Agile2011 Round-up: Day 4

The Neil Johnson Agile2011 Conference Gold Star Award For Outstanding Accidental Contribution To The Field Of Hardware Verification

The Neil Johnson Agile2011 Conference Gold Star Award for Outstanding Accidental Contribution To The Field Of Hardware Verification is a mildly prestigious, little known fringe award given out to any person that spends more than an hour explaining software test practices to a poorly informed hardware verification engineer. The non-cash award this year goes to Elisabeth Hendrickson (@testobsessed). It’s an hour she’ll never get back but it was a big help for me. With a better idea of how software testing has evolved the last few years, it’s clear some similar evolution is in the cards for us, too.

Silo Busing (9:00)

A good start to the day came from Tom Perry and his talk about silo busting. I understand silos to be the confining spaces that restrict teamwork and collaboration between functional experts and across product teams and business units. Tom had some good ideas for… well… busting these silos to help bring developers together to form a more cohesive development environment.

Tom used the Robbers Cave Experiment case study to deliver his ideas on conflict resolution and encouraging collaboration. He recommends (as does the case study) that people/teams that would otherwise want nothing to do with each other can actually work together given a shared goal that neither can accomplish alone.

That ties nicely to the ideals of agile development where cross-functional teams with shared goals turn out to be more effective than independent parallel teams with individual goals. One basic technique he pointed out that can help brings together is to simply offer to do something for another team. These are easy gestures. They demonstrate the power of cooperation and form the basis for future teamwork.

Embedded TDD cycle – The First 3 Years (11:00)

This was another great talk from Timo Punkka, this time with co-presenter Markku Åhman. In Timo’s talk on Wednesday he talked a lot about the hardware side of a co-development project. Today it was more about the software side and how Timo, Markku and their team do system simulations for the fire detection products. They showed illustrations of the architecture they used, which was developed to target both a host simulation and the real hardware as well as how TDD was used to cut down development time of the software. More proof that agile has a place in embedded development.

How a Traditional Project Leader Transitions to Scrum (1:30)

This talk from Nafis Ahmad and Jeff Sutherland was a treat to listen too. Nafis and Jeff used tables as a very effective visual comparison of how scrum can be used to better address software projects than traditional project management practices from the PMBOK. Jeff made convincing arguments using customer experiences he’s been involved with.

Jeff also loaded the talk with several quotable remarks. The quote of the conference for me is where Jeff describes a software vendors willingness to allow requirements to change at no cost as long as a customer continuously updates the backlog:

Never hire a vendor who won’t give you change for free. That’s stupid.

Another great quote that he used to describe a scrum team’s ongoing responsibility for risk mitigation:

Assume a bullet is coming at the project everyday and it’s the team’s job to get out of the way.

Not sure if I got both of those exactly right but it’s close enough at least. Very good, well delivered talk.

Embedded Storycrafting: Key to controlling Risk and Schedule

Nancy Van Schooenderwoert brought a strong presentation to the embedded stage to finish things off for the week. Nancy talked about writing user stories for embedded development. She had a lot of good advice:

  • be specific about who you user is
  • use terms that the whole team understands (and it’s OK if you’re using technical jargon if you have a technical user)
  • define clear conditions for satisfaction based on your customer

One great slide that Nancy had showed how stories cut through development layers where development layers mapped roughly to discipline/function. I think all of the stories cut through at least 2 layers but most through 3. It was a great visual for showing who was involved for each story and how the load during a sprint would be spread across the team.

Nancy also had 5 points of story evolution that I’ll have to add after I see the slides again (I didn’t have time to get them all down).

I’ll give a final thanks to Nancy again for her effort on the embedded stage. For her and James, I’m sure producing the stage and putting together presentation material was a lot of work.

-neil

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