SAFe Training

Over the past 10 months I had the opportunity to participate in two SAFe courses; Leading SAFe, and SAFe Advanced Scrum Master.

Leading SAFe:

SAFe recommends that everyone should take this course prior to the start of a SAFe initiative. I absolutely agree. With that said, it can be somewhat frustrating when you’re bombarded with concepts and terminology that are unfamiliar to you. However, the upside is that you’re able to experience those “ah ha” moments when you come across these concepts in your SAFe journey.

Due to scheduling conflicts it can be difficult to start with this course. In fact, I’ve worked with some people that went through an entire Program Increment (PI) before they took this course. Since the organization should be staffed with SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs), my recommendation is that this course should be part of the on-boarding process.

Finally, it is my belief that anyone who takes the course (as required by the organization) should be required to take and pass the exam. The organization has made the investment in training and the human resources should be required show that they made an effort to understand the concepts and hopefully apply them. The added benefit to the course attendee is that they achieve the SAFe Agilist certification.

SAFe Advance Scrum Master:

Due to my Agile experience I decided to forego the SAFe Scrum Master course and jump right into this one. This course is typically not offered at organizations and may require travel. The added complexity is that it is not highly sought after so it can be difficult to find an offering that does not end up getting canceled.

After a few attempts, I was able to find an offering in Chicago. I took the two-day course over a weekend. There were seven attendees most of whom were not currently “doing” SAFe. I found this odd that they were taking an advanced course on something they currently were not practicing.

The majority of the course re-iterated the concepts form Leading SAFe. It was definitely a good refresher. But the course also focused on key XP practices like Test Driven Development (TDD) and Pair Programming. We did not actually perform those techniques but the idea was that Scrum Masters should advise/teach/coach their teams on these valuable techniques.

Soon after the course I took the exam (and passed) which was much harder than the SAFe Agilist exam.

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Agile2018

So this was my 3rd Agile Alliance conference and my 2nd in a row as a volunteer and every year is quite a bit different.

The location of the conference hotel worked out really well. It was a quick walk to get to the Gaslamp district as well Embarcadero Park. Last year at the Orlando there just wasn’t anything close to the resort.

In terms of attendees, it was great to see familiar faces from this and other conferences. Of course there were opportunities to make new acquaintances as well. In all the total attendance didn’t deviate much from last year and was around the 2500 mark.

There were some different tracks compared to prior years. It is simply impossible to attend all of them but the one that stands out the most is Audacious Salon. These type of talks go very deep and can be theoretical. It definitely isn’t for everyone but those that stuck around seemed to enjoy it.

I will be giving a formal Conference Debrief presentation at the Calgary Agile Methods User Group (CAMUG) next month which I am really looking forward to.

Next year it’s in Washington, DC. I hope to be there!

ICGSE 2018

I was pretty excited when my submission for this conference was accepted. I’ve been trying for the last few years without success. One of the reasons I’ve been trying to get accepted is due to the ‘global’ aspect of this conference. This was a large focus in my Master’s thesis and I felt this would be a good way to leverage some of the research I’ve already done.

Since ICGSE was collocated with the ICSE suite of conferences, a proper conference facility was needed. The Congress Center Gothia Towers provided an excellent venue.

I gave my presentation (Effective Distributed Pair Programming) on May 28th which was less than week after I had given my presentation at XP 2018. My presentation was followed by talks from Google and Samsung. At the end of the entire time slot, each presenter was required to take a corner of the room to answer any questions. There was some excellent discussion and I did receive some requests for my presentation slides.

Constantly changing project delivery dates

Whether you’re doing Waterfall or Agile, it can become almost second nature to adjust delivery dates especially when key milestones are missed.¬† Most of the time it’s wishful thinking because the developers have told us they’re really close to solving the problem.

In the Waterfall world, deliverables largely go unnoticed until the end of phase. At that point, the only real option is to insert a sub-phase, adjust the timelines, ask for more money, and hope nobody gets fired.

In the Agile world, teams that miss their sprint end deliverables just roll those deliverables into the next sprint. This may seem like a minimal impact but sometimes this trend continues onto further sprints.

