Agile Australia 2012 Day 2 Review

Day 2 of Agile Australia 2012, and another busy day of MC’ing and attending sessions.

The first (hastily rescheduled) keynote session was from Roy Singham from ThoughtWorks.

From Agile Australia 2012

The second keynote was supposed to be Mark “Bomber” Thompson from the Essendon Football Club but he was an unexplained no show. After an impromptu thankyou speech from me and breaking the conference for an early break, James Hird arrived to substitute and did an impromptu talk. As a result of the scheduling changes, I unfortunately did not get to see much of either session.

From Agile Australia 2012

How Lonely Planet Used Agile With SAP and Delighted Customers

I sat in the back of this session delivered by Ed Cortis from Lonely Planet. His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • failed, needed twice as many people after implementation
  • ran net promoter scores internally, -40!
  • attempted Agile customer management – planning meetings took 3 hours, attendance dropped, SAP team became prioritisers
  • NPS dropped to about -35
  • changed team structure and in-sourced, positive NPS
  • got agile working – 4 week sprint, 40 minunte presentation, stakeholders turn up because if you are not there you don’t get prioritised
  • developed a prioritisation matrix – business value versus effort, colour coded cards for skillset, sets order for prioritisation
  • pre work is required for the meeting – know how many points of effort for every available person
  • prioritisation board – built the backlog as part of the session
  • no spreadsheets!

The Trouble With Time Machine

I was MC for this session delivered by Matthew Hodgson from Zen Ex Machina. He gets extra marks for working Doctor Who and bow tie references into the talk. His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • UX people are time travelers
  • time machine pattern – work an iteration or more ahead of the development team
  • UX is primarily about design, we are in two different worlds
  • embed the time machine pattern within Scrum
  • personas – focus on the pragmatic face of our users (David Hussman) – synthesise what we understand at the moment
  • added to GWT… Given I am a role AND I VALUE, When… Then…
  • grooming is the forgotten ceremony
  • involved the users in planning poker – got clear perspective in the context of their environment]
  • demo became a cognitive walk through

Emerging Paradigms in Software Testing

I was MC for this session for Kristan Vingrys from ThoughtWorks. I have known Kristan for a number of years, and I resonate very closely with his views on testing and testers. His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • you have to build quality into the product
  • ATDD is a good way to break down the barriers between developers and testers
  • need to change focus to preventing defects rather than finding defects – measure yourself that more defects is bad
  • fast feedback – embrace continuous integration, automation and the test pyramid
  • involve everyone – crowd source your problems, tests are an asset, version control your test cases
  • change focus from how I prevent this going into production onto how I get this into production
  • build pipeline- stage build to run different tests in different stages in the pipeline
  • tester needs to inform the team of quality, not be responsible for quality
  • target testing to things that are changing, not just scatter gun
  • it’s about the principles, not the practices
  • test code is code – treat it like any other code
  • it’s important to know what you are not covering, more than what we are covering (Model Based Testing)

Design Eye For A Dev Guy

I was MC for this session delivered by Julian Boot from Majitek. This was one of the highlight sessions that I attended at the conference and as I remarked when thanking Julian, it reaffirmed how much I don’t know about good design. His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • you gotta love it, you gotta be able to do it and it needs to deliver a bag load of cash
  • people now expect a fit and finish, design is now expected
  • people over process, not everyone is a good designer so let people play to their strengths as weaknesses get in the way of excellence – need to understand it though
  • design is related to visual processing – what we see is what we design, design can be taught
  • highlight individual items – contrast, colour, shape, white space, underlining
  • grouping – proximity, continuity, enclosure, connection
  • proportion, substance and harmony are important
  • subtle changes dramatically affect the visualization
  1. use a grid like CSS Grid and Twitter Bootstrap
  2. focus on data over labels – make the data bigger, keep your headings close to your data so you don’t get lost
  3. hierarchy of actions, but use them properly
  4. colour – use a designer, but if not use 3 colours in one shade and two others (using three grey is the best pro tip and two others)
  5. let design be your brand, don’t overuse the brand

Agile Executive: The Naked Truth!

