I guess I came to Scrum and the agile software movement a little late in the day, I got interested in Scrum after attending the 2008 JAOO conference (now the GOTO conference) in Aarhus and then hearing Ken Schwaber talking about Scrum and the “definition of done” on an episode of Hanselminutes (http://www.hanselminutes.com/default.aspx?showID=137).

I was particularly interested in visiting this year’s Scrum Days because Ken Schwaber was giving one of the keynotes. Here are a few notes on what I thought of the sessions.

"Embedding a Scrum Culture" by Harvey Wheaton

Harvey Wheaton run’s a small to medium sized games studio called Supermassive Games who are based in London. Before setting up Suppermassive Games Harvey learn about scrum while working at another games studio. When setting up his own company he decided he wanted run all of their projects using the Scum methodology and embed scrum into the culture of the company. His talk focused on how they had achieved this and the positive results that he thought it had brought the company. The points I found interesting were:

· Scrum enabled them to have a very “flat” company. In a company of about 90 there’s a small team of 3 or 4 Executives and the rest of the employees were organized into scrum teams who organized themselves with a team leader and Scrum master emerging naturally.

· Game projects are not just programming projects, teams were made up of at least as many create people as programmers and working with the Scrum methodology suited them too. In fact, Scrum masters more often came from a creative background than a programming background.

· Their projects were quite long, 1 year to 18 months. This meant that projects did have “waterfall” like conception/design, implementation and then testing and refinement phases. Also, projects often with fixed deadlines relating to the release of new hardware. Harvey felt that Scrum was still value in environment like this as it’s iterations allowed you to track team progress and keep the team focused and motivated.

· “Embedding Scrum” into the company culture many create a company that was good a communicating with each other. This meant encouraging people to talk to each other, rather than sending email. It also meant regularly getting the company together to share news and get feedback from employees about their perceptions of what the company was going right and what could be done better.

Overall an enjoyable talk that was an interested case study about how to use Scrum and also offered some insight into the world of games creating something I knew little about.

"Scrum et Kanban, tirer le meilleur des deux" (Scrum and Kanban, get the best of both) by Antoine Vernois, Claude Aubry, Fabrice Aimett

I was primarily interested in this talk as I wanted to know about Kanban. Since hearing about Scrum I got to learn quite a bit about it and now most of the projects I take part in are run using Scrum or at least variations of it. Recently I’ve started hear talk about Kanban and its advantages but there seems to be less information out there about it. I was hoping explain to me what it was and how to apply it.

While the talk didn’t answer all my questions about Kanban it did at least give me an idea of what it was, to be faire the abstract did state that the talk would be high level and not in depth. So Kanban in nutshell is:

· An agile/lean methodology coming from manufacturing rather than being specifically designed for IT project (like Scrum).

· Kanban focuses on the management of tasks though a scrum like dashboard. Tasks start in a backlog, move to in progress and then move to done when they are completed and released. Task are not managed on a iterative cycle but the maximum number of task that can be in-progress is limited so the team to get over run with tasks, product owners then get chose which task get to be worked on as task move to done and team capacity because free.

· Kanban is veven less prescriptive than scrum saying little about how teams should organize themselves

An enjoyable talk, the format with 3 presenters worked well, I just which they’d followed up with a more in-depth version later in the day.

"ScrumMasters, devenez le coach de votre équipe agile" (ScrumMasters, become the agile coach of your team) by Véronique Message

I enjoyed this talk very much, even though I ended up at it a little by chance, I wanted to go the “Advance Testing” talk but it was full.

Véronique’s talk focus on how a Scrum Master could get the best from their team. For her this meant moving from being simply a team lead to becoming a coach. This meant rather than simply showing team members what to do, instead guiding them in the right directions and letting them discover the answer for themselves.

She also focused a lot on conflict resolution and the emotional side of working in a team. For her it was important for a coach to encourage emotional growth. This was because she’d seem many conflicts arise in teams over simple disagreements over design choices, what should have been merely a professional discussion had turned into an emotional conflict between team members and destroyed team motivation and productivity. This particularly struck a chord with me as I have seen similar situations myself, yet the emotional aspects of working in a team are rarely addressed in software. I guess it’s something we all assume we can do as mature adults, but often we can’t.

Afternoon Sessions and Workshops

In the afternoon I attend a couple of sessions that I wasn’t that impressed by, so I won’t mention them here. A friend of my attend the particle workshops about how to run a dynamic retrospective and how to use agile games, so maybe I’ll attend those next year.

"Impact of Scrum on organizations", by Ken Schwaber

I was a little disappointed with Ken’s keynote. It was delivered by teleconference and I don’t think that really helped, but I didn’t find his material that insightful either. Much of what he said had already been said before, but then I suppose Scrum’s been around of a while now. Some of the examples he offer border on the ridicules (could write a program to predict how much heating a room would need based on the timetable of its usage or would you just use a thermostat). However he did say a few things that I liked:

· Scrum is empirical, this is true and I think empiricism is often missing in software development

· Scrum is incomplete, has too many assumptions about people knowing how to create product backlog correctly or break a project down into interactions. He said he was trying to plug some of those holes. (However, I’m not sure to the extent a methodology can fix things like that, I think some of it’s just down to goodwill and experience)

· Scrum can be used for fixed price deals, you just need to sneak it in by the back door and talk about an iterative process rather than “scrum”.


A valuable and enjoyable day, I would be happy to go again next year.