Friday, May 30, 2008

AgileScotland workshop - Getting the Agile Basics Right

Hi everyone,

I'm am running a 1-day "Get the Agile Basics Right" workshop in late June.  This is Agile for everyday people - no rocket scientists need apply.

The course is designed specifically for people/organisations who:

  • are considering adopting Agile for the first time (or are joining an established agile team),
  • have recently adopted Agile but still have unanswered questions, or,
  • have been doing Agile for a while but are struggling. 

It is a "get the basics right" course and is suitable for anyone working on or with software development projects - you'll find it valuable if you are a customer, analyst, tester, developer, designer, manager or "other".  It doesn't matter what technology you work with, your seniority, or what type of organisation you work for.  My only criteria is that you have to have been successfully working in - or with - software development for at least one year. 

You will learn:
- Why the old ways don't work so well, no matter how hard you try, where we went wrong, and who's to blame.
- Why and how agile works.
- How to use Agile to make loads more money, deliver projects on time, "wow!" your customers, and make your workplace much happier.
- How to plan an Agile project without getting too stressed about it.
- How to execute an agile project.

We will also briefly cover more advanced topics, including,  
- "Agile in the Large" which is how to apply agile thinking to multi-project environments
- Agile techniques for maintenance/support teams.
- How to get your customers involved and committed.

We will also spend some time covering the principles of Test Driven Development (TDD) but in a very effective and non-technical way. 

In case you don't know much about me: My name is Clarke Ching.  I've been running AgileScotland in my spare time for about 4years now.  In my day job I am an Agile/TOC consultant.  The "Pragmatic Programmers" are publishing my business novel "Rolling Rocks Downhill" in 2-3 months time.  RRD tells the story of a senior IT manager who discovers Agile using Theory of Constraints, Lean and Quality thinking.  Strangely, although he figures out how to do Agile on individual projects, how to sell it, and how to apply the same principles to multi-project environments, he never actually uses the word Agile.  If you've read Goldratt's book "The Goal" then this is the same as that - it uses the same principles, even - but it is set in commercial software development, not manufacturing. 

I've done variations of this course (in house) for my clients many times over the last few years and the feedback has always been very, very positive.  I've helped folk who are (sensibly) cynical about agile to understand why it works (not just how) and how to use the agile principles to get better, quickly and easily.  I've even had feedback from a few agile converts who have told me, after the course,  that they've "finally got it". 

The course only costs  £300 per person (+VAT), including lunch, etc and will be based in central Edinburgh.  If you prefer Glasgow, Dundee or Aberdeen then please let me know and if it's feasible then I will run local courses.

If you are interested (even if you're not ready to commit) then please send me an email - I'll give a 20% "early bird" discount to anyone who registers interest within the next week (it makes my planning far, far easier). 

Oh, and please forward this note on to any friends or colleagues who you think may be interested :)

Clarke Ching

Thursday, May 15, 2008

AgileScotland - update - EverydayAgile - Using agile to make LOADS more money in everyday businesses

Hi everyone,

My apologies for two emails in two days.

Sorry, but I can't take any more bookings for this public workshop.   I'll try to run it near the end of the year - send me an email to if you'd like me to keep you updated.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

AgileScotland: Something special for C# programmers - Jean-Paul Boodhoo's Nothin' But .NET in Scotland ?