I was MC for this session led by Kelly Waters from ThoughtWorks and author of the All About Agile blog. I unfortunately did not get to see much of this presentation, the slides for which are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012

Agile Development on Large Legacy Architecture

I was MC for this session delivered by Tony Young from Integrated Research. This session was designated as “Expert” but there is nothing in this that I could see that made it that level. His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • teams find it hard to focus at 7-8 people and they saw parallel development, sweet spot was 5+/- 1
  • changed because competitors moving faster and customers questioned our quality
  • used agile guidelines, not rules – had must dos and bendys
  • product team deliver using Scrum and give to a QA team that uses Kanban !
  • the peer pressure to try is key
  • use Lego board for backlog to see resource impacts

Other Stuff

One of my colleagues who presented a talk on day 2 was Colin McCririck (who is the Executive Manager of a team I coached for some time) and he spoke on Leadership Secrets for Agile Adoption).

Rosie X recorded an interview with me during the conference which was a lot of fun.

Renee Troughton and I took some time out from talks to record a podcast interview with Ilan Goldstein for the Agile Revolution.

Renee also recorded a podcast with Kim Ballestrin on Cynefin.

We also recorded a wrapup podcast.

I also did some short interviews for InfoQ, which resulted in a wrap-up story.


Agile Australia 2012 Day 1 Review

Agile Australia 2012 was held a few weeks ago at the Hilton on the Park Melbourne in front of a record (and venue busting) 850 attendees. This year I had the privilege of being a plenary session host and speaker, present at two workshop sessions and be an MC at a number of different sessions.

Furthermore, I was a member of the advisory committee with the role of program overview along with the usual duties of reviewing and shepherding conference speakers. This year the review process was open to comments and voting from the community and overall I think we ended up with a good mix of proposals.

With all my duties I was quite busy this year, but here are my notes from day 1.

Keynote: When The Stakes Are High

Dr. Fiona Wood, Plastic Surgeon and Director of the WA Burns Unit, was the keynote speaker and undoubtedly for many people was the highlight of the conference. The advisory committee (and particularly Martin Kearns) had been aiming to get somebody from the medical profession for a couple of years, and her talk was nothing short of inspiring.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • you either engage in the landscape or whine about it
  • we need to enjoy what we do, but it is our passion that drives us
  • when you see what you think is the answer, step back and look for the rest of the jigsaw
  • learn something from everyday, so that tomorrow is better
  • time is precious, understand what is out there rather than reinventing the wheel, start in front of the start line
  • had to look for nozzles to spray skin, ended up using Italian mouth freshener!
  • you need to articulate the vision so that the team will get it, passionate leadership alone won’t bring people along for the journey
  • no better way to manage a disaster than having planned for it first
  • how can we mould our resources to deliver at a better level
  • leadership has to be very flexible
  • respect those people that have changed your life, if you realise it say thank you, you may miss your opportunity in the future
  • nobody does anything in life in isolation, need to communicate well so we can contribute
  • why can’t we celebrate being the best we can be every day
  • criticism is essential, but criticism and walking away is a total waste of time
  • I use energy to find better solutions to the patients I treat rather than waste that energy arguing with somebody
  • we access our thoughts by communicating, facilitating and shaking the tree
  • today is not as good as it gets, that’s what gets me up in the morning
  • it’s not get to the top of the mountain and stick the flag, it’s the journey
  • “who am I not to dream”, dream but anchor it in reality

Keynote: Agile: Looking Back, Looking Forward: Adapt, Innovate, Collaborate & Deliver

Following on from Dr. Fiona Wood was a tough act, but in front of 850 I took the stage with Nigel DaltonDavid Joyce and Simon Bristow to deliver this session. The slides are available in a separate post.

From Agile Australia 2012
From Agile Australia 2012

Mainframe Test Automation Within SCRUM – How Did We At The BNZ Get It To Work?

