Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Agile RTP (ARTp) meetup

Last night I attended my first meetup with the group Agile RTP. This is a group of Agile enthusiasts, practitioners, and those who just want to learn more about Agile.  They meet about once a month and have various presentations and discussions around the Agile movement and community. If you are unfamiliar with Agile, see my last post.

This month the presentation was entitled How "Bottom Up" is Failing the Agile CommunityIt was presented by the CEO of Gearstream inc., Brad Murphy. Brad is a veteran of software development starting out as a programmer with Smalltalk way back when and moving on to found several successful startups.

So how is “Bottom Up” failing the Agile community?  Well,  the premise of Brad’s presentation is pretty straight forward and one that I have talked about before in this space.  Agile is not just a practice that should be isolated to one group in an organization.  Though my experience has been that it is in these silos that Agile has it’s roots. In order for Agile to be as successful as it can be, the inclination, the encouragement and the participation needs to start at the top. Executives, Directors and Sr. level managers need to be actively involved in making and shaping the Agile effort in their organizations.  As Brad indicated in his presentation, without commitment and participation from this level, the effort is doomed.

One thing that I would have liked to hear more about is how small companies can break through that executive barrier.  Brad started his presentation with the disclaimer that his experience is primarily with very large companies and their executives.  There was a little bit of discussion around this topic after the presentation and what I got from that is that small companies and large companies have the same goal: create value to succeed. 

The Agile community needs to address that goal, not just show that Agile saves the company money and gets the product out the door quicker (which are valuable outcomes). Brad shows in his presentation that in some ways these quick fixes can diminish the movement if that's all that is presented.  He gave the example of Apple and Dell in 1997.  Apple was a smallish company with somewhere around $700 million in revenue and Dell’s revenue was around $3 billion (can’t remember exact figures).  Today Dell is a $30 billion company and Apple is around $250 billion company.  The difference is that Dell focused on the thought that the consumer wanted cheap PCs while Apple focused on providing value that the consumers didn’t even know they needed.  It’s all about providing value.

All-in-all it was a well received presentation with some very interesting questions, answers and discussion following. If you are at all interested in Agile, I would encourage you to find your nearest Agile community get-together. If you are in the triangle area of NC I hope to see you at the next meetup.

till next time…