Agile 2005 Keynote

I’m blown away by the turnout for this conference!  They’re actually screening participants for a Kent Beck tutorial scheduled for Thursday.  I think all 675 attendees wanted to be there.  All of the sessions seem to be full.

Brian Marick started the keynote with a show of hands:

  • There are nearly as many testers at this conference as there are developers.  This is so rare that test centric conferences have previously waived registration fees for developers.
  • Many people raised their hands multiple times.  (I did.)  Agile people tend to be “multi-specialists” with skills in more than one area of the software development process.  There is no career path for people who are multi-specialists.  You don’t see many job postings for people with adequate development skills and adequate test skills.  But, the best agile teams seem to be groups of multi-specialists, whether that means dev/test or platform/language or presentation/business/data tier.
  • Very few attendees managed to keep their hand raised through Brian’s extensive checklist of agility.

Jim Highsmith stole five minutes of Uncle Bob’s time to announce the formation of the Agile Project Leadership Network and the Declaration of Interdependence.  I’ll let the sites speak for themselves.

Bob Martin took a look at where we were, where we are and where we are going:

The Software Industry:

  • Was (and is) full of death march disasters, waterfall processes or no processes were (and are) prevalent, and estimates became (and become) guarantees.
  • Is slowly recognizing that software is not predictable or estimable early, that the waterfall process doesn’t work for software development, and that the best place to do our development is “at home.”  (Uncle Bob’s words.)
  • Is moving toward collaboration, short cycles, lots of feedback, a focus on testing.

The Agile Community:

  • 1995: SCRUM paper circulated, largely ignored.
  • 1999: XP surfaced.  Ideas resonated with many different people, but at many different frequencies, fracturing the community into an alphabet soup of agile methods.
  • Is now at a point where industry is getting good at mixing practices from several methods.  (Many of Bob’s clients gravitate toward the same set of practices borrowed from the major agile methods.)
  • Is moving away from “branded” methods toward a universal definition of agility, and is placing focus on project management.

The Users of Agile Methods:

  • 1999: Were told that agile methods worked with teams up to about 12 people; automated testing was a pipe dream; and, project managers were trying to figure out life after MS Project.
  • Are now successfully applying agile methods on teams of 80, 300, and even 1000 developers; test automation is possible (though not commonplace); and agile project managers now have their own manifesto.
  • Are moving to define agile on their own terms.

Bob also touched on some key issues close to his heart: Craftsmanship and “Software made at home” – a slogan he enthusiastically described as taking root.

Brian ended the keynote with the announcement of The Gordon Pask Award, which “recognizes people whose recent contributions to Agile practice demonstrate, in the opinion of the Award Committee, their potential to become leaders of the field.”  Conference attendees are voting on the recipients.  The awards will include $5000 US, with which the recipients may purchase a suitable plaque.

The award is so named in honor of British cybernetician Gordon Pask whose work died with him for lack of an institutional home, an acknowledged base body of techniques, and a logical successor.