  • WebSphere – 10 month deadline, customer feedback every iteration, early access program, customer feedback on discussion forum – 50% of marketing information wrong so developers listened to customer – phenomenal sales day one of release, support calls down by an order of magnitude
  • case study – do agile right and find defects the minute they happen
  • xUnit testing – one of the best software engineering advances in the last decade
  • batch and queue so ingrained, we fail to see queues of work that will take years to clear
  • utilisation paradox – 100% utilisation of highway is a parking lot
  • Empire State Building – September 1929 to May 1931 – on time and 18% under budget, demolition to finish – biggest issue was supply of materials, the only thing that was scheduled (Carol Willis, “Building The Empire State” builders notebook)
  • 4 pacemakers to build the building
  • schedule the constraint – use a pacemaker schedule for the constraint

Towards Specification Based Testing for Semantic Web Services

Gill Dobbie delivered this presentation:

Intellectual Property In The Software Industry

I always enjoy presentations on the legal side of IT, and Alistair Smith delivered this informative presentation:

  • 4,000 patents last year to IBM, USA has the most number of patents
  • copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself
  • patents protect products, methods or processes – jurisdictional (so need to apply multiple times)
  • confidential know-how – not known to the public (eg. the recipe for Coca Cola)- work must be secret, can be leaked
  • trademarks – distinguish goods / services of a trader, Coca Cola 80% is recognition of product – must be distinctive, reproducible, people trading for smells (tyres that smell like roses), can be renewed indefinitely
  • strong protection – need range of IP types
  • do an R&D review eg. Kambrook and power boards
  • patent pending – filed but not yet granted
  • open source and patents do not mix – but use other IP
  • reward inventors
  • formalise IP ownership – make explicit in employment contracts
  • review existing IP – company that had patent for JPEG compression missed 10 years of royalties
  • maintain records of R&D – evidence of inventorship, ownership and prove date of creation for copyright purposes – maintain previous versions of software in unchangeable form, keep notes in bound notebook, dated and signed
  • search IP databases – look at what competitors are doing
  • use trademarks that are registerable – not descriptive  of product, should be distinctive
  • don’t just rely on copyright – does not protect against independent creation
  • don’t rely on confidentiality agreements alone – provides very little protection and hard to prove and hard to recover from
  • don’t rely on open source software being unencumbered by patents eg. Microsoft has 200 Linux patents, IBM “bluewash” on its new takeovers and check code line by line (takes six months)
  • no 10% rule on copying software – infringe is a substantial part – 2 JS/CSS files in a content management system
  • don’t forget to mark products – impact on damages

Invited Presentation: Bringing Agile To Life At The Enterprise Level

ASWEC 2009 - Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, the CIO of Suncorp, delivered this keynote presentation:

  • feedback is essential
  • Wikipedia – 6 employess, 200,000 hours of contribution from community
  • Grateful Dead – high grossing band, found people like listening to music together, “collaboration”
  • leaders need to encourage simplicity
  • provide tools to enable collaboration
  • leaders use passion not threats to get things done
  • innovation / entrepreneurship is for everyone – need to channel the passion
  • Pixar – core beliefs, simplicity, intellectual capability
  • managers need to help teams get out of failure
  • trusted environment – safe to tell the truth, create a learning environment
  • creativity for everyone not just the artists, focus on people not the ideas
  • disseminate the authority to the teams
  • similarities between Pixar and agile
  • get people interested in learning
  • why? why now? why do it this way?
  • we are good at reacting, not so good at responding, initiate change is hard
  • generosity is hard – right for community before yourself
  • managers have employees, leaders have followers
  • culture top down, innovation bottom up
  • fear of failure – actually fear of blame / feedback, very few people fired due to a failed project
  • worse than “no” is a “not yet”

Can change behaviour but hard to change beliefs:

  • don’t believe what you tell them
  • don;t believe what you show them
  • believe what friends tell them
  • people always believe what they tell themselves
  • recognise leadership is scarce – is uncomfortable
  • few things happen by accident
  • don’t settle, have faith in what we do
  • inspire, connect, leverage…

Agile In Government: Successful On-Time Delivery of Software

Adrian Royce delivered this presentation (and the paper won the award for best industry paper):

