You Don’t “Do Agile”

February 28, 2012

Sometimes we get into right things for the wrong reasons. Like Agile development. I bet there is more than one organization out there that adopted Agile development expecting certain benefits, like delivering software faster, and with fewer defects; or having more engaged – and productive – employees through the use of autonomous teams.

It’s not that these benefits aren’t possible – they are. But they aren’t what it means to be agile. A framework like Scrum or practices such as Test-Driven Development and pair programming can be classified as just that, agile practices, but the practices themselves aren’t agile. It is more accurate to state that they support agility…

How Game Companies Deliver with Agile

February 24, 2012

Not getting everything you expected from agile development? Do you feel that creativity and collaboration are problems? Perhaps some tips of the trade from game development companies will help.

If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend that you read a recent SD Times article, What games can teach enterprise developers, by Alex Handy.

In the article Handy quotes Randall Ward (cofounder of Appfire Technologies), who says that he can tell a lot about a development shop by looking at the offices. “…making your environment fun to work in is something enterprises can learn from game companies,” he says.

What is Productivity?

February 21, 2012

In a great article, Management Myth #1: The Myth of 100% Utilization, Johanna Rothman asserts that, “Too many managers believe in the myth of 100% utilization--the belief that every single technical person must be fully utilized every single minute of every single day.”

She’s right. As Johanna points out in the article, utilizing people is a very different thing from utilizing computing resources. People are supposed to be thinking, which leads to better outcomes, new ideas, and a more successful organization. This begs the question: What is productivity?

The State of Agile Development

February 17, 2012

I’m always interested in State of Agile Development Survey by VersionOne, particularly in the contrasts between the reasons for adopting agile and the actual benefits obtained. According to the survey, the top 3 reasons for adopting agile were:
  • Accelerate time to market
  • Manage changing priorities
  • Increase productivity
The top 3 benefits obtained from implementing agile were:
  • Ability to manage changing priorities
  • Improved project visibility
  • Increased productivity
Close, but the #1 benefit of accelerated time to market didn’t make it into the top 3. Improving project visibility is a good thing, but the ability to accelerate time to market was actually #5 on the list of benefits achieved, falling short of the hoped-for #1 reason to adopt agile. Why?

Set Your Sights on More than Raving Fans…

February 14, 2012

Customers are great to have, but as Ken Blanchard points out in his book Raving Fans, "If you really want to 'own' a customer, if you want a booming business, you have to go beyond satisfied customers and create Raving Fans." In the globally-connected, social media world of today, raving fans are a tremendous asset.

The Internet, mobile technology and social media combine to create a fast, easy, global reach for your ravings fans as they rave about your products or services. And they do so in ways that traditional marketing can’t touch! There’s nothing like delighted customers promoting your products and services to potential prospects and turning them into actual customers.

But you can do more.

Sprint Zero: Don’t Waste Your Time

February 10, 2012

Is there such a thing as a Sprint Zero in Scrum? Should there be? After all, don’t teams need to decide on the tools that they’re going to use and set up important things like version control, build machines and app servers so that they can be productive during sprint work? One thing is for sure, we don’t have a shortage of opinions on the subject!

Ken Schawber flatly declares that “There is no such thing.” Ron Jefferies provides a balanced perspective at
It's probably a good idea to get your computers set up before trying to write software, for example. It's probably a good idea to have at least a fair vision of what you are trying to build. It is probably not a good idea to define a lot of architecture and IMO it is almost certainly not a good idea to install your database and schema.

I do, however, object to calling those activities Sprint Zero. Here is my reason:

It is a core principle of Scrum that every Sprint must produce an increment of potentially shippable software.

Therefore, an interval of time which does not produce an increment of potentially shippable software is not a Sprint.

Therefore such a time interval should not be called a Sprint. It doesn't do what a Sprint does.

The Ultimate Brand Metric

February 7, 2012

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." When a brand becomes well known, it is said that a company has achieved brand recognition.

A brand is distinctive, and when you do something really well your brand communicates your essence, your purpose. For many years when mainframe computers the only computing option and involved large expense and risk, there was an old saying that, “No one ever got fired by buying IBM.”

There was an underlying message about the IBM brand that IBM would stand behind its customers in ways that other companies would not or could not. This wasn’t just marketing hype, either. It was a very real, cultural belief in IBM that customers mattered and that those customers could in turn count on IBM. IBM delivered on the promise of its brand.

Genius is in the Fundamentals

February 3, 2012

I don’t know how this year’s Super Bowl will turn out, but being from New England I’m naturally rooting for the Patriots. And I’ll admit that the New York Giants certainly give me reason to worry… However, it should be a great game!

This will be Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl appearance, an indicator that he’s been playing at an elite level for quite some time now. What does it take to be one of the best? Apart from his incredible work ethic and constant study of the game, Tom Brady focuses on a superb execution of the basics.

In his article Tom Brady still listens to QB whisperer, Tim Graham talks about how Brady recognizes the need for solid mechanics and works on them constantly. Interestingly enough, Brady still relies on Tom Martinez, his personal throwing coach since before he ever made his first junior varsity start.