Tuesday, April 22, 2008

AgileScotland - “Extremely Profitable Programming with COBOL" - by Clarke Ching, Edinburgh, 12th of May, 2008.

Hi everyone,
Last year I managed a very successful Agile project, despite far from ideal circumstances. 
I want to share this story with you at the next Agile Scotland meeting because it shows how Agile can be used in everyday organisations, by everyday people, working on everyday technology to do better business.

On the first day of the project, I met with our project's key customer - a senior manager with one of the UK's largest companies - he said to me, "I don't know you Clarke, but we simply don't trust your client.  We've had too many bad expereinces".  Fortunately, my client had warned me to expect this and, in fact, my "promise" to them was specifically to "rebuild trust with their customer".  Three months later, mid-way through the project, they flew some of their experts down to visit us, to find out how we'd achieved such a turnaround.  A few days later we discovered – and fixed - our first defect.  By the end of the project we had rebuilt trust considerably, we'd profitably delivered the project as promised, and in doing so the customer made tens-of-millions of pounds in extra profit.  However, we very nearly screwed up the whole thing right near the end – I'll tell you all about that on the night.

The project was a success despite doing many things which some niave but enthusiastic agilists say cannot or should not be done in "agile" projects.  For instance:

  • My team were working on an old legacy system made up of COBOL, ancient Oracle and rubber-bands;
  • Our customer consisted of around 50 people spread across five sites, based in three countries. 
  • We promised (and then delivered) to an aggressive, fixed-scope, fixed-price, fixed-date contract.
I'll repeat it: I want to share this story with you all because it shows how Agile can be done in everyday organisations by everyday people working on everyday technology.  This project finished in 6 months - it would have taken between 10 and 14 months, if done the "old" way.  That delay would have cost my client the contract and it would have cost their customer tens-of-millions of pounds in profit.  Agile, Theory of Constraints and good-old-fashioned project-management did that. 
In this session I'll share a few of the "secrets" (things you don't read about in the currently published agile books) which saved the project, such as:
  • How to use fear, intimidation and genuine concern to force your customer to collaborate so that they can be successful (I am serious about this: this project would have failed if I hadn't spoken one very calculated, very sincere, sentence just at the right time);
  • How to build trust with your team by being lazy and getting them to do your job;
  • How to do TDD with COBOL;
  • And (as a special bonus!) I'll share with you the one rule we used to deliver more work in each iteration than anyone had ever thought possible.  Seriously.
At the risk of sounding like an infomerical …
... But wait, there's more!  Since I'm feeling rather pleased with myself about my "publishing deal" I would like to buy pizza and a few beers for everyone who comes along on the evening. 
If you would like to learn some new stuff from this story then I only have 15 spots so please send me an email: Clarke.Ching@SpiceUpIT.com.  We will meet in Edinburgh, starting at, 7:15 on the 12th of May, 2008.
Clarke Ching

Monday, April 14, 2008

AgileScotland: Three announcements

Hi everyone,
Three points:
1.  Next week, Linda Rising will be giving one of her most entertaining and highly regarded talks from the Agile2006 conference.  It's this coming Monday evening (21st of April) at the Apex Hotel in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh, starting at 7:15pm.  Don't forget to bring along your copy of her book for signing.  Please send me an email if you'd like to come along.   
Linda Rising: Are Agilists the Bonobos of Software Development?
The chimpanzees and the bonobos are the animals whose genetic make-up is closest to that of human beings, but their "cultures" (and, yes, these animals definitely have well-defined cultures) are very different. The chimpanzees are aggressive, and operate in a strict, alpha-male-dominated hierarchy, while the bonobos are gentle and promiscuous! What sort of tie-could this have for those of us who favor agile development over plan-driven?
Linda Rising is an independent software consultant with a background in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in object-based design metrics. A proponent of patterns and their application in the workplace, Linda and Mary Lynn Manns are the authors of Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, and editor of Design Patterns in Communications Software, The Pattern Almanac 2000, and The Patterns Handbook.
2.  Congratulations to the organizers of the Scotland on Rails conference.  It was very, very well attended and all of the feedback I heard was excellent.  Well done for all the hard work lads!
3.  Let me be immodest and congratulate myself!  My business novel "Rolling Rocks Downhill - Lean and Agile software development for ordinary people with extra-ordinary ambitions" has just been accepted for publication by none other than The Pragmatic Programmers!  I am very proud to join such highly esteemed company. I will share some of the ideas from my book in May's agileScotland meeting during a session titled "Extremely Profitable Programming with COBOL" - it's about an agile project I ran last year using where we saved one companies reputation and made another company tens of millions of pounds in extra profit. 
[Blatant, but rare, commercialism: now that the book is under control ... I am, once again, available for short term consulting work.  My focus, if you haven't already guessed, is helping ordinary people working in ordinary organisatons can use Agile, Lean and Theory of Constraints to make loads more money by pushing out more software projects, faster.]
In celebration of my "publishing deal", I'll buy pizza and beer for everyone too.  More details to follow. 
Thanks everyone,
Clarke Ching
079 2011 4893.