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Southern Fried Agile - It is gravy for your brain

October 19, 2015


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Southern Fried Agile is the premier Agile event in Charlotte NC. It is a one day, content delivering, network creating conference with a focus on community and people talking. And I was lucky enough to be asked to present the keynote the last two years. This has given me the opportunity to see SFA change from a few hundred people to, this year over 700 practitioners wanting to talk and learn about Agile. SFA really does deliver on its promise of southern hospitality, great content and of course fried chicken.

I want to share some of the highlights this year..

The day kicked off with ‘everything you need to know about scaling’ from the industry thought leader Scott Ambler. This talk was a fire hose of information not just about his work on Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), but a broader discussion on scale. He introduced ideas from systems engineering, enterprise architecture, portfolio management and highlighted the challenge of Agility getting mindshare in those spaces. The talk re-enforced the idea that you need to focus your scaling approach, and that everything that can be Agile does not have to be, or at least not at first. Maybe you should focus on integrating architecture into your lifecycle, or start with cross team requirements. Even though Scott approached scale from a very broad perspective it reminded me of much of the motivation for Nexus and its focus on teams of teams who share a common ‘integrated’ need. It also highlighted that Nexus and DAD are actually complementary – which is always good news.

After the keynote the 700+ practitioners went to track sessions. The tracks were focused on particular themes. There were tracks for UX/People, transformation, foundation, technical and measurement. The sessions were of a high standard and mostly delivered by local people – the use of local people added to the overall community feel and made the sessions more intimate because the presenter knew members of the audience and many of the audience members worked with the presenter so gave additional insights on the topic. Two highlights included:

Kelley Horton from Bank of America who delivered a great session on how you plan at the portfolio level in an Agile way. She described how you replace traditional project planning approaches with a story point based model. Portfolio planning is often the one area that the 'management' require a more traditional approach, and insist that any Agile adoption looks more like Water-Scrum-Fall. And the description of how Bank of America have replaced their resource, project planning with a more elegant, team based approach made my heart skip a beat with excitement.

Chris Mair, from Wells Fargo presentation on Software Craftsman. Instead of a focus on how Wells was using the ideas of Software Craftsman this presentation focused on an overview of the subject. He described the importance of craft and how the evolution of ideas from craftsmanship. The timing of Chris’s presentation was interesting because of the renewed interest in the profession of software engineering with the VW scandal. Chris highlighted the importance of a moral code, focus on doing a great job and how software should be a model where professionals mentor other professionals. Highly skilled software developers are exponentially more productive than the average developer, so it is in a companies best interests to help developers invest in themselves.

Other great sessions included the ever dramatic and entertaining Larry Maccherone with his talk about software measurement – some of his material can be read on his recent InfoQ article. And it would not be a good conference without Jon Harding and his great overview on DevOps and how Bank of America and delivering software to their customers in record time.

There was an amazing variety of sessions that described case studies, or introduced new topics, or deep dived into practices. They re-enforced an idea that Scott Ambler highlighted in his opening keynote – there are no best practices just practices applied in the right context, and this years SFA showcased a number of those practices.

SFA was a great conference and reminded me of an important aspect of our industry the value and importance of community. Software is a tricky business and we are only going to get better at it if we work together…

Oh and that everyone is doing Scrum…

Scrum on…


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