I attended the Agile NYC conference this week and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of speakers and overall professionalism of the event. For the last several years, I have only attended bigger conferences like the annual Agile Alliance or Scrum Gathering so it was refreshing to mingle with a smaller audience that allowed more intimate connections with people.
CollabNet hosted the obligatory booth, allowing us to share our story with potential customers. We met nice people from all kinds of organizations from retail, finance, publishing and many more. As with any conference people were at all different stages of agile adoption. Some were just starting to socialize it around their organization, some had been practicing for years and were at the conference to trade tips and techniques with other agilists.
Agile NYC was affordable for attendees unable to attain budget or time for the larger, more expensive conferences. However, just because it was more affordable didn’t mean the quality of speakers suffered. I attended about six sessions in one day as well as hosted my own and I thought all sessions had high-value content.
Dave Thomas traveled all the way from Australia and managed to give a very engaging talk on zero sleep! He emphasized agile’s need to accept real, non-negotiable business constraints, that agile is an excellent tool for product development, but it’s not the only tool and cautioned becoming too evangelistic in an agile transformation. Harrison Owen then turned that talk upside down by suggesting that all systems are self-organizing no matter how much control, or the illusion of control an organization or manager assumes they have. And that was just the first two hours!
Ilio Krumins-Beens and Mariya Breyter of Kaplan, walked us through a real-world example of how they transitioned 15 traditional waterfall teams to agile in just 6 months. The talk focused on the essentials that were necessary to have in-place to achieve such a far-reaching goal, which was vital information to anyone attempting an agile transformation at their own organization. Kaplan had the type of executive support and budget for coaching necessary for success. It was a realistic picture of what could be done, given the right environment. CollabNet’s Angela Druckman delivered an excellent session on the role of the Product Owner, helping people understand how to create great partnerships between Product Owners and Scrum Teams. At the end of the session, Angela had about a dozen frustrated Product Owners come up to her after her session and thank her for finally providing a perspective from their difficult and critical position. One person even said, “Your talk almost made me cry, but in a good way!”
Agile NYC offered an interesting concept called “Poster Sessions” that served as an excellent visual learning resource throughout the conference. Anyone was invited to create a poster about a specific agile topic, then there were periods throughout the day dedicated to the poster sessions, in which the creators would explain the core concept of the poster and hold a discussion around the topic. I facilitated a discussion around the value of small teams during one session and another on high-value delivery through prioritized backlogs. People took pictures of all the posters and were tweeting all kinds of positive comments throughout the day.
Every agile-related conference feels a bit like a family reunion, as the passionate agilistas have been wandering the conference circuit for years. Now that agile is mainstream and conferences number in the thousands rather than the hundreds, it was nice to attend a small-scale event with an intimate camaraderie between all the attendees. All in all, thanks Agile NYC! It was a great event and CollabNet was honored to be a part of it.