Agile Processes 2009 – Conference

Posted by Jens on March 20th, 2009

I was also speaking at the main conference for this event. The topic of my speech was to share some ideas and experiences on how to apply Scrum outside the software industry, by using two examples. One example is to apply Scrum to my life, which is a great way of explaining a method on  processes that anyone can relate to. You can isolate the method without adding the complexity of the process. The second example is a team at Novo Nordisk quality organisation where I have successfully introduced Scrum and agile method into their ways of working. 

The first speaker at the conference, Gunnar Heldebro, a VP from Ericsson, told us how they introduced agile through their Streamline concept, with the help of an XP expert. It turned out that I played a part in this when I was assigned as an agile coach at Ericsson in Karlskrona a couple of years back, introducing Scrum. It was interesting to hear the story from top management, even though I had a different picture of it from a bottom perspective. (And the XP expert was of course Erik Lundh.)  

I think it is time to stop appearing in these events, since I no longer collect any new experiences from the software industry. But it has been very fun and challenging, and my main driver has been to develop my presentation skills.

Agile Processes 2009 – workshop

Posted by Jens on March 20th, 2009

I’m back from another Agile conference in Stockholm. I was invited again because of the positive feedback I got the last time. Yesterday I ran a workshop on  how to use Lean kanban boards for a small but interested crowd. I split my workshop into three parts:

  1.  Explaining the difference between batch & push vs. flow & pull. Most people have to experience the difference in reality to accept the fact that there is a direct relation between “work in progress” and leadtime. We did this by simulating a manufacturing line, which is later turned into a software development process.
  2. I showed how a process can be mapped and analyzed using the classic Lean tool “value stream mapping”, and made them map processes of their own.
  3. Last part is when a incrementally build up a Kanban board and comparing it to Scrum, which they finally get to try themselves.

The workshop went really fine and I got nice comments and feedback afterwards, so I left the workshop feeling very good. Later I celebrated with a nice dinner in one of  Stockholm’s oldest restaurants den Gyldene Freden, where I had a nice conversation with two Brasilian gentlemen who visited Stockholm for a medical convention.

Participant feedback from Nordic Scrum Forum

Posted by Jens on November 3rd, 2008

I got some really great feedback from the Nordic Scrum Forum conference in Stockholm about a month ago. I thought I’d share it here:

First I was graded from 1-5 and got the following average:
Performance: 4.11
Contents: 3.96

And then I got the following comments:

  • “Beyond Scrum topic was impressive”
  • “A bit extreme for average companies”
  • “Good presentation”
  • “Great innovative application of LEAN. Good presentation! Good animation!”
  • “Good presenter / Good presenter Interesting theory”
  • “Very interesting!”

I was also asked to come and speak again at another conference in the spring. But let’s see if I can come up with a topic interesting enough. Since I am not in the IT industry anymore I am not collecting any new IT experiences, so either I have to dig into some old experiences or I could speak about Scrum outside the IT industry, since I am actually implementing parts of it here and there. Let’s see.

Nordic Scrum Forum 2008

Posted by Jens on September 26th, 2008

It was an interesting first day of the conference. Most speakers talked about their experiences when trying to adopt Scrum into their company. Some shared some interesting facts while others didn’t quite get their message through. The highlight was probably the first talk when Carsten Jabobsen told us how Systematic Software Engineering, a CMMI level 5 company, were using Scrum. They adopted Scrum after they had reached level 5, and the journey from level 1 to 5 took them 6-8 years and a lot of money. He claimed they got pay-back from their efforts, but I would like to see that calculation. My question is: “Could it be done quicker and cheaper if they adopted Scrum already in the beginning of their CMMI journey, instead of at the end?”

As for my own performances the speak went really good and I got some great feedback from the audience, however not everybody were convinced. They found the ideas really interesting, but since I couldn’t show any real results from any large scale project, they stayed a bit sceptic. Fair enough! I hope I get the opportunity to try it in large scale some time. At the moment I can only redirect them to the results of Corey Ladas and David Anderson.