What does this mean?

If you find yourself constantly changing delivery dates it could mean you’re working towards a fictitious date and compromising quality at the same time.

Chances are the team is stressed out and the stress continues to build because they know they can’t deliver on the next fictitious date imposed on them.

What can you do?

STOP! It’s not ideal but sometimes necessary.

Try to figure out the root cause. Is the team simply taking on too much work? Do you have the required expertise?

When teams get into this situation they sometimes feel the need to divide and conquer. So they work in silos so that if they don’t deliver on the key areas they’re still able to show some progress in other areas. Instead, they should look at the #1 and possibly #2 priorities and just focus on that. In other words, minimize work in progress (WIP).

Also, focus on quality. Chances are the reason you’re in this predicament is because you didn’t focus on quality to begin with. Adopt XP practices such as Test Driven Development (TDD) and Refactoring.

What you shouldn’t do

Don’t come up with more fictitious dates. You’re only making the problem worse and the client will only get more dissatisfied every time you promise to deliver and don’t.

Don’t continue to stress out the team. If you do people will leave, maybe not all but some. That doesn’t mean they’re no longer accountable. If overtime is needed, encourage them to put in extra time at the start of sprint so that they can get ahead. You also need to incentivize them to do so and show that you’ll support them along the way.

FTC 2017

This was my first Future Technologies Conference so I didn’t know what to expect.

Being a smaller conference in Vancouver I expected the attendees to mostly consist of Canadians and Americans. However, that was not the case. There was a lot of representation from across the globe (over 50 countries were represented).

In terms of attendee types, there were definitely more academics than practitioners.

My presentation, “Pair Programming: Collocated vs. Distributed” lasted about 20 minutes. I was only allotted 14 minutes but there were a few no shows so I was able to go a bit longer. The presentation ended with excellent questions and insight.

I really enjoyed learning about some of the ground breaking research that is currently going on. I don’t know how they come up with this stuff.

PMI SAC PDC 2017

Having attended previous PMI-SAC PDC conferences, I must say this one was quite different.

The Winsport venue had a much different ambience compared to the BMO Centre, and I mean that in a good way.

Also, the attendance had noticeably diminished from previous years which is expected considering the downturn in Calgary’s economy.

The keynotes that I was able to attend were fantastic, especially the one on Brain Science. The point on visualization made complete sense to me. I heard Hayley Wickenheiser’s keynote was also inspiring but unfortunately I was unable to attend.

My first presentation, “Scaling Agile @ FCC” went well. Everything worked as expected. The audience seemed to enjoy all 3 short video clips. However, the presentation almost lasted the entire hour which didn’t leave a whole lot of time for questions and I wasn’t able to stick around because I had to head off to my next presentation which was in a different room. Thankfully my co-presenter was able to entertain one-on-one questions after I departed.

The second presentation, “Agile Product Rescue” also went well. The only hiccup I had was with the audio went it came time to show my YouTube clip. The audience could hear the audio but it was very faint. I didn’t have any questions during Q&A but a few individuals approached me afterwards.

It was great to see a lot of familiar faces. Hope to be in attendance next year!

 

Agile2017

It’s been 4 years since my last Agile Alliance conference so while I kinda knew what to expect I was very curious as to what had changed. The format seemed fairly similar to what I recall. ¬†There were 4 keynotes, various stalwarts sessions, lightning talks, etc. So I can’t say a whole lot has changed, and that’s not a bad thing.

This time around the experience was completely different mostly because I was a volunteer. I really enjoyed volunteering. It’s a great way to meet people and network. With that said, it can be difficult to attend the sessions you’re yearning for. While the volunteer duties can be plentiful at times, it is a lot of fun. You’re never alone and the people you’re surrounded with are awesome.

I was careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past. At the 2013 conference I tried to take in too much and was overloaded by the end of the week. This time around I made sure to take breaks and make time to socialize.

Orlando was a fantastic venue. Most people were able to take in Universal or Disney or both. With that said, the conference hotel was spectacular just in case you didn’t have time to escape the event.

Next year it’s in San Diego. I hope to be there!