Scrum Gathering 2009 in Munich – day 2

The first presentation of day 2 was from Patric Palm, one of the founders of Hansoft (www.hasoft.se), the Swedish company behind a product with the same name meant to manage agile and lean projects. The title of the presentation was “Making Agile matter to the bottom line by understanding group dynamics”. An impressing thing is that Patric started Palm when he was slightly older than 20 and I found also interesting his experience in the Swedish military air force.

Second presentation of the day was “Good product owner panel discussion” moderated by Simon Bennet. A very interesting point made during this discussion regarded the prioritization of stories of the same importance belonging to the same Product Backlog but referring to different projects. A simple solution to such an issue is to reverse the question and consider instead what happens if that specific feature is not delivered. Sometimes replying to this question is much easier.

A PO can also work on acceptance criteria. Some POs go to the extent of writing executable tests using Cucumber for example. This gives developers a neat way of understanding the stories. Obviously acceptance criteria has to be matched and integrated with the definition of “done” as it may happen that the acceptance criteria could be met but the software cannot be defined as “done” yet.

Another interesting issue raised during this presentation was the interference of a steakholder into the project by directly approaching a member of the team. The best way to react to such an event should be to simply redirect the request to the Scrum Master that on his turn points the thing out to the Product Owner. The PO eventually would recall the request to the steakholder and clarify its details avoiding in this way opening a conflict that could have further consequences if overlooked.

The third presentation of the day was “Practical tools for Scrum teams” from Gwyn Morfey & Laurie Young of New Bamboo (www.new-bamboo.co.uk). This was for me one of the best presentation I attended at this conference. Gwyn and Laurie managed to keep attention and interest very high with very well prepared gags each time clearly describing the point they wanted to make. Among the interesting tips gathered during this presentation there was the one suggesting Scrum Masters to always remember of collecting contact details of stakeholders in order to keep them informed during the development of the project. If a stakeholder cannot be present at a demo, the SM could take care of recording a video about it and sending it to the him.

A very interesting idea about how to gain trust from a new customer for a project based on an agile methodology is that where a certain time frame is offered by the consulting firm until a specific set of base features is implemented. The customer is expected to pay only if he is satisfied with the result and from then on he will be paying regularly for the sprints the project will require. At the beginning the risk is taken by the consulting firm in its entirety while once the standard procedure is agreed upon, the risk is shared between consultants and customers. The success rate of such an approach at NewBamboo is very close to 100%.

Some tips about meetings:

  • Set meetings at odd times such as 9:53AM instead of 10:00AM – the latter is often perceived as sometime around 10:00 while the former transmits an idea of a specific starting point;
  • Start even if someone is missing;
  • Allow people to easily write on a whiteboard. Everybody taking part to the meeting should be already equipped with a marker in order to be ready to immediately step in and show to the others his ideas in an effective way;
  • Use photos of the whiteboard with some descriptive text to create the minutes of meetings. The minutes could be also shown somewhere to act as social objects and give the team a hint about what’s happening in their project.

Gwyn and Laurie ended their presentation with a final pearl consisting in a practical way to show customers why agile is better than a fixed price/fixed time approach: give him a set of requirements in order to build a Lego structure after having inverted the roles and having therefore the customer acting as the consultant and vice versa. It will be clear for the (real) customer that the agile approach is much more reliable than the traditional one… the only doubt from me is about what kind of customer would stand a similar introduction to it!

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