Speaking at Nordic Scrum Forum

Posted by Jens on August 8th, 2008

Even though I have formally left the IT business, I am doing a short guest appearence as a speaker at the Nordic Scrum Forum 2008 in Stockholm, 24-25 September.

A couple of months ago I was called up and asked if I could give a speech by the project manager of the conference. How did she get my name? Well, appearently she had talked to a lot of experienced project managers during her research for the conference and my name had turned up as someone who had interesting ideas.

Anyway, I gave her a few options of topics that I could talk about, and she said alright to:
Beyond Scrum – Highlighting the Differences Between Scrum and Lean Project Management

I will be talking about my latest Lean findings and ideas on how to apply Lean within project management and software development. Ideas that have been circling around in my head since I tried to introduce Scrum into a couple of large organisations. Scrum works perfect in small teams and projects, but runs into difficulties and resistance when scaling them up throughout the organisation, especially in waterfall organisations. The organisational change can be huge and shouldn’t be ignored.

I think you can get the same benefits as with Scrum, but being more adaptive to the existing organisation, by applying Lean Project Management. I have got a lot of inspiration from David Anderson and his ideas on Kanban boards.

See you there? There is another interesting Scrum event simultaneously in Stockholm: Deep Lean with Poppendiecks,  Sutherland and Kniberg. But you should be able to squeeze both in while you are there anyway. :)

Status checkback

Posted by Jens on July 2nd, 2008

Just wanted to tell you I’m still alive and kicking. I have been up to all sorts of things and my personal development has taken a huge leap since I started my new job.

The main driver for writing posts to this blog have been to exploit ideas and creativity, allowing me to do some research, learn about new topics and test out ideas. One of the reasons I stopped writing is that my new job stimulates all that and more. I’m free to pursue my ideas and exploit my creativity and this has really inspired me. Other reasons are that I have been very busy adjusting to new tasks and a new organisation, and being uncertain about what is approved regarding blogging in a large corporation.

Some of my latest achievments are:

  • Project Manager of a project pursuing an idea about making the introductory education for new employees LEAN. Instead of having new employees reading a lot of documentation upfront and Just-in-Case, making them read it Just-in-Time using a pull flow. Reading all that documentation is batching knowledge, and until you use that knowledge to create some customer value, it is waste
  • I have designed and held a basic LEAN course for non-production processes, including a simulation of a real business process. Now I’m designing the advanced course that I will take on tour in China and Russia later this year.
  • I’m also designing an Innovation Academy, where we aim to equip a team of Innovators with innovation and facilitation skills in a series of courses.

I’m starting my vacation next week so don’t expect too many posts until august. I will try to write more, but the focus will shift towards LEAN.

Online again

Posted by Jens on December 5th, 2007

Finally I’m online again. We have moved to a new house and our ISP have very long lead time for installing an ADSL connection. It would be interesting to do a Value Stream Map on that process. Maybe they haven’t identified what customer value really is. I would love to host that workshop…

I’m starting to understand the new organization and why I’m there. I will have much focus on Lean, Innovation and Business Improvement, as well as managing projects. So I expect to post articles on these subjects in the future.

Batch size in traditional, agile and lean development

Posted by Jens on October 25th, 2007

I have been thinking about batch sizes lately and will sum up my thoughts in this post.

Waterfall
In traditional waterfall methodology all functionality is delivered in one big bang batch. The shortcomings of this method is well known and includes complex and expensive change management, an extensive integration phase, poor customer involvement, etc.
All in one batch

Iterative/RUP
In iterative methods, such as spiral models, the functionality is delivered in several batches. The projects using RUP that I have experienced often have quite large iterations fixed both in time and in scope, which everyone except managers knows is impossible. The result is that the iteration is prolonged, which in practice means fixed scope, variable time. Due to the large process overhead in RUP, projects tend to choose fairly large iterations, which means the problems from the waterfall method is still in play.
Several batches

Agile timebox/Scrum
Agile methods like Scrum are also iterative, but Scrum firmly suggests to have short time boxed iterations, which in practice means variable scope, fixed time. Because of the short iterations the planning horizon is also short and predictable, not making it a big problem with variable scope. I think the agile methods are a natural step to finally get away from the drawbacks of traditional development. They fulfill a need.
Timebox