AgileScotlander ... Mark Capaldi has a brilliant idea which will interest C# programmers.  Can you please forward this on to any friends and colleagues who might be interested?
Oh and while we're at it 2 other things:
1.  If you have an brilliant ideas that might interest AgileScoltlander's then send me an email and I'll see how I can help ...
2.  Adrian Mowat and I are both presenting sessions at Agile2008 in Toronto this August.  We're planning on giving a special preview to y'all before then.  I'm wondering if we could make an afternoon of it ... if you have a story to share then please contact me?
Mark writes:
I was wondering if you could do me a favour.   I am trying to reach as many C# developers in Scotland as possible to gauge interest in Jean-Paul Boodhoo's Nothin' But .NET training course being run in Scotland.  Could I ask you to post this mail to the Agile Scotland blog for the attention of any C# developers?
I would describe Jean-Paul as a rockstar developer but, more than that, he is just simply an inspirational person to be around.  I would recommend that anyone who cares about the quality of the C# code they produce should attend this course.  I have no doubt that it will change their life as it did mine.
I was lucky enough to attend Nothin' But .NET in London last year and it completely blew me away.  Completely.  I didn't realize what I was missing out on.  The course made me reassess my own abilities and skillset and made me realise how little I actually understood about the C# and .NET environment.  I made a commitment to go back to basics, rebuild my skillset and to attend the course in 12-18 months to measure my improvement in that time span.
I've been chatting with Jean-Paul and he'd be interested in running his famous Nothin' But .NET training course in Scotland.  He has asked me to try and get a feel for the level of interest. 
You can find more information about the course can be found at the following links:
For those that don't know of JP Boodhoo his bio on the Jetbrains Acedemy site ( ) states:
"Jean-Paul runs the successful Nothin' But .NET set of training courses, travelling the world and helping teams realize success through the adoption and application of agile practices. He has written articles for Visual Studio magazine, DevX, CoDe, MSDN, and keeps a blog at Jean-Paul also made a wonderful series of screencasts on DNRTv titled, Demystifying Design Patterns. Currently, he's back working in the Smart Client realm on a C# 3.5 project."
At the moment I am simply trying to get an idea of the level of interest for running this course in Scotland.  Can I ask that anyone who thinks they might be interested in attending should drop me a quick email at ?  I should point out that JP only seems to do one course in Europe per year so, if it were to run in Scotland, it probably wouldn't be until 2009.  But it's worth the wait!
Please pass this on to any C# developers you know.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

AgileScotland workshop: Everyday Agile - Using agile to make LOADS more money in everyday businesses