  • agile buzzword – everybody wants to be flexible
  • chose Scrum – collaboration and for the whole team, encompasses agile principles
  • backlog, only tasks of highest immediate business value were actioned
  • pilot project successful (Housing)
  • twelve successful projects delivered using Scrum (6 = pilot, 3 < pilot, 3 > pilot)
  • largest Scrum project undertaken ($3 million, 4 months ahead of schedule)
  • not everyone ready for Scrum, “just common sense”
  • sense that agile projects increase risk
  • agile = no documentation – government audits require documentation
  • obstacle – organisation and culture
  • benefits – hard to quantify, able to respond quickly
  • increase in morale, productivity, adaptability and business engagement, low staff turnover
  • Scrum Master is essential, focus on team, remove impediments, sprint zero is a necessity
  • do not impose, keep productive teams together, human interaction over technology
  • measure everything, focus on quality (client was not going to be the first to find a bug), leadership essential

Implementing an Enterprise System at Suncorp Using Agile Development

ASWEC 2009 - James Couzens

James Couzens delivered this presentation:

  • what worked well – business engagement, wide stakeholder group
  • not working well – coordination with integration team, managing backlog, overly focussed on showcase
  • definition of done not appearance of done
  • textbook agile does not scale without adjustments
  • business need to be onboard

Keynote: Agile Thinking – From Concept to Reality

Graeme Wood, the founder of Wotif, delivered this keynote:

  • started using agile without knowing they were using it
  • design constrained by six UI screens and a rough database design
  • chaos is fun, makes people think quickly
  • market for hotel rooms not working efficiently (travel agents) – only 60% – 70% occupancy
  • no business plan, no design, originally written by two people sitting side by side, allowed for quick change
  • launched in 2000 with 60 hotels, slim margin
  • no advertising budget, word of mouth, wined and dined journalists, wrote stories, etc
  • simplistic UI – has hardly changed
  • supplier can change cost hour by hour – not locked in
  • fewest number of clicks, no login / registration
  • keen not to have hospitality people – that was model we were trying to change
  • small teams, 9-10 max – largest system made them focus on the architecture – if don’t have that becomes “wild west territory”
  • flat organisational structure, keep small teams focussed on what they are there for
  • business dragged back from solving all of the “distressed inventory” opportunities
  • need to get agile thinking into the business planning area  why don’t more IT people go towards management? – IT such a big part
  • start your own conversation, send a demo to influence, start a future systems blog
  • communication with potential business partners or customers
  • social networking has opened up communication outside normal business
  • all this fails, resign and start your own business
  • majors came aboad reluctantly, no paid positions, alphabetical is star rating, started renaming properties and getting regraded – leveled the playing field
  • suppliers to hospitality industry have been slow to change
  • started with Visual Basic, now all open source
  • Wotnews – public site plus corporate solution to look for customers, staff, etc… Initially around financial services, feeds from the ASX, verging on Media Monitors, greater depth than Google News, can get Wotnews to get competitors newsletters
  • re-architected about two years in, cancelled big bag because it didn’t feel right,now doing incrementally

Static Bug Checking Tools and Why You Should Care

Nathan Keynes delivered this presentation:

  • date back to Lint (1978)
  • FindBugs
  • most people just run once
  • most bug checkers report false positives and false negatives
  • commercial bug checkers expensive, comparisons not available and price on size of codebase
  • upfront effort, legacy codebase may not be parseable
  • Parfait for C++ / C – Sun for Solaris
  • BegBunch – benchmarking bug checking tools – accuracy / performance

Simulating Software Evolution with Varying Numbers of Developers and Validation Using OSS

Steve Counsell delivered this presentation:

  • hard to known optimum number of developers – Brook’s Law
  • used software to simulate this
  • empirical studies difficult – costly, OSS disparate, developers
  • comprehension not so good, implementation very little variation

Project Management Stage

ASWEC 2009 - Project Management Stage

I was thrilled to be invited to chair the Project Management Stage on behalf of the Agile Academy, and introduce two awesome talks by Paul Bannerman (Risk Implications of Software Project Organization Structures) and Steve Jenkins (Failing at Iteration Management – Analyst Style)

ASWEC 2009 - Craig Smith Project Management Stage

ASWEC 2009 - Steve Jenkins

Extreme Programming Stage

Myself and a number of my colleagues were together on this stage including:

Andy Marks presenting Faking Agility – A Coach’s Observations

ASWEC 2009 - Andy Marks

Rebecca Hopkins presenting Infrastructure Projects Go Agile!

ASWEC 2009 - Rebecca Hopkins

And myself and Paul King presenting Experiences from Agile Projects Great & Small

ASWEC 2009 - Craig Smith &amp; Paul King

and the copy of our presentation:


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