Lean/pipeline
According to Lean principles the ideal batch size is 1 (feature), which gives us a pipeline. If we manage the pipeline and have batches (features) of similar size we get a very efficient system low in waste. This makes timeboxing not applicable, since you deliver one feature at a time (fixed scope). Actually timeboxing is waste because you work up a stock of non-delivered value, which is waste. Optimally you should deliver as soon as it is ready. This is actually confirmed by the fact that many teams are moving from the original 4 week sprints to 2 week sprints.
Pipeline

The agile methods of today, with shorter iterations and smaller batches, is a natural and necessary step to get away from the heavy traditional development methods, but I’m convinced that future agile processes will fully implement a pipline with a minimum batch size. If no one does I will do it myself. I do have some ideas for implementing the pipeline with kanban buffers, but that’s a different story (and maybe a future post).

Business Analysts Blocking the Pipeline

Posted by Jens on October 14th, 2007

I was hired as a Business Analyst in a couple of assignments a few years back. It was a good experience and I learnt a lot about the business processes of the customer, but it struck me how bad we actually performed.

A really skilled team of business developers/customer representatives were located on-site, literally besides the development team. In spite of this really great opportunity, they placed a team of BAs in between, effectively blocking the potential pipeline of feature development.

It was a really complex business scenario were we would have been helped by an agile and empirical process, getting continuous feedback. Instead the BAs were creating heavy requirements documentation upfront together with the customers. We were struggling with capturing the full requirements specifications and signing them off before handing them over to the development team.

Imagine a document driven process were all the experts are sitting in the same room! Talk about waste!

What I would like to suggest to this organisation is to get rid of the BA role to save a lot of waste, introduce an agile methodology such as Scrum and to release small releases often to get valuable feedback in the empirical process. I would also recommend to write the requirements in lighter stories instead of heavier use cases and foremost of all pair the customer with the developers instead of putting a BA filter in between. That would increase productivity for sure.

Maybe it is a good idea to let the BA and the tester roles converge, like Dave Nicolette is suggesting in Collapsing the roles of tester and business analyst? It’s not a bad idea. Testers need to know the business and BAs need to know how things are tested. Especially with the movement towards test driven development and test driven requirements (automated acceptance testing).

Hasta la vista, Softhouse

Posted by Jens on October 9th, 2007

After 6 really eventful years at Softhouse I emptied my locker, returned my stuff and said goodbye to all my friends at Softhouse today.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life! And I’m really looking forward to it. I’m embracing change!

Ran Into Erik Lundh Yesterday

Posted by Jens on October 3rd, 2007

I did a “Lean and Agile” presentation for the management team at my present assignment and the minute after I finished, Erik entered the room starting to prepare a presentation of his own. It turns out we are working for the same customer, only he’s working a level above me as an agile mentor for top management.

It was interesting to meet Erik and hear his views on introducing agile and lean into an enterprise. Erik is an agile profile and independent consultant from southern Sweden. He is a strong XP supporter since many years.

Lean Configuration Management

Posted by Jens on September 24th, 2007

-Evolving the CM Discipline Through the Agile Paradigm Shift-

My article have just been published in the fall issue of Methods & Tools. The abstract:

Configuration management, as a discipline for supporting software development, has been around for half a century and has evolved into standard practice within traditional software development processes. One of the key purposes of configuration management is to control changes made to the software product.

Lean software principles focus on delivering customer value in a steady flow and eliminating unnecessary process waste. One way to implement lean is to introduce agile software development methods, such as Scrum or XP. Agile values also have a lot of focus on how to handle changes, but unlike traditional CM, agile methods are being more adaptive to changes.

The increasing popularity of agile development methods is putting new demands on the traditional CM discipline. A working CM environment is essential for the rapid nature of agile development methods, but the CM process and the CM role has to be adapted to the present evolution of software development methods as well as automated tools.

This article discusses lean principles and agile values within a CM scope and also introduces a method to classify the CM discipline in relation to development method and level of tool automation, and finally shares some of the experiences of the author.

