A week ago on Tuesday we organized a camp fire event at our premises. Camp fire is an event about sharing agile experiences, and this was second of such events. Roughly twenty people gathered to an auditorium after the office hours. The audience consisted of people from few different organizations inside the company; developers, managers and marketers. We had two talks; Vasco Duarte from F-Secure was invited as quest storyteller and Mikko Kaijärvi from Schneider Electric volunteered to share his recent experience.
Vasco's presentation was strong, as usual. He talked about top-down agile adaptation at F-Secure in a very realistic way. He did everything but painted a pretty picture about the journey. This is according to his experience, and literature as well, expected. When everything is laid down on the table, it tends to get ugly from time to time. It was interesting to see how within top-down approach they were able to put the whole organization into "agile rhythm". Vasco mentioned that lack of outside help, or not getting outside support enough, was the main thing he would do differently if need ever arises. Vasco presented also some cold quantitative data from theirs and others agile adaptation to support the reasoning for change. It just happens to look like we have more data supporting agile than sequential models ever had. The presentation and especially the Q&A and discussion parts showed Vasco's deep knowledge and understanding of modern project work.
Mikko presented another interesting story in a lively style. His project has applied agile project management and Scrum practices in globally distributed embedded system development project. He estimated that only 5% of development effort is software and firmware, and in addition this is coming from non-agile team. Agile practices were seen as the only option for this project to be successful. The project was started with very vague requirements, barely a vision. Teams were pretty much given. One team in Shanghai, China and another in Monterrey, Mexico, and technology and software development in Europe. The offshore teams had minimal domain knowledge and a huge amount of knowledge needed to be transferred fast. Continuous integration of mechanical and electronics prototypes was a key catalyst for communication. Mikko further identified a clear transition in team behavior from hierarchical - through a single point communication - to self managing emergent behavior actively seeking for best possible solutions in this challenging environment. The project has only been active for five months, but they expect to deliver it in September as originally scheduled. Compared to average project that would be fast according Mikko. Furthermore active early participation of marketing is expected to result in better product as well. This has potential of making yet another example of agile project management practices being succesfull also outside pure software projects.
As conclusion both talks were excellent, delivered by guys that are experienced in both, the project work and giving presentations. Hopefully people were able to walk out with something new and to be able to connect some more dots in their thinking.
After the official part the discussion continued over snack and refreshments. It was agreed that lot of the agile adaptations outside so called agile homeground is about attitude. It is about the shift in thinking towards the art of possible. Just changing your de facto answer from starting with "Yes, but..." to "Yes, and..." offers a huge potential. Vasco's message was "if you really want it, you can do it." The reward demonstrably is there.