Bram Surti and Rob White from BNZ delivered this session. Essentially I was interested to see if they did anything different to what I had already tried myself in this space. Sadly, I didn;t learn much new, but I was pleased to see they were using a lot of the same tools and approaches that I had used myself in this space. Their slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • needed a Java expert to help with the writing and debugging of tests
  • used Concordion – developers instrument the tests and used JUnit under the covers
  • used Jenkins for continuous integration
  • COBOL is a dinosaur, it is scary and big and hard
  • used stored procedures to inject messages – could be dropped and tested on the mainframe and invoked from any language
  • used Concordion Logging Tooltip Extension to get the debugging output
  • used FreeHost 3270 to drive the green screens, old software that needed some upgrading
  • got buy in from mainframe developers as driving green screens was very useful for upgrades, got exposure to another language
  • took 30% longer to write test than originally thought, but testers said at the end it saved 50% of their time
  • isolating data for the test suite was imperative

What Happened To People Over Process?

I was MC to this session by Sarah Taraporewalla from ThoughtWorks, her slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • we don’t spend enough time understanding people
  • as a leader we don’t have all the answers, but we know we can do better
  • Kinder Surprise in relation to people – wrapper is the actions of people, but it is a thin layer, peel off the actions you get to the attitudes that govern what we do, apply a bit of pressure and you get to the values, open up the inner canister and you get to people’s belief system
  • don’t really understand our belief system until you are challenged by somebody else’s – a good example of this is people and their attitudes to attending meetings – you may need to understand what drives people
  • there is a lot of literature around this!
  • transactional analysis – Games People Play (Eric Berne) and I’m OK – You’re OK (Thomas A. Harris) – at any given state we have a mental state of an adult, parent or child
  • child – react to world around you as if you were a child (when I grow up, I wish, I want)
  • parent – react like a parent based on imprints of how our parents reacted (should, ought, could)
  • adult (analytical side – who, what, why, I think)
  • even if you know yourself, you don’t know jack! – people talking on the same plane have harmonious discussions, they break down across the positions (what people know about the world)

Practical Kanban for Software Development

I was MC for this session delivered by Perryn Fowler from ThoughtWorks. I had high hopes for this talk as Kanban is still not well understood in the wder community. It covered a lot of good topics (and, as he stated at the top, the talk was the thoughts of Perryn), but it fell victim to running out of time for the meaty stuff and unfortunately was a little rushed at the end. Furthermore, his slides do not seem to be available either.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • Kanban is not just cards on a wall, even though literally it is a visual indicator
  • Kanban is not an entire methodology, it is a technique
  • Kanban is a tool to tackle particular situations and problems, we often treat these situations as normal, but there is a better type of normal
  • limiting your WIP, the manageable level is probably a lot lower than you think
  • Kanban dots – stick them on your wall to indicate WIP
  • Kanban is about stop starting and start finishing
  • utilisation is not throughput, high utilisation damages throughput
  • Kanban is working as a team
  • business goal burnup – when do we start making revenue – keep your eyes on the prize
  • we are trying to achieve flow – Kanban will make poor flow visible
  • layered teams (multiple technologies) – technical layer stories don’t make sense and teams get out of synch, use task cards for the work and put WIP limit on the cards
  • reduce WIP to learn about your process
  • bugs and rework – it counts towards WIP, can put in the development or test column, whatever you are most comfortable with
  • blocked is nothing we as a team can do anything with – does not count towards the WIP limit
  • people will cheat – the rules aren’t important, it is the principles you want to achieve
  • use a green sticky for done rather than a done swim lane
  • small cards gives us good flow
  • Kanban will feel like it is causing problems, it is just making it visible

Value and Culture OVER Practices and Processes – Driving Agility at Bankwest

I was MC for this session delivered by Sandra Dalli and Sarah McAllister from BankWest. I really enjoyed this session. They kicked off the session with a great video with music and time lapse pictures (unfortunately it does not seem to be available publicly). Most enjoyable was their honesty about their journey and this mistakes they made along the way (they started by spending three months in a cubicle writing a document about Agile!). It also appears that their slides are not available currently.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • apply Agile principles to your transformation
  • you don’t have to be on an Agile project to be Agile – agility can be applied to everything
  • people drive the change
  • executive sponsorship is really important

