Scrum Gathering 2009 in Munich – day 1

Between Monday 19th and Wednesday 21st October I attended the Scrum Gathering 2009. Since early 2007 I got  interested in Agile methodologies and attending events such this helps me to keep in contact with other professionals working in the same field and discover new approaches and new solutions to issues related to software projects development.

This year’s Gathering was hosted at the Hilton in Munich. I had never been to Munich before and I really liked the city. Thanks to Michael, a friend, I was able to visit the nice town center and understand something of the history and the architecture of the city.

The venue was nice but in some cases the rooms were too small and also, very bad, we didn’t have a wi-fi connection on the first day because the Scrum Alliance didn’t manage to have an agreement with the Hotel. Luckily after a lot of complains about this, some connectivity was made available to us attendees.

During the presentations I attended, I took some notes about concepts that I was interested in or that I would like to explore more in depth and that you’ll find below (notice that these are not meant to be  reports of the presentations). The first presentation I followed was held by someone from Systematic Software a.g. and it was about using Scrum implementing Lean:

  • Cucumber is a Behavior Driven Development testing tool allowing test cases to be defined via natural language sentences and can be applied to many programming languages (cukes.info);
  • CCMMI is the acronym for Capability Maturity Model Integration, a process improvement approach that provides organizations with the essential elements of effective processes that ultimately improve their performance;
  • Breaking software builds can be an effective communication mechanism to allow developers to understand what is going wrong when compared with setting up a meeting to discuss issues;
  • A developer working on different projects usually suffers a slowdown in efficiency;
  • Product Owner (PO) story items shouldn’t be included into the Sprint Backlog (SB) because they are of different nature;
  • Tools for managing the Product Backlog (PB): Jira with Greenhopper, Excel;
  • Differences in productivity among developers range from 0 to 20, differences in productivity of teams range from 0 to 2000: tuning a team is much more important than focusing on a single member.

The second presentation I attended was the “Scrum and the world crisis” held by R. Sabbagh and M. Garrido from the Catholic University of Rio, Brazil:

  • It seems that some financial analysts are fearing a credit bubble in China in 2010…
  • During the development of a software project, the renegotiation of changes is a cause of stress in the customer;
  • A good way of having Scrum accepted at management levels is to start to introduce its study into universities so that future managers will be more keen to evaluate solutions based on this methodology;
  • The Catholic University in Rio is the place where the Lua programming language was born. Lua is a scripting language with extensible semantics widely used in the gaming industry.

The third presentation of the first day was the “Dilbert considered harmful? Social Objects in Agile teams” from David Harvey. David presented some very interesting results of “priming” experiments consisting in observing the behavior of individuals after exposing them to specific contexts. For example, two groups of people were divided in order to solve some easy exercises focused on having them thinking of some background concepts like “young” for the first group e “old” for the second. The people involved had to build up sentences making use of some keywords provided in the exercise and related to one of the two concepts. Once the exercises were terminated, people were invited to leave their classrooms and move to another one and the time taken during this move was recorded: referring to the example above, people dealing with the concept of “young” reached the new classroom in a significantly shorter time then the ones dealing with the concept of “old”.

These experiments were aimed at showing how the context influences the behavior and this is why it is important, within an office, to have some positive Social Objects driving people into performing better while enjoying their jobs.

It’s funny to note that sometimes a Social Object can be also a puppet like the ones often used as integration tokens (when the puppet is not available it means that an integration task is running and actions that could undermine its result should be avoided).

The fourth and last presentation of the day that I attended was the one from Alan Atlas and it was titled “Reducing the waste of estimation”:

  • Basically Alan states that estimation of tasks for the Sprint Backlog only takes time away from the actual project development. User stories are to be estimated and prioritized on the Product Backlog but as soon as a story is split into tasks to be implemented in a Sprint there is no gain in refining the estimation;
  • Starting from the assumption that implementing a useless feature takes the same time as implementing a valuable one, prioritization should be based only on value (cit. Arlo Belshee);
  • Someone in the public attending the presentation suggested an alternative way of estimating the tasks other than the time needed: using attributes such as complexity, risk, technology involved and skills of the team members seems to be another reliable staring point;
  • Alan remarked how sentences like “accurate estimate” are basically an oxymoron… (a speech device conjoining contradictory terms) 🙂
  • The website cardmeeting.com provides a service to allow story estimation to distributed teams.
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