Hi everyone,
Later this month I will run a 2 day "Agile" workshop in Edinburgh for the owners and managers of everyday software-development organisations.  
Note: this is about the business side of agile – selling* and delivering custom-built software for profit - it is not a technical course.
If you know of anyone who might be interested in this workshop then can you please forward it on to them?
* I will be running a version fo this course which has been designed specifically for IT departments later in the summer.
Everyday Agile: Using agile to make LOADS more money in everyday businesses
Course Summary:  How everyday businesses, using everyday technology, employing everyday staff,  can deliver LOADS more software development projects and make LOADS more money by doing just-enough agile.
This course is for anyone who currently develops software successfully using the old ways ... but want to do it LOADS better.
I've designed this course for people who are missing out on the benefits of Agile because they think it is too hard or that it won't work in their organisation.  It really bothers me that as Agile keeps getting better and better, it also keeps getting bigger and bigger.  This is great news if you're a practitioner, but if you're new to Agile, evaluating it, then it looks complicated, confusing and daunting.  It looks like you need to employ rocket scientists but you don't.  
A lot of businesses miss out because agile looks far harder than it needs to.  
This course is an easy introduction to Agile where the goal of the course is to get you profiting from agile quickly.  You'll soon be delivering better quality software projects, in far less time and delighting your customers too.
Selling Agile Projects:
Most importantly: the course covers not only how to do "just enough" agile, but also how to sell it to your customers.  This is important because once you start doing agile you will deliver each project in between 50% and 80% of the time it used to take you, using the same number of staff.  If each project takes, say, 33% less time to deliver than before (which is likely), then you've effectively gained 50% more capacity without employing any new staff.  If you want to realise the full benefits of Agile then you'll need to figure out how to sell that extra capacity.  
The problem is that you don't (or shouldn't) sell agile projects in the same way as you normally do.  Agile is better for your customers - they'll get the software they want (not what they asked for) it'll be better quality, and they'll get it far sooner - but you'll have to sell it to them differently.  Why?  
First, you're producing software which is worth more to them than what you are currently delivering but … it costs you less for your to produce it (because it takes considerably less man-days per project).  If you currently sell on a daily rate basis and continue to do so then you'll make less money per project.  You may choose to lower your prices and risk a price war … or you may chose to sell your projects based on the improved value to your customer, not your cost.  You'll discover during the course that the Agile model comes pre-built with a very effective means of avoiding most price objections.  We will adapt your current offer further (using the SPIN Selling model) so you sells the benefits of your new approach at higher margins.
Second, in order for your customers to get the most value from you, you'll have to teach them to work with you COLLABORATIVELY, rather than contractually (or even adversarially).  You need to create the collaborative working relationship during the sales negotiations, not after.  
We will cover both of these aspects - probably the hardest, and most overlooked, parts of any agile implementation - during the workshop.  
Introducing EverydayAgile:
For the last 4 years I've been developing a simplified version of Agile which works anywhere. It's the Agile I write about - but don't name - in my book.  I call it EverydayAgile because it is specifically designed for everyday people who work in everyday organisations.  It is entirely technology agnostic - I've used it with COBOL and with JAVA, for instance, and the principles are identical.  I've taken the 20% of Agile practices which gives you 80% of the (financial and social) results, revved them up with Lean and Theory of Constraints practices and packaged them up to give a very fast, yet simple, version of Agile which works anywhere.  
So, you get yourself running with EverydayAGile and then once things are running smoothly you'll be in a good position to start experimenting with some of the more technical agile practices.  You'll continue to get better and more profitable.
After attending the workshop you will be ready to:
  • Explain both the business and the technical aspects of Agile software development to your colleagues, including why it is way more profitable for your business and for your customers and why it is more enjoyable for your development team.
  • Sell your first EverydayAgile project to one of your customers using the compelling offer you prepared during the course;
  • Deliver your first EverydayAgile project, using the approach taught in the course.
Making Agile stick: the money side
Earlier this year a colleague and I did a "therapy" session with a small software development company where the technical staff were slowly bankrupting their company in the name of technical "agile" perfection.  They were following all the rules they'd read about in some agile book but they couldn't produce code that was technically pure enough for them to ship.  The owner of the business was devastated because he couldn't invoice, his customers were leaving him and he didn't know how he was going to pay his staff their wages.  I imagine the author of the agile book would have been horrified.  
If you go down the agile road then you've got to make it a blatant financial success in order for it to stick.  
Here's the example (which I've tried to make as simple, fair and representative as possible but I don't know your numbers.  Why don't you try it with your own numbers?  What kind of productivity improvement would you need to achieve to double your profits?)
Imagine a small software development company which pays their development staff £300,000 a year, has £75,000 in other costs, and earns £500,000.  What's their profit?  £125,000.  Now imagine that this company found a way of preventing expensive rework – i.e. by using agile – which meant that they finish every project in two-thirds of the time they normally take.  If you've seen agile in action then you'll know that this is a reasonable saving and many projects will finish sooner.  How does this affect their profits?
If each project takes only two-thirds of the previous effort then that amounts to a … 50% increase in capacity.  Does that surprise you?  It surprised me when I first figured it out a few years ago – I still double check the numbers.  This company can now do 18 months worth of projects in a year.  That's not bad.  Now let's say they keep their prices the same (their sales folk need a kick in the butt for not figuring out how to charge more – we'll cover this in the course) and they managed to sell half of the new found capacity.  That is another £125,000 cash flowing into their bank accounts and their new annual revenue figure is £625,000.  
But what's happened to their profits?  Their costs haven't changed (let's assume they didn't need to hire another sales person to sell the extra capacity) so their annual profit has risen to £250,000  (£625,000 - £375, 000).  That's double their previous profit of £125,000.  (And they still have a lot of spare capacity left to do even better.)
They could also have doubled their profits if they finished their projects in 80% of the time and sold all of the extra 25% capacity that generated.  All but the most negligently run agile projects can achieve that.
The course will be held in Edinburgh City Centre on the 27th and 28th of May and it will be limited to the first 8 people who sign-up.  It is specifically aimed at businesses which develop custom code for external customers*. The 2 day course costs £800+vat for the first person from each company (i.e. well less than 3 days worth of contract Java code) and £700+vat each for the second and third.  If, after the first morning, you decide that it's not going to work for you then feel free to head back to the office and I will happily refund your fees in full.  
Email me at if you'd like to know more.
If you know of anyone who might be interested in this workshop but isn't already making more money from "agile" then can you please forward it on to them?
Clarke Ching
079 2011 4893
* I will be running a different course for IT departments later in the summer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Can you help a local Doctorial student?

Last week I had lunch with Lisa Lui, a bright and enthusiastic doctorial student at a Glasgow university.  She is about to kick off the research phase of her doctorate which concerns the effect that Agile methods have on risk management. 

As part of her preparation
Lisa would love to get some hands on time - days, weeks, perhaps even months - working with a Scottish based Agile team. She says she'll do it for free ... but I reckon it'd be cool if there were some way that she could earn a little money - you remember what it's like to be a student.  She's versatile, but, admits that she has little industrial experience.  She does teach other students how to code and how to design databases.

If you are a Scotland based Agile Manager, or work for one, can you help Lisa? 
Do you know someone who might be able to help?

Email me: if you think you can help out - even if it is just to have a coffee with Lisa.