Failure: A Love Story

I was MC for this session for Tom Sulston from ThoughtWorks. The highlight of this talk was the fail cake! His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • fear can be a motivator, but it is not useful
  • flight or fight – flight is the default response
  • systematic desensitisation – common technique for getting rid of fear
  • we always plan to succeed, so we don’t plan for failure
  • failure is a really great learning tool – if you made the failure you know it, the hard part is sharing with the team
  • taking fear of failure to the brink that you don’t know what to do is really bad
  • retrospectives give you a coping mechanism – share with others and make it better
  • continuous integration – fail early and stop the line
  • automated testing – removes doubt, they fail for a good reason
  • showcases – we find out we are going to fail early
  • sustainable pace – a failure because we still get a crunch at the end of the project, allows us to build slack because you can’t run at 100%
  • it’s about learning not winning
  • continuous delivery – you can go to production at any time, remove the fear of go live
  • aim for simplicity and feedback
  • fail cake – if you break something, you need to buy cake for the team, nobody is afraid of cake, nobody can yell at you with a mouthful of cake!

Safe To Fail

I was thrilled to be MC to Phil Abernathy (he was my MC last year and I have worked alongside him for a number of years). He had a great set of slides at the start of this talk to illustrate his experience. Given I knew the content of this talk quite well I did not take any notes, but I did like his analogy around the $100 strategy (for every $100 spent, where did it go – pull the strategic levers to figure out where you can change, these become your strategic programs). His slides are available here.

From Agile Australia 2012

Other Stuff

At the beginning of the day, IBM sponsored a speakers breakfast, and they recorded an Agile song called “Wake Up To Jazz” (video and audio).

At the same time, Renee Troughton and I took the opportunity to record a conference kickoff podcast for the Agile Revolution.

Some of my colleagues presented talks on day 1 including Dipesh Pala (Easy Ways to Break Up) and Renee Troughton and Paul Watson (Panel: Agile Governance – The New Disinfectant).

The night wrapped up with a student event called Activate Agile. I sat in the back of a number of presentations, with the standout for me being being an overview from Andy Sheats about their journey at

Episode 35: Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Ilan GoldsteinRenee, Craig and Ilan Goldstein talk at Agile Australia 2012 about Scrum Masters, conferences, writing a book and the state of Agile amongst other things.

Ilan is the Director at AxisAgile, and he is the author of the Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners blog. He is currently writing a new book with the working title “Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners” for Addison Wesley as part of the Mike Cohn Signature Series.

TheAgileRevolution-35 (33 minutes)

View original post

Episode 34: Agile Australia 2012 Wrapup

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Agile Australia 2012Craig and Renee returned from the Agile Australia 2012 conference in Melbourne and share their highlights including:

View original post 30 more words

Agile Australia 2012 Pre-Conference Workshops Review

The day before the Agile Australia 2012 conference in Melbourne was workshop day, and I presented a couple of sessions as well as sitting in on others. There was a good mix of local talent delivering workshops this year. One of my hopes for next year is to make them inclusive of the conference proper somehow, so more people can benefit from and experience them.

First Steps With Agile

On behalf of the Agile Academy, Rene Chappel and I presented First Steps in Agile to a large enthusiastic class (in fact, the class was four times larger than we were expecting and much larger than the numbers I have had in similar classes for the last few years).

New to Agile and wondering where to start or want to know what all the fuss is about? This workshop will start you on your journey and help you become familiar with the core values and principles of Agile. You will gain an understanding of what is meant by the term ‘Agile’ and learn about some of the key practices and processes of an Agile approach (while having some fun along the way!)

Agile Coaching Workshop

The session I presented with Adrian Smith had a capacity turnout  The slides are available in a separate post.

Below is a picture from the workshop where we are getting attendees to move around the room and identify their coaching strengths.

From Agile Australia 2012

Think Like An Agilist

I had one session free and sat in on this session delivered by Jason Yip. The workshop exercises presented scenarios and encouraged participants to practice speaking aloud their process to solving the scenario.