Visualizing Change

Posted by Jens on September 18th, 2007

To make it even more clear that me and my family are going through major changes in our lives I decided to do a complete makeover of my blog.

First of all I have left Blogger in favor of a self-hosted WordPress blog, giving me much more flexibility and control. The import from Blogger to WordPress gave me some headaches and forced me to dust off some dormant tech skills, but now everything should be working as before; permalinks are the same and old feeds are redirected.

The issue with transferring to a new platform is that you wish to keep all old feed readers and don’t break any old links. I think I managed to do it except for one thing, my old atom feed refuses to be redirected and I have no idea why. I have to contact my ISP. If anyone finds more issues after my import please let me know.

Feedback on the graphical profile or anything else is most welcome. For all feed readers I give you this link to check out the new graphics. It’s nice!

The changes that I’m talking about is that I will be starting a new job in Copenhagen, my wife have started to study medicine and we have recently bought a new house closer to Copenhagen (still in Sweden).

I have a history of working as a CM for several projects, but have transferred towards agile methods, lean principles and process improvements, where my real interest lies. This mix of experiences inspired me a year ago to write a paper on the subject of agile CM.

I was recently asked by the editor of Methods and Tools, to write an article of my paper. When doing some research for this new article on “Lean CM” I stumbled upon a discussion of my former paper on CM Crossroads where Brad Appleton agreed with my conclusions and defended them against some other persons who were sceptics of the agile approach to CM. I guess people might feel a bit threatened when the traditional roles are questioned.

In the new article I’m writing I have a deeper discussion concerning the lean development principles connected to configuration management. I have still come to the same conclusions. My opinion is that the CM role should be adapted to the agile ideas and lean principles and my attitude towards CM is that it is a supporting discipline that should support projects and enable them to deliver customer value quicker. I don’t think CMs should sit around in projects doing daily operations that the team could do better off themselves. The CM should instead “sweep the road” ahead by creating a CM strategy that facilitates frequent deliveries, automating tools, etc.

I have sent a first draft to the editor and I will let you know when it is publicly available.

I just quit my job

Posted by Jens on August 14th, 2007

Actually I quit already in the beginning of June July, but for some reason management didn’t want people to know until now. Perhaps because another one of the team leaders also quit at the same time (2 out of 3) and they didn’t think people could handle it if they didn’t present a new organization at the same time.

Anyway it has been pretty annoying that they wanted to keep it a secret for so long, while I have been forced to walk around lying to people, consuming my trust. This is also the reason my blog has been paralyzed for so long.

Why did I do this?
I have been at Softhouse for more than five years and found myself in a comfort zone. I realized that I had to look outside the company to get new challenges. It has been very challenging and developing to be part of the build up of the agile and lean business areas, but I find that the direction pointed out for the rest of the business being far too unclear for me. It’s hard to put up personal goals if you don’t know the direction of the company.

What will I do now?
After 11 years and numerous assignments as a consultant in southern Sweden I have seen most of the potential customers in the area, as well as some in Germany, France and India. Anyway I have decided to leave consulting and look elsewhere. I will be working for Novo Nordisk in Denmark. This gives me enough challenges: a different country, a different language and a different business. I will be a project manager at the Continuous Improvement & Innovation Center (CIIC), where I will be leading process improvement of global business processes according to LEAN principles. It is interestingly enough not an IT related position, however I will do my best to keep it within the LEAN and agile domains, transfering Scrum and agile thoughts outside of software development.

Novo Nordisk is a Danish pharmaceutical company world leading in diabetes care. They have more than 23,000 employees in 79 countries.

Scandinavian SCM day

Posted by Jens on August 6th, 2007

After a long period of blog silence I am back behind the keyboard again. Although my vacation wasn’t very lean or agile some really interesting things did occur that I will write about later.

Meanwhile I can tell you that the third Scandinavian SCM day will take place in Lund on August 23rd.

The Toyota Way

Posted by Jens on July 2nd, 2007


I have this really great little booklet called The Toyota Way, that I want to recommend. It’s a 60-page summary of the Toyota Production system with the 14 priciples and all the LEAN ideas. It’s summarized from Jeffrey Liker’s book with the same title.

