Private client Scrum gatherings

July 25, 2008 CollabNet VersionOne

I’ve got a great job! As part of being a CSM trainer, I’m frequently invited to client sites, where I can see what clients are doing and observe their agile practices in action. Sometimes clients are just starting to adopt Scrum and, other times, they’ve been practicing for a while. Sometimes they are just exploring Story Points and sometime they’re doing Continuous Integration across 20 teams. Whatever point they’re at in the adoption cycle, I always learn something from these visits.

Last week, I was invited to one such event. The client had arranged a private corporate Scrum gathering and I was lucky enough to be asked to attend. For privacy reasons, I won’t mention the name of the client, but I will say that they are a large corporate client with an approximate IT staff of 4,000. They have a number of teams using Scrum: some with several years experience and some that are just beginning.

They managed it as an Open Space over a single day. If you’re not familiar with Open Space conferences, there are a number of advantages of holding a conference in this fashion. I personally enjoy this style of conference for the dynamic nature of the topics and the depth of the discussions that evolve.

The gathering was attend by more than 100 people and, over the course of the day, there were approximately 40 sessions on different topics. My favourite sessions were “What Is Velocity Good For?” and “How Do We Manage Multiple Projects?” There was also a demonstration of an internally developed Scrum management tool that looked very promising.

Apart from the sessions themselves, events of this nature are great for meeting people and getting exposed to new ideas and products.

Consider this, for example: The client has structured its teams so that they have ownership of the entire technology stack for any feature. The team owns the UI, the middleware and the database. In addition, they have largely (although not completely) done away with the concept of a project and talk about rolling out features rather than projects or releases. This is, of course, significantly different to how many companies manage their work.

The private Scrum gathering was very successful. The organizers were able to provide a forum for people across the organization to discuss their common challenges and share ideas and insights. Having seen how successful this type of event can be, I would encourage other companies to experiment with their own gatherings and Open Spaces.

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