From Agile Australia 2012
  • novices understand the formulas but not what is happening
  • superficial (understand the formula), semantic understanding (understand what is going on), qualitative understanding (know instinctively what is true)
  • “Think like a Commander” – US Army exercise to expose and correct weaknesses
  • learning is not a comfortable experience, it is an experience of confusion
  • sits between classroom study (learning basic concepts) and a full scale simulation (you use your strengths to achieve an aim)
  • use the think aloud protocol
  • fallacy of thinking – can’t help from a learning perspective, you obviously didn’t think about it
  • cognitive themes – things to think about
  • people will never discuss what is working well  when dealing with a problem
  • what someone tells you is mostly their interpretation, they can encourage you to miss things
  • your strengths and weaknesses sometimes blind or endear you to different roles
  • need to practice to answer reflexively

Episode 32: Agile Australia 2012 Kickoff

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Agile Australia 2012Craig and Renee are at the Agile Australia 2012 conference speaker breakfast where they discuss the workshop day, the upcoming conference and their respective talks and a Lean Startup story about monkeys and bananas.

TheAgileRevolution-32 (9 minutes)

View original post

Agile Australia 2012: Agile: Looking Back, Looking Forward: Adapt, Innovate, Collaborate & Deliver

My plenary presentation from Agile Australia 2012 with Nigel Dalton, David Joyce and Simon Bristow called “Agile: Looking Back, Looking Forward: Adapt, Innovate, Collaborate & Deliver” is available on SlideShare.

Agile adoption in Australia and across the world is now becoming more mainstream and, as a community, we are struggling to address the issue of how to take experienced Agile practitioners to the next level, while still supporting those who are beginning their journey. With the “agile” word getting so overloaded, the challenge is to continually innovate without assigning labels or losing focus on our prime objective – to deliver!

Join Craig Smith with Nigel Dalton, Simon Bristow and David Joyce (on the couch) as they explore different viewpoints on all things Agile – then, now and future!

Some of the comments on Twitter included:

@jchyip: #adapt discussion is similar to our Agile cult discussion at this morning’s Lean Coffee. #agileaus

@carolineggordon: Issueing a challenge to the women in the audience at the panel, I want to see one of us up there next year #agileaus — #deliver

@stephlouisesays: Always look forward to hearing @smithcdau at #agileaus -didn’t disappoint! Valuable messages and images that make you think (and giggle!)

@lukasm: Great start to #agileaus Inspiring talk by Dr Fiona Wood followed by a thought provoking panel on where agile is, has been, and going.

@kiwihoria: Are we there yet? There’s no #Agile destination, just a journey. #AgileAus

@agilerenee: Hmm not sold that Perth was the highest per capita ad a community – Wellington rocks with 467 people for 200k city #agileaus @smithcdau

@andrewlitvak: Why paper documentation is the worst way to collaborate – no rich interaction, not effective communication #agileaus

@kiwihoria: Is your organisation retrenching to waterfall? Hold stand-ups in stairwells, hide kanban boards under the desk – #guerillaagile #agileaus

@Prash_Sagar: agile will not solve the problems, it will help you identify them @simonbristow #agileaus #adapt

@rowanb: Great to hear @dpjoyce call out “veneer agile”… “doing Agile vs *being* Agile”. Let’s stop saying “doing Agile” #agileaus

@SMRobson: #agileaus @smithcdau agile adoption is like playing Donkey Kong. Level 1 is hard & everyone throws barrels at you…but level 2 is harder!

@kiwihoria: Renew or decline? It’s up to us to keep improving teams, products and communities #agileaus

@agilerenee: “our job as a community is to keep renewing the product – the product that is #agile” @smithcdau #agileaus

@SMRobson: #agileaus Nigel Dalton – take agile beyond IT, your job is to work with the business, principles can apply to everyone

@kiwihoria: #Agile job demand increased steadily in AU/NZ – lots of emphasis on Product Management now #AgileAus

@andrewlitvak: UX is now a strong focus for Agilists. Woohoo! #agileaus

@rowanb: “At a team level it is job well done but… In terms of business agility, we still have a fair way to go.” @dpjoyce #agileaus