Unfortunately I have only been able to find the summary in Swedish. You can order your own copy for free.

Öresund Agile 2007

Posted by Jens on June 18th, 2007

I attended the Öresund Agile Conference in Copenhagen last week, which was organised by Softhouse.

Day one I attended Mary Poppendieck’s “Management Issues for Lean Software Development” workshop. It was the usual Toyota worship, value stream mapping and other material from their latest book. An excellent performance as usual, but some overlap from other Poppendieck workshops I have attended.

Day two was the main conference day, which turned out to be a very nice day with a good atmosphere and with the following highlights:

  • Stop the Line Quality, Mary Poppendieck – She tried not to overlap the workshop from the day before, and managed partly. She has updated her presentations to the latest ideas from her book.
  • Patterns of Outsourcing Software Development, Jim Coplien – Jim is very entertaining to listen to, when he delivers sarcasms and takes very strong positions in different matters. Mention test driven development to Jim and you will get a lecture on just how bad it is. He believes that the only thing that should drive development is the customer, or perhaps value.
  • The first thing to build: trust, Diana Larsen – A very good presentation on how to build successful teams based on trust.

Day three I attended Diana Larsen’s workshop “Stimulating Team Success: Agile Managers as Facilitators”, actually I also introduced Diana’s session and acted as host. This was my first workshop with Diana and it was truly a positive experience. She made sure we not only would benefit from her experiences, but also from the vast experience of the workshop participants. The main theme was how managers in an agile environment must be more supportive and facilitating instead of commanding and controlling. I.e. more leader and less manager.

Lean CM article in Methods & Tools

Posted by Jens on May 9th, 2007

I have been asked to write an article on a lean approach to configuration management by the editor of the newsletter Methods & Tools. I will base it on my paper on the same subject adding some new insights and experiences. It will be published in the autumn issue.

I’m back from my second trip to India and I thought I’d share an experience I had from my last day, when a Scrum pilot team were having their first sprint demo. I told the team three weeks earlier, when they first heard about Scrum, that on the last day of the sprint you will have a sprint demo. I didn’t say how to do it so I didn’t know quite what to expect at the actual demo. It turned out to be a success! They had invited a few managers and there where other observers and they did a great job demonstrating what they had done during the sprint.

At the end of the meeting one of the managers asked one of the developers what was the main differences working according to Scrum compared to before. I was just silently observing when he gave the perfect answer without knowing it. He basically said: The progress is much more visible, but because of the high focus on getting things ready there is little room left for being creative. His intention was to mention one good thing and one bad, but it turned out to be exactly what the manager (and myself) wanted to hear.

Actually he couldn’t have been more accurate. Scrum is about getting things done. If you want to be creative, put it in the backlog and let the product owner decide what they want the most, creativity or another feature. Scrum is also about visibility and seeing the progress and more important, the non-progress. The simplicity of Scrum made it possible for this developer to understand the basics of Scrum after using it for a few weeks.

Retrospectives as a Coaching Tool

Posted by Jens on April 17th, 2007


I re-visited my notes from QCon and Boris Gloger’s speech on Heartbeat Retrospectives. I have often referred to the similar values of coaching and agile methods. Actually the agile retrospective is a great way to perform a team coaching session. The purpose of the retrospective, as well as coaching, is to create awareness and making the team take responsibility for improvement. It is actually also a method of implementing the Deming cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act).

Retrospectives are a way to look back to move forward and is often used to evaluate the recent iteration or project. But actually I like to start an improvement project or a coaching cycle using a retrospective. That way you get a good starting point if you get answers to questions like What do you do well? What could be improved? Who is in control?

Scrum in One Minute

Posted by Jens on April 15th, 2007


I have this simple presentation slide on Scrum that I call Scrum in One Minute, trying to make a reference to the Scrum in Five Minutes booklet we did. It has simplified Scrum down to something that is easy to remember and easy to explain.

