The Agile Tribe

Agile Australia through the looking glass

on July 7, 2011

Authors: Robert McDonald, Belinda Lawrence and Wayne Allan

Some views and take aways from the recent 2011 Agile Australia conference.  This is what three people saw and heard.

Robert McDonald, Operational Reporting Analyst

“If there is word to describe what happened in the Agile Australia conference of 2011, it was ‘vibe’.
Being part of such a collection of ‘Can Do’, challenging, active and clever people, all intent on making the world a better place was fun. Some had the longer scaled up version which looked towards a bright future, while others shared their ‘tactical’ excellence.

With a whirlwind start, the conference literally hummed through the first day, with ideas falling like confetti at a wedding swirling around the gathered throng.  A highlight for me was the Panel question event on hiring people for Agile environments. Lorena Healy, HR manager of SEEK stole the show with her insights on SEEK’s own experiences.

She suggested that for Agile teams, teamwork is a major issue. People who are skilled at team work, but also have demonstrated what they personally did when things go wrong, rather than let it all happen without individually taking action. She also takes a long time when recruiting, sometimes 7 or 8 interviews over a period of weeks. There is no probation time in her organisation, as after all this recruiting activity they always have the right person for the role. If there is a position that needs to be filled, they would rather hire a contractor for a short timeframe rather than put someone in the role because of convenience.

While I don’t work in a project delivery area, what I found most useful for my role was the confidence and attitude on display. The one thing which most stuck in my mind, and which I have since shared with my team, is not to be afraid to raise issues.  Be confident and know your craft.  Be prepared to make mistakes and try new ways of achieving your goals.  Finally I was impressed by this quote which was relevant to my role… “Open company, No Bullsh_t”.

Much thanks for the opportunity of taking part in truly a ground breaking event in Corporate Australia, if not the world.”

Belinda Lawrence, Project Manager

My ‘a-ha!’ moment came after hearing countless times from various CEOs (Telstra, Lonely Planet, Jetstar, NBN to name a few) that it’s all about the business and specifically about getting project outcomes delivered, useful chunk by useful chunk in a smart and fast way to market.  I already knew this however hearing it first hand within the context of other businesses really brought the realisation to the forefront of my mind.

Rob Thomsett cleverly explained that we have no other choice than to deliver via Agile because the current window of stability in business is three months as opposed to the four to five years we experienced in the 70s and 80s.  It’s therefore paramount to the success of our business that IT deliver quality outcomes in the quickest way possible.  If we don’t, we run the very high risk of losing commercial viability.

Nigel Dalton from Lonely Planet talked about how the digital age means his business has been forced to focus on speed, quality and making sure the customer gets what they want.  Like many other companies, Lonely Planet progressed from selling travel books to having to compete with almost a million travel blogs on YouTube and 200000 smart phone apps.  Nigel’s an advocate of Agile due to its speed and capability of allowing the customer to be heavily involved during the delivery cycle.

The conference gave me insight into how IT Infrastructure can ‘be’ Agile.  IT Infrastructure must adapt the use of all Agile tools that are appropriate to our delivery style so that we can continue to support the development teams in delivering quality to our business customers.  It’s as simple as that!

and finally, Wayne Allan, Software Engineer  …

Rob Thomsett spoke as some what of a charismatic Agile rouge, employing a large amount of humour helping to convey his message about the need to bring Agile out of the I.T. department and into the whole organisation, pointing out that quite often we live happily in our little Software Development Department Agile bubbles until they are shattered when we have to interact with the business who ask for a Waterfall type plan that almost requires us to be omniscient. He made it clear that it’s imperative we address this dissonance between the two. 

This idea was then further reinforced during a panel discussion when Daniel Oertli from REA Group made it clear that we are a part of the business and that Software Development departments need to stop distinguishing them selves apart. On the same panel, Jeff Smith represented Suncorp, stating the role of a CEO is to facilitate work not Command and Control reminding me again why I love working for such an organisation!

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4 responses to “Agile Australia through the looking glass

  1. Agile Scout says:

    This is awesome. Wish I could have been there!!

  2. Wayne Allan says:

    Thans Agile Scout

    It was quite insightful event there are so many more things I could have mentioned.. and I will… briefly.. just one.

    In the open space I discovered that agile change needs to be delivered gently and sometimes without the mention of the word agile at all. If you are in a position to, you can point out that something is not working well and that you would like to try something else for a while to see if it works better. It’s as simple as that! 
    This correlated with my own experience with people’s knee jerk reactions to the word agile, it can conjure up fear, anxiety and a whole heap of other emotional responses. Those who are unfamiliar with agile can have a tendency to view it incorrectly as either the silver bullet for everything or just another werewolf process that devours more of their precious time.

  3. Wayne Allan says:

    Thans Agile Scout

    It was quite insightful event there are so many more things I could have mentioned.. and I will… briefly.. just one.

    In the open space I discovered that agile change needs to be delivered gently and sometimes without the mention of the word agile at all. If you are in a position to, you can point out that something is not working well and that you would like to try something else for a while to see if it works better. It’s as simple as that! 
    This correlated with my own experience with people’s knee jerk reactions to the word agile, it can conjure up fear, anxiety and a whole heap of other emotional responses. Those who are unfamiliar with agile can have a tendency to view it incorrectly as either the silver bullet for everything or just another werewolf process that devours more of their precious time.

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