Impression of Agile NCR conference, March 8th, Gurgaon, India

09 Mar, 2008
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It has been a hectic week at Xebia India. The Agile NCR conference (first Agile conference in Northern India) was in full preparation. The Ansal Institute of Technology (AIT) graciously hosted the conference on the university grounds and Xebia was the main organizer in cooperation with ASCI.
Just a few highlights of a day filled with high quality talks:
Pete 19 points A gripping keynote was delivered by Pete Deemer to kick off the day. Basically Pete warned us for the hardships of Agile adoption by discussing his top 19 lessons of Agile adoption at Yahoo! and other companies. While some companies experience a delight when implementing Agile others have a very hard and frustrating time and don’t reap the full benefits. His 19 lessons were geared towards making sure you fall into the positive category.

The point he discussed that stayed with me most was the one about management commitment. In many cases Agile is great, fun, fine and nice, but when a project reaches a critical phase and for some reason will miss the deadline then management still utters the three magic words…
This is the point where the team goes into ‘by all means’ mode. Quality and sustainability go out the window as adding resources to a late project is not a sane option. This is done both by skimming practices and by working overtime. Such a team leaves a wave of destruction in the form of technical debt in its wake. If they are unfortunate enough to make it then new ambitious deadlines are based on previous successes and it becomes very unlikely that the extreme cleanup operation needed will ever be undertaken. Thus creating a costly spiral out of control. Great thing about Pete is that he is such an engaging speaker that you can see depression settle over him as his narration of this scenario progresses, leaving the audience deeply impressed with the awfulness of this cardinal sin.
Naresh overview Naresh Jain had a good overview talk, explaining the mismatch between traditional engineering practices and software development, tying in Lean and queueing theory. An important note that he made was on the clarification of the Agile Manifesto Value “Working software over comprehensive documentation”. Documentation here does NOT mean (functional) user documentation. It means in between artifacts like design documents, architecture documentation, detailed up front requirements and other items that can be eliminated as waste.
Another highlight was Saket Vishal with his Distributed development case study from a developer perspective. Saket first asked the audience what they would do if standup meetings ran too long. When we all replied that timeboxing was a solution along with the phrase ‘take if offline!’ he had us where he wanted us. During the rest of the presentation he engaged the audience a lot and took us through the communication issues he was focussing on. However every time we got a bit fanatic in discussing the possible solutions Saket said ‘yes yes very well thank you, timebox is up, take it offline!’, cracking up the audience. A very well done and entertaining hour.
The openspace part resulted in a few very heated discussions. The one I partook in was Anurag Shrivastava‘s question: Does the Indian culture hinder the use of Agile development? I believe that all participants agreed that there were elements making the self organizing teams, intense direct communication and light touch hands-off management required difficult. No solutions were agreed upon, if we ever get that far we will certainly let you know.
We discussed the Agile adoption programs of various large Indian IT providers and did agree that adopting Agile practices because of customer demand without adapting your company value system to be compatible with Agile values is a long and painful road to failure. My opinion is that the apparent incompatibilities of Indian culture and the usage of Agile are a catch 22 that hangs on trust, and only improve the gains of Agile development in an Indian environment, but thats for another blog another time.
Anurag closing Finally Anurag kept everyone in total concentration with the lottery draw of feedback forms. A lucky winner could take home an iPod. Not only did Anurag manage to turn the announcement of the lucky winner into a show, he selected four possible winners and got us roaring by first reading out three members of the audience that got absolutely nothing.
Xebia stand Saket & Meetu All in all a great day that I was happy to attend. I only cover a few things that stood out, but enjoyed all the talks. It was very much a team effort, with more Xebians like Mayur and Deepak giving great talks and organizers like Anurag, Amit, Abishek, Jyoti and Kiran making it all work. I was impressed with the overall quality of the day and enjoyed the interactive audience greatly.
As we completely sold out this year I am sure we will be back next year, bigger and even better.

Guido Schoonheim
Guido's passion lies in creating structure and showing the right direction in politically and technologically complex environments. His style is in essence enabling and guiding, but with a firm focus on the overall result. Experience includes managing complex programs (5+ teams / projects in multiple countries) and large software projects (>2M) to completion. Having done projects both as interim manager on the client side and as delivery manager on the supplier side Guido is intimately familiar with all facets of IT projects. Currently Guido is active as Change Manager and Agile Coach for large Scrum implementations.

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