Incredible India

Posted by Jens on April 6th, 2007

I haven’t been posting for a while because I’ve been extremely busy preparing for a process improvement initiative for an international telecom company. I’m at the moment at their Indian site in Bangalore, trying to understand their present software development process, both how they describe it in documents and also how they practice it in reality.

We have identified a number of potential areas of improvement and our approach is to start building an agile foundation from bottom up, by introducing Scrum and a few XP practices to a pilot project and spreading this to more and more teams.

To some extent we will also look at particular areas from a top down approach, trying to implement some LEAN principles. They have some issues with long lead times, especially in their requirements process. However it seems that it will take some effort to get management to realize that it actually takes some effort from their side to change this, it will not happen just because of our presence.

In this case major changes is needed to get major improvements and minor changes will only produce minor improvements.

Like I told them: We will not do any changes for you, you have to do that yourselves, but we will be coaching, mentoring, educating you.

Other difficulties with this project are that the teams are widely distributed over the world and that even the organisation is structured according to the waterfall model that they claim they are not doing.

Quoted at InfoQ

Posted by Jens on March 22nd, 2007

Blogosphere impressions from QCon was collected in this InfoQ article. I was quoted no less than four times, although my name was misspelled twice. :-)

I also managed to get caught on some images. Here I am (right) with my collegues, looking very ..ehm.. interested.

/Jens

QCon 2007 – Friday

Posted by Jens on March 20th, 2007

Finally I got around to post my experiences from the last conference day. Actually thanks to Floyd Marinescu, co-organizer of QCon, who just asked if I didn’t attend the last day. :)

This posting is a slightly edited answer to his comment.

I didn’t have as high expectations for the last day, but I was pleasently surprised about some of the sessions, especially Dave Thomas did an amazing performance and also Joseph Pelrine had some really interesting stuff.

It was also my first Open Space experience. I was mostly observing
this time, but I will definitely contribute more the next time I get
the opportunity.

Unfortunately I missed Diana Larsens session, because I had to catch a
flight, but I look forward to seeing her on the Öresund Agile 2007
conference in Copenhagen 12-14 june, an arrangement by Softhouse. Look
it up! :)

All in all it was a great arrangement and I returned with loads of
inspiration and motivation that will keep me going for a long time.
Thanks!

QCon 2007 – Thursday

Posted by Jens on March 15th, 2007

The agile track on the second day of QCon was the main reason for my London visit. However I was a little bit disappointed. The speeches were ok, but the content was in many cases too basic and without any new ideas or experiences.

One exception was the on stage “battle” between Kevlin Henney and Jim Coplien on the subject Agile Architecture is not Fragile Architecture. The two had been seen arguing earlier in the conference, and even if the heat didn’t build up to the expected levels the format was interesting and the performance was really great. They both firmly believed that architecture was too important to be put off by a “we’re agile and architecture is not, so we don’t do it”. Again TDD was under Jim’s cross-fire with questions like “How do you know which unit test to write if you didn’t design any architecture?”, “If we don’t have a short design phase upfront, where does the architecture come from?”, “What design artifacts do TDD create?”. Interesting points.

Of course master motivator Jeff Sutherland attracted a large crowd when talking about Lessons learned at Google. His speeches almost resembles revivalist meetings that you cannot avoid being sucked into. His performance is really great and afterwards you get the feeling that Scrum can be used to run countries and solve world poverty. Actually you probably could run a country successfully using Scrum. It require a lot of scrum of scrums though. :)

QCon 2007 – Wednesday

Posted by Jens on March 14th, 2007

I have now been on the first QCon conference in history. The format felt a lot like JAOO, which was good. There were nothing in particular that caught my interest on the first day, I mostly stayed on the architecture track and listened to Kevlin Henney and Martin Fowler, who really are excellent speakers.

However I also listened to Jim Coplien’s From Design Practice to Code, and he provoked quite a few when he challenged some of the agile practices. Especially Test Driven Development (TDD) was under his attack. His point was that if development is test driven you should start by defining acceptance tests, naturally. But his question was how do you go from acceptance tests to unit tests without doing design. I definitely see his point, that you in many cases are forced to do a short design phase upfront before doing TDD. His advice was to skip TDD altogether, but I think TDD can be a great tool, especially for systems with well known architectural patterns and in the hands of experienced programmers.