@andrewlitvak: Delivery agility, we’re nearly there… Business agility? Not so much. Yet. #agileaus

@lukasm: Either me or that couch need some stilts! #agileaus

@vivierose: So great to see @smithcdau on the main stage opening #agileaus

@justinhennessy: Great intro from @smithcdau #agileaus

@SMRobson: #agileaus cool potted history of Agile from @smithcdau & even better – lets change it to Raccoon so we get over the name

Agile Australia 2012: Agile Coaching Workshop

My workshop from Agile Australia 2012 with Adrian Smith called “Agile Coaching Workshop” is available on SlideShare.

The Agile Coach is a critical role in helping leaders, teams or individuals understand, adopt and improve Agile methods and practice. Additionally, an Agile Coach helps people rethink and change the way they go about their work. For a individual to be effective in a coaching role, they must poses a wide range of skills and experience. In this workshop we will explore Agile coaching skills in the context of a competency framework and provide participants with lessons from real-world coaching experience. The workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about coaching, identify areas of Agile development and to broaden skills through hands-on group and individual exercises and games.

You will:
» Understand role of an Agile coach and the typical development pathways
» Identify personal areas of strength/weakness in relation to a broad range of Agile and related skills
» Learn situational specific coaching techniques for common Agile dysfunctions
» Understand the use of maturity models in helping teams learn and adapt to Agile
» Understand organisational and role specific Agile challenges
» Learn how to adapt Agile practices to suit team specific challenges

UPDATE: Due to some requests for the competency matrix, a PDF version is available for download

Episode 30: Eleven Dictums

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Count Craig, Tony and Renee get cynical about Agile, assist the search for 100 voices, talk about some recent posts by Steve Denning on management and Agile and lose count of the dictums.


“I guess the reason that I don’t think the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto don’t own Agile is that I was doing Agile in the 90’s” – Alan Shalloway

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand…

View original post 16 more words

Agile Australia 2012 Product Afternoon Review

Agile Australia Product AfternoonAs a precursor to the Agile Australia 2012 conference to be held in Melbourne, a product afternoon was held at the Hilton on the Park in Melbourne in November and had a good variety of Australian speakers. The success of the event means a similar event is being schedule for Sydney in February 2012. Here are my notes from the event:

Look What Happened When We Let Customers into the Product Development Loop at Lonely Planet!

Nigel Dalton from Luna Tractor led this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  •  you can’t say product you need to start saying customer
  • publishing life cycles are enormous – publishers have to wait up to 5 years to change a font
  • The New New Product Development Game – the last paragraph sums it up
  • need to avoid the next bench design problem – only ask the person on the next bench about quality, do not go to the wider world
  • for Lonely Planet, realisation was a competitor in the market who produced a colour guide, no sales the month they launched
  • went to customers 4 times in the process, took publishing from 2 years to 9 months, visualise the project
  • Rob Adams talks about getting the developers to do some of the initial marketing calls

Marketing is from Venus, IT is from Mars – and the Customer Doesn’t Care

Daniel Oertli from REA Group led this discussion that he hastily renamed to “5 Kick Ass Principles for Customer-led Development”, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • be customer focussed not customer driven
  • effect of marketing has changed over the last 5-10 years, we no longer control the marketing channel, need customer admiration
  • be a peeping Tom. Regularly – there is only one customer, the people who pay for products, none of this internal customer bull####, hard to put your business on the road regularly to talk to customers
  • 5 on Friday – Silverback on Mac, 5 internal employees for 15 minutes and ask them to do specific tasks with your product (eg. show me how to change the default colour scheme), continue to do this every Friday as parts of the product are developed
  • don’t ask for the solution – to get creative you need to figure it out internally, great people create great things
  • day and half every quarter – hack day – off tools, schedule around it, put ideas on intranet and vote, teams form around the idea self-forming, winning team gets a cash prize and gets sponsored product into production
  • 2 week inception process – use business canvas mapping to lay out the business drivers
  • democratize design – hard to get excited about something if you have not been part of the design, get everybody to draw
  • ready, fire, aim – Agile gives us opportunity to change things in motion but most organisations still execute iteratively what is planned up front, Agile gives you a bullet frequently, be very clear about your minimal marketable features, be ruthless about what you send to your Agile teams, you have a lot of go’s at this
  • teams win – good people outperform any processes, keep teams very small (6-8 people), have a mix of business fundamental understanding, lead designer and lead technologist and there for skills not core decision making, trust is essential
  • dealing with resistance – hardest change of all was getting business on the journey, need to get culture sorted and get teams focussed
  • more of what people do is outside of their hierarchy, biggest impact is dynamic thinking by thinking of type of things we will do rather than what we will do
  • public companies need a plan to show to shareholders, challenge is to make it more dynamic after that
  • engage people in their career progression – still report to a lead, but 90% of the time they live with their cross functional team – more about stretching their knowledge in their domain so have practice meetings

