As I walked up to the Centre for Innovative Technology in Herndon, VA for the first time, I should have realized that it was just another start to an interesting day. While I was there for the 2015 Agile Executive Forum, I was unsure as to where I was and where to go. The building may achieve high marks for aesthetics, but parking and entry are more than a little puzzling. Luckily, there were two familiar faces circling the building with similar looks of confusion: Mark Schwartz and Jeff Sutherland. It didn’t take long for us to talk and obtain guidance on where to park and how to proceed (Thanks Mark for ‘holding the button’).
As we settled in and grabbed a cup of coffee, Mark and I started discussing some of the unique Federal opportunities underway, specifically 18F’s Agile Delivery Services BPA as well as some US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) solicitations. The focus was on the changes they represented in procurement strategy and what I categorize as a ‘Show me … Don’t tell me’ acquisition approach. As we talked, additional people stopped by, introduced themselves, and said hello.
The morning was on an upswing.
The 2015 Agile Executive Forum, sponsored by the Agile Alliance, was a one-day event targeting C-suite and senior leaders in large organizations to come together to discuss the latest strategic thinking in Lean/Agile and share insights into adopting agile at scale.
This year’s theme was Building the Lean Enterprise. Per Sanjiv Augustine, one of the event organizers and President of LitheSpeed, “As organizations transform towards business agility, they need to both scale and augment agile methods like Scrum, Kanban and XP with Lean Product Development to build what customers truly need; and DevOps to get solutions to customers as quickly as possible with minimum waste.”
The speakers and key notes were impressive. They included: Mark Schwatrz from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Randy Salley from Wal-mart, Michael Gioja from PayChex, Chris Cate from Valpak Media, Gill Haus from Capital One, and Nicole Forsgren from Chef.
The talks were excellent as the speakers shared many interesting stories, ideas, and thought provoking concepts. Examples included Mark Schwartz discussing balancing small batch size with Federal governance (cost and waste), Chris Cate discussing that agile is not a ‘tech thing’ but a cultural business change, and Gil Haus sharing stories on overcoming your biggest agile transformation challenge (people).
One of the day’s highlights was the Scaling Agile Panel. The panel, moderated by Dot Tudor, included Jeff Sutherland, Dean Leffingwell, Craig Larmen, and Scott Ambler. Their focus was to share insights on scaling agile to meet the needs of larger organizations.
While I have met Jeff in the past (and prior to Jeff, Mark, and I trying to get into the building), this was my first opportunity to meet and spend time with Dean, Craig, and Scott.
For those who do not recognize the names: Dot was formerly on the DSDM board, Jeff is one of the inventors of Scrum, Dean the creator of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Craig the co-creator of Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), and Scott the founder of Disciplined agile delivery (DAD). Literally the who’s-who in Agile.
As one person stated at the outset of the panel discussions, ‘If this team can’t solve your scaling needs, then no one can’.
The 45 minutes that the panel fielded questions from the audience seemed to fly by with the only down side being that it would have been nice to have more time to gain their insights.
The intimate nature of the Agile Executive Forum (limited to 125 leaders) afforded a unique opportunity to talk with some of the industries most respected and influential leaders.
As a DevOps fan, I enjoyed talking with Nicole Forsgren, Chef’s Director of Organizational Performance and Analytics, and gaining a deeper understanding of the data and science behind the most recent DevOps performance numbers. We discussed DevOps impact to the bottom line, the recently released State of DevOps Report as well as some of the other available studies. Nicole has an amazing understanding of DevOps data and the numbers are truly thought provoking. (I would highly recommended anyone interested in DevOps to check out the State of DevOps Reports available from Puppet Labs).
On the agile front, I enjoyed talking with Craig Larmen about LeSS. As someone who admittedly is not very knowledgeable on LeSS, I wanted to talk with Craig so that I could learn a little more. Craig was very welcoming and he shared many interesting ideas during one of the open spaces. Based on our dialogue, I now have a better understanding of LeSS as well as an additional book in my library to read (Practices for Scaling Lean & Agile Development).
Continuing on the scaling agile theme, sharing a beer with Scott Ambler was both informative and fun. After starting the conversation by admitting that I completed only 2/3rds of his Disciplined Agile Delivery book but found it interesting, Scott shared many insights on how DaD applies to the marketplace with an emphasis on governance and oversight. By the conclusion of our talk, I had even more reading to do: complete the original DaD book and then read Scott’s latest ‘Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery: A Small Agile Team’s Journey from Scrum to Continuous Delivery’ which I downloaded during our talk. Luckily his latest book can be described as ‘an airplane read’ – short and concise..
Overall, I found the forum educational and informative and a great networking opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other agile leaders. I would highly recommend senior leaders to attend next year’s Agile Executive Forum (I know I plan to do so).
Thanks to everyone at Agile Alliance for a great event. And Thanks to all the sponsors for their support.