I also met Henrik Kniberg, the author of the popular Scrum and XP from the Trenches. It was interesting to hear that he wrote all of his great paper during one weekend as a documentation of the experiences from his last project, without the intention of publishing it. When he asked his collegues what to do with it, the said “publish it on the web”, and the rest is history as they say. If he would have known the impact of his writings he would probably not have written it in that way, and then it might not have reached the same popularity.

Introducing Agile Methods

Posted by Jens on March 10th, 2007

Mike Griffiths has in his blog, Leading Answers, written the article Introducing Agile Methods: Mistakes to Avoid – Part 1. The first in a series of three articles describing how to introduce agile methods into organizations (and how not to). Well worth reading!

It all comes down to handling changes. It basically takes three things to implement a change, and all three are needed:

  1. Awareness – you have to be aware that the change is needed
  2. Will – you must want to implement the change
  3. Action – last but not least you must actually do the change

It’s like starting a fire, where you also need all three of oxygen, heat and fuel.

Can distributed teams be agile?

Posted by Jens on March 7th, 2007

Agile methods emphasize realtime communication over written documentation and it is a common agile practice to co-locate development teams as well as business people. In reality however this is not always practically possible.

Sometimes projects are forced to be distributed between multiple locations for different reasons. Sometimes it is the business representatives that cannot be co-located, sometimes individual team members and sometimes whole projects are being distributed between several locations. The question is if we can still be agile?

I believe we can. Although agile methods encourage a strong focus on people, communication and co-location, being agile is a state of mind. Remote teams present a challenge, no doubt. It will take some effort and it will not happen by itself. The obvious challenges are face to face communication, retaining the visibility of the task board, daily stand up meetings, etc. Having teams spread over several time-zones even further complicate things. Worst case half the team is sleeping while the rest is working.

Even though nothing beats face to face communication, I think a lot of the communication issues can be handled with collaboration tools like Skype or NetMeeting which offers VoIP, conference calls, chat and even a common drawing pad. With a webcamera you are even able to see the person you are talking to. Schedule a slot for a daily team meeting. If it is difficult to find a common slot due to divergent timezones, at least try a weekly meeting. Also don’t forget to budget for travels, because like I said nothing beats face to face communication, at least once in a while.

Are agile planning tools an option to a physical task board? The tools I have seen have all been unnecessarily complex, resulting in information hiding. I’d go for a more simple solution having a wiki as the foundation and for a backlog and maybe an Excel-sheet for burndowns, continuously published on the wiki. For larger projects you might want to have some issue tracking system like trac or bugzilla. Actually I would like to try to use an online camera pointing at a physical task board, or publishing daily snapshots of the task board on a wiki. I think that might work for some setups. However stay away from MS Project.

How about agile engineering practices then? Those shouldn’t pose any problem. Most tools work in distributed environments like Subversion for source code management, CruiseControl for continuous integration and JUnit, DBUnit, FITnesse, etc. for different levels of testing. Collective code ownership is supported in source code management systems and IDEs support refactoring. Even pair programming is supported via collaboration tools, remote desktops and a plugins to Eclipse.

If you are serious about getting your distributed teams agile you have to read this:
Transitioning to Agile in Onshore-Offshore Distributed Teams

You should also read Jeff Sutherland’s (et al) paper:
Adaptive Engineering of Large Ssoftware Projects with Distributed/Outsourced Teams

Øresund Agile 2007 – teaser

Posted by Jens on March 5th, 2007

The planning of this year’s conference Øresund Agile 2007 is progressing rapidly. This year it will take place in central Copenhagen, june 12-14. Some of the persons engaged as speakers so far include: Mary Poppendieck, Jeff Sutherland, Diana Larsen and a number of local experts. Stay tuned…

Øresund Agile is an annual agile gathering in the Øresund region, which connects Sweden and Denmark. The event is organized by Softhouse, Öresund IT academy and Scrum Education.

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