Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thanks Memphis!

Yesterday I drove the long 3+ hour drive to my old haunt Memphis, TN to give my "Implementing Scrum with Team Foundation Server" presentation to the Memphis .NET User Group. We had a decent crowd who were equally interested in both Scrum and TFS. I went long (Again!), but was able to get the bulk of the meat done and then rounded out the rest afterwards with a few of the members who stayed afterwards. Thanks to Colin and Adam for having me! The venue at the University of Memphis was great.

Thanks again guys!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Management buy in is one of the keys to adopting Scrum

All last year I worked at a shop where we struggled to adopt the Scrum process. It was haphazardly implemented and most of management never really had any training or direction and did not buy into the process. They remained very entrenched in their old ways. This resulted in some major frustration and poor results which just made matters worse since everyone thought this was due to the process being flawed.

While I am not an agile purist by any means, I do find value in Scrum in certain situations. It is hard to say if my last shop was ready for it.

This year I am on a project with a new client who has also adopted Scrum. At first I was worried because they were almost polar opposite in that they had development iterations (Sprints), but did not do much else as prescribed by the Scrum process. Since they were basically outsourcing the development to my team of all contractors, I asked to implement a bit more structure to ensure that the client's expectations were met.

We created our initial Product Backlog, started our Sprints with our Sprint Backlog and moved forward. By the second Sprint Planning Session the Product Backlog had been fairly refactored and with the current velocity it did not seem that all the backlog items they wished to have done by the 3rd Sprint were going to happen. I met with the CTO to talk about options and if capacity could be increased somehow. After all our options were discussed he was very understanding and did not press to throw bodies at the problem or modify the process to get more backlog items done.

And during a meeting where we reviewed the Sprint Backlog items, someone observed that the total of the Sprint Backlog Items for the current Sprint did not add up to our theoretical capacity based on the Scrum Team. Before I could open my mouth, the CTO was explaining how the Sprint Backlog was constantly changing during the Sprint and that we gauged ourselves by the weight (story points) of Product Backlog items. I have to say I was floored. Here was a shop where the management truly got the ideals of the Scrum process and was totally on board.

The experience has been very positive so far and I have been able to try more of the Scrum process nuances that we could never get off the ground at my previous company. It has given me some more insight into the potential qualities in a company that may (or may not) make it more conducive to adopting an Agile methodology like Scrum.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Upcoming Gigs

Here are some upcoming presenting gigs I have scheduled. This is my new "Implementing Scrum and Team Foudnation Server: A Semi-Practical Guide" presentation which has been going very well.

If you have a group in within driving distance of Nashville, I'd love the opportunity to present for you. Post back to this blog entry if you are interested.

Death by bullet points!

At a recent Microsoft get together, our local DE Josh Holmes gave us a book on creating better presentations (Beyond Bullet Points). After reading it I tried to adopt some its basic ideas around trying to tell a story and not using the standard bullet list approach to my presentations. I have to say I found it very hard to succinctly convey my ideas in a technical presentation without using bullet points at all. I found that my scripts became more essential, which was not bad necessarily, but it made the presentation as a stand along meaningless. So if I posted the presentation online without the notes, it provided little value.

I started looking at presentations from other speakers I had enjoyed in the past to get some ideas. I found this presentation by David Laribee which had no bullet points at all and was very stylized. While aesthetically pleasing, the presentation by itself held little value when you did not have David talking over it. I also found plenty of rote presentations with tons of bullet points with a few standard architecture diagrams sprinkled in for good measure. While those did have plenty of information contained in the actual presentation, I can see where sitting through them might have been pretty boring.

I came away thinking there is a good middle ground where you can effectively display your information (and yes use bullet points) while not resorting to just reading from your slides and not actually presenting the material. I am currently revamping my Scrum and TFS presentation in this manner and trying it out at several user groups in the Tennessee area over the next few months.

If you have links to good presentations done in this style, I would love for you to post them for me to take a look at.