SEEK’s Approach to Product Innovation

Doug Blue from SEEK presented this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • put customers before profits – no display advertising on the front pages, founder would prefer to have a dollar tomorrow rather than a dollar today
  • build for the long term – customer core needs, competitive advantage, long term trends and shareholder value, in GFC let customers negotiate out of long term contracts
  • strive for a rock solid core and out innovate the competition – focussed on number of ads and size of audience, now need to focus on the product
  • focus – do a few things very well, carried this over to the iPhone app as well, but run business on the things that are do-able
  • people engagement – never compromise on engagement
  • data driven decisions – if we build or change something, we measure it
  • test and learn – put it out in market and do course correction
  • balancing customer needs – 3 different customers with different needs (job seeker, employer, recruiters) – came up with an invisible salary to balance the needs
  • on bigger initiatives, need to do your homework

A Start-up Approach to Product Delivery in a Corporate Environment

John Sullivan from Jetstar delivered this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • XP Explained lacked an explanation on how to communicate effectively with customers to understand what they wanted to achieve
  • base costs on optimum team sizes that can manage constant delivery of a number of system concerns
  • have no process, when problems occur, take those problems away
  • don’t use iterations, they constrain the customer, need to be able pick up any card and get it into Production
  • ideas wall – backlog for where the business is going, anyone can post ideas on it
  • don’t talk about what the product we are delivering should do, talk about what the business should do
  • challenge everything – stand ups are almost useless in large organisations – only say things what people in the circle need to know about, because they work together, so they should know
  • most people in large organisations are disempowered – how do I know I am doing the right thing? Just do it, everyone is the business
  • need to help everyone understand the market – understand what the impact of features are
  • whole of company showcases every Friday
  • need multi disciplined teams that understand the market they are striving for

Panel: Why is Customer-led Product Development so Hard?

Keith Dodds from ThoughtWorks led this panel with all of the above speakers. Some of the key learnings were:

From Miscellaneous
  • it’s hard to ask hard questions
  • if you have leaders that are customer focussed, everything else will follow
  • most organisations try to make the workforce effective and efficient by putting structures around them, need to retain a functionalised structure and stay away from specialisation
  • companies are introverted because traditionally they have not had access to customers
  • it’s hard to keep up with all of the tools out there – there is lots technology to seek out what the customers are viewing
  • most products are designed to be obsolete within 1-2 years, especially those that are consumer focussed
  • companies are not set up to evolve things, they are setup to build, the world has changed where everything is outdated the minute you deploy
  • grass roots movements are usually the most enduring
  • most companies lack the balls to shut things down when they need to
  • frugal innovation – constraints help you channel great ideas, would be interesting to apply some artificial constraints to hack days
  • what doesn’t work are artificial constraints and the team know it
  • next C level job will be the chief designer – targeting the customer
  • Agile helps to get a customer led product out, because the person who wants the product can talk to the person who builds the product
  • report on value delivered to the business rather than velocity
  • the pool of talent is not that big, how do you keep people motivated – sense of purpose, sense of meaning (problems that have currency in the real world), ability to react and shape, ability to be heard, about making a difference
  • where do great Product Managers come from, how do we develop and train these people