BY Mahesh Singh | May 20, 2010 | Agile ALM

Digite recently sponsored a team at the Agile Coach Camp (Goa, India) organized by ASCI (Agile Software community of India) where a good number of agile coaches and practitioners from various leading organizations and cities of India met in an open space format, to discuss various Agile coaching and implementation issues, as well as share notes on various flavors and practices of Agile being implemented in different organizations.

We started the conference with one-minute lightning talks from each one of us, on the topics which we wanted to be covered during the conference. We later wrote the topic on post-it slips and placed it on one of the open time-slots for discussion and came up with our own agenda board for the day.

Below is a gist of some of the key topics from the above list which we sequenced into multiple tracks:-

  • Problems with Agile adoption in large organizations: – Agile implementation in a smaller organization (product or services) is still relatively easier than larger enterprises. The challenges grow manifolds as one tries to scale the agile implementation across others projects being executed in the organization. The objective of this discussion was to share experiences on such challenges and the approach taken while scaling the Agile implementation in a larger enterprise.
  • Do we need a process to define Process? :- It was an interesting take on various organizations tryinAgile Coach Campg to complicate a simpler (and agile) approach to Agile software implementation by introducing waterfall-like processes and standards which the projects need to follow to claim their ‘Agility’, thus making Agile Development lose its core values. One of the practitioners shared how he had been asked to come up with an ‘Agile Compliance index’ metric, on which all the projects can be measured for the level of ‘Agile’ practices they are following. Again, how much such metrics can represent project success is subjective and we brainstormed on various ways by which this can be tackled.

  • Agile Tools’: Role, Trends and what to expect in future? : – We proposed this topic to understand the role of Agile ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) tools in helping the teams solve some of these challenges. The software market is full of such web-based agile project management tools which offer various features promising the organization the magic potion of being called ‘Agile’ from Day1 of its implementation. But are these tools helping the teams do their jobs better? What are the expectations of the senior management from an Agile tool? How aligned and integrated are these tools with other systems and processes that are being followed by the organizations since so many years? Is the cost of implementing such tools justifies benefit derived from it? We had some interesting perspectives which I’ll share in the subsequent posts.

  • Is Product Owner Mandatory for Agile Teams? What happens if there’s no Product owner? :- Again this was a pretty interesting topic on the role and need of a “Product Owner” in the Agile team and who can wear this hat if there’s no formal product owner in the project.
  • Pragmatic Agile: – Are we sacrificing delivery for agility? This track was conducted in a pretty interesting format where each one of us proposed a hypothesis of a good ‘Agile’ practice to be followed in projects and someone else in the group took an opposite stand to debate over it. This has been neatly summed up by one of the fellow practitioner, Vivek in his blog post.
  • Agile Metrics: – Having agreed that an agile way of working doesn’t require too many tracking metrics, but the top management needs to be informed and updated by some means that the project is going on as per the commitment or not. This is more applicable in services organization and is often is linked to various other aspects like appraisals, costing, etc. How then to measure the success or failure of an agile project? It was a pretty interesting discussion and hence it calls for a detailed post.
  • Role of engineering practices in agile development: – The major part of an agile development and its success often constitutes of the underlying engineering practices being followed in the project. One can count on a number of practices being propelled as an ‘Agile’ practice (read a list of such practices collated by Naresh on his blog here). But how and to what extent do these practices impact the success of an agile project?
  • Experiences and learnings in Acceptance Test Automation: – Should the entire suite of acceptance test cases be automated? Is exploratory testing still as relevant, knowing the thrust of Agile on automation. Most of the practitioners shared their personal experiences on this and brainstormed on the best approach to be taken.
  • Measure ROI of Implementing Agile? :- This was a pretty interesting track where we discussed various ‘measurable’ metrics which can be tracked to showcase the value of implementing agile software development methodology over other traditional approaches. This has been again summed up by Vivek here.
  • There were a few more discussion points…but those that I have listed above are the ones I could remember or read out from the above image captured from a digital camera. Guess we can’t rely much on gadgets beyond a point and should take concrete notes. 😉

Overall, it was a great learning experience but by the end of the camp, with numerous discussions on various issues, we almost wondered if we had learnt new solutions to known problems or had just became aware of many more problems and perspectives on the solutions we thought we knew. Maybe it was bound to happen when we had a mix of coaches with different experiences and skills. And I guess real learning from such camps happens gradually as one comes back to the daily grind and reflects on the issues discussed and perspectives gained.

I’ll delve into some of the above topics in detail in my subsequent posts.

Nitin Ramrakhyani
Sr. Product Manager & Agile Coach
Digité, Inc.

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