Thoughts on Agile2012

What a week. I just spent five days in Dallas (Grapevine, TX to be precise) at the Agile2012 conference and walked away with a head full of good stuff. Here’s a brief recap of my experience at the conference.

Value is king

Value may be king, but with so much learning and understanding required to change the mindset of traditional software development to that of an Agile mindset, the rigorous focus on value that is so important can too easily fall by the wayside. But the value proposition was alive and well at the conference. There were 17 sessions on the Business Value and Working with Stakeholders stage alone and, as you might imagine, the need to focus on value was emphasized throughout.

Agile transformation is hard

The sessions I attended and the people I talked to solidified my belief that transformation from traditional software development to an Agile approach is very difficult. In a way, it was comforting to be reminded that I’ve got a lot of company on this long journey. Needless to say the conference had more help to offer than I could even take advantage of. Just look at the sessions that were available to choose from.

The Product Owner role will (and should) change

I talked to a lot of people about the Product Owner role and there’s a common thread that ran through our conversations. First of all, a lot of people are not fans of the term itself. The word ‘owner’ seems to bump a lot of them. Secondly, the PO role is conceptually flawed in the eyes of many. It’s not hopelessly flawed, but it is flawed and I think we’re going to see some important changes in the near future.

When first learning about SCRUM, many people are taught that the PO is the decider, the single wring-able neck. If anything goes wrong, it’s the PO’s neck on the chopping block.

That’s right, kids, the A-Team existed long before the 2010 movie.

But what about all of the other people who burn a lot of calories helping to create a vision, understand the market, define a product, market it, and get it into the hands of users?

Enter the concept of Whole Team Product Ownership.

The care and feeding of a product requires a lot of effort from a number of people, not just the PO. And any good PO is going to listen to the thoughts, opinions, and guidance of everyone involved. I don’t think the PO role is going to go anywhere, but I think we’re going to see more about shared ownership of products with the PO evolving into more of a leadership role. This is a good thing for product owners.

Agile ideas never stop evolving

On Wednesday evening, I was serendipitously asked to join a group of Agile practitioners in a discussion about the course curriculum for product owner certification courses. I suddenly found myself at a table with 15 plus certified trainers, a couple of Agile luminaries, as well as other product owners like myself. Although talking about curriculum might sound boring to some, these couple of hours were a highlight of the week for me. I got to enjoy listening to and talking to a bunch of really smart people about things we’re all passionate about. I think a lot of the evolved thinking about the PO role is going to start making its way into training courses and our daily lives as a result of the efforts the group is undertaking.

Agile2012 is a great place to network

It doesn’t take long before you realize that you’re surrounded by a lot of people who want the world of software development to change. And by change, I mean improve. And by improve, I mean stop doing the wrong stuff and start doing more of the right stuff.

I got to spend time with some old friends and make a lot of new ones. Connecting and reconnecting with so many people trying to do great things was inspiring and gave me a renewed sense of wanting to change the world of software development.

If you have ever been on the fence about going to the conference, get off of it and be ready to register for next year’s conference in Nashville, Tennessee from August 5-9, 2013. This is a tremendous opportunity to learn, teach, network, and be energized and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

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