The focus of Southern Fried Agile 2015 was to ‘uncover ways to develop software and help others do it’, and while there were many excellent talks and conversations specifically along those lines, I believe that this year’s conference spoke to the broader context of enterprise agility, business value, customer engagement, and performance. With that perspective, I believe the conference was beneficial for both agile coaches, scrum masters, product owners, and UX leads engaged in software development at the team level as well as business leaders, managers, and executives charged with leveraging agile methodologies as drivers for creativity, learning, and organizational results.
Some of my takeaways were:
Opening Keynote by Scot Ambler (@scottwambler) – Scott kicked of the conference by sharing insights across a range of topics, from providing definitions for agility within the perspectives of the enterprise, IT, and development, stressing that context matters, to introducing the fundamentals of enterprise awareness within the Disciplined Agile Delivery 2.0 framework.
Scott’s view of the Agile Enterprise resonated with me, especially the notions of change, culture and structure, and learning mindsets. Scott stated:
- Is able to anticipate and respond swiftly to changes in the marketplace;
- Achieves agility through an organizational culture and structure that facilitates change within the context of the situation that it faces.
- Requires a learning mindset in the mainstream business and underlying lean and agile processes to drive innovation.
While noting that every person, every team, and every organization is unique, Scott introduced Disciplined Agile 2.0 as a framework to achieve enterprise agility. Per the Disciplined Agile 2.0 website:
Disciplined Agile 2.0 is a process decision framework for Enterprise I.T. The main characteristics of this framework are that it: is a people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach; has a risk-value delivery lifecycle; is goal-driven; is enterprise aware; is tactically scalable at the team level; and scalable strategically across all of IT.
For those familiar with the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework, Disciplined Agile 2.0 represents an extension of the original framework Scott developed while at IBM to ensure focus beyond delivery.
Disciplined Agile 2.0 incorporates a full system/product lifecycle view that proceeds from initial idea, through delivery, to operations and support. Since various products will go through this process differently, Disciplined Agile 2.0 identifies four versions of the lifecycle as follows:
- An agile/basic version that extends the Scrum Construction lifecycle with proven ideas from RUP;
- An advanced/lean lifecycle;
- A lean continuous delivery lifecycle;
- An exploratory “Lean Startup” lifecycle.
While this may add some complexity, I am intrigued by its potential to unify and support multiple lifecycles, often concurrently within an organization or agency.
Business Models, Pivots, Architecture and Agility by Jason Tanner – (@JasonBTanner) – Jason led an excellent interactive workshop designed to discuss the linkage between business models, technical architectures, agility and the implications of change to make faster pivot decisions.
As part of the workshop, Jason provided a business model framework, various software value exchange models, numerous architectural impacts, an introduction to Lean Startup principles, as well as a variety of exercises and case studies to explore architecture, pivots, and agility relationships.
What made the workshop so effective was Jason’s ability to leverage the exercises and case studies to tie everything together. There were plenty of thought provoking discussions, especially in the context of Lean Startup’s Build – Measure – Learn loops and value creation.
While many agile presentations and talks concentrate on how to craft the best user stories, size and prioritize user stories, track velocity, and improve team performance, what sometimes gets lost is whether or not the ‘thing’ we are developing actually creates value. By incorporating Lean Startup (and Lean UX) principles such as A/B testing, we can learn whether or not actual customers value the ‘thing(s)’ in the same manner we envisioned. By integrating actual customer behavior and data driven feedback loops, we are better positioned to make persevere or pivot decisions.
I found it refreshing to have a talk incorporating business models (in lieu of pure scaling) and Lean Startup principles as I believe both are key fundamentals that every agile enthusiast should be familiar with. After all, we shouldn’t be purely focused on delivering user stories at speed and making adjustments based on perceived value when we have the opportunity to capture and use real customer behavior to drive value creation and engaged customer experiences.
Side bar: Relative to software development, I find it interesting the high numbers of individuals that are unfamiliar with the use of A/B testing, multivariate testing, and narrow/wide band rollouts to collect customer behavior data to drive decisions regarding whether or not a feature should actually be delivered into production. While Jason did not discuss narrow/wide band rollouts, his talk was one of only two talks that I participated in this year that explored these points. Kudos Jason! (The other talk was given by Devin Hedge, @agiledevin – also a presenter at Southern Fried Agile – during an earlier Agile RTP Meetup).
UX Design Workshops by Garren DiPasuale – (@aduroguy) – Have you ever built software the business didn’t ask for? The team struggled to deliver? Or users didn’t want? If so, then Garren’s approach to Design Thinking and the use of Discovery Workshops may just the pain reliever you need.
While Garren introduced essential elements of Design Thinking and laid out an Inspiration – Ideation – Implementation process, his key message was to use Discovery Workshop(s) at the beginning of a project to gain shared understanding, explore ideas and develop a human centered design direction.
Fundamentals of the Design Workshops that Garren recommends are:
- Recognize the design process (macro not micro, divergent and convergent thinking);
- Use design thinking (feasible, viable, desirable);
- Hands-on designer facilitation (gets the team together for shared understanding);
- Human centered mentality (build empathy with your users and your team)
Woven within the talk were a few themes worth sharing:
- Design is creative thinking used to solve problems;
- Design Workshops are fast; they speed development and help avoid fragmentation later in the process;
- UX ≠ UI (User Experience does not equal User Interface);
- Human centered means not only the end users that will use the product, but also the development team
In my view, design is a mindset that embodies “the ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation”. As we look to solve problems and create value, staying human-focused and collaborative in process increases our probabilities for success. And this mindset can be strengthened by incorporating the practices that Garren shared.
Two other notable talks were the presented by Jonathan (Jon) Harding, Bank of America, and Brady Murphy, Gearstream. What made these talks so impressive were the business results that were achieved across two organizations: Bank of America and Comcast.
Jon’s talk ‘From Idea to Implementation: DevOps Enabled Agile Transformation’ talk highlighted Bank of America’s (BoA) agile and DevOps transformation journey within their dot.com business unit. While the talk concentrated on BoA’s continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline and tooling used, what resonated with me were the results achieved:
- Nov 2013 – Operational Efficiency via BPM automation and Straight-Through Fulfillment – Deposit Fulfillment reduced from 3 days to 3 hours
- Aug 2014 – Responsive UI Redesign for Consumer Deposits Sales Flow – 20% Sales Increase within Weeks
- Feb 2015 – Complete Responsive redesign and new flow allowing the Ability to sell Home Equity Line of Credit Online – 15% Sales Increase within Weeks
- Aug 2015 – Responsive Redesign for Consumer Credit Card Sales Process – 7% Sales Increase within Weeks
In Brad’s talk ‘Middle Management – Key to Unlocking Scaled Agility and Innovation’, which was co-presented with Terisa Enstad, an emphasis was placed on utilizing social physics for scaling business agility across three primary change balconies: Enterprise / Executive, Portfolio, and the working surface (team). Brad emphasized the need to focus on real interactions and collaboration while noting the benefits of a network leadership model that resolves some of the complexity and waste typical of traditional organizational structures and communication paths. Teresa highlighted the net effects (aka business benefits) that she and her team (her peers) achieved at Comcast. The two that resonated with me were:
- Data portfolio (12 people) has not missed a business release commitment in 2 years
- In 2016 we are investing another 40% capital construction costs into the portfolio and not adding any additional people to manage the work – more work does not mean more people”
All in all, the day spent at Southern Fried Agile afforded a great opportunity to learn and share with others interested in leveraging agile and related methodologies to increase team and organizational performance. Hope to meet you at next year’s event.