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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Segundo Velasquez and Agile as Seen Through the Customer's Eyes

Segundo Velasquez and Agile as Seen Through the Customer's Eyes


2. DAY ONE: How did you get involved with Mano a Mano? Where did they come from?

I think really it was a response to the tremendous need that was seen. Working for North West airlines I was very fortunate to travel back and forth to Bolivia. Every time that I would go to Bolivia I would see this tremendous need and when I would come back to the US I would see this surplus that we had. And it was a way for us, for me to respond to that need. Our initial idea was really to collect the medical surplus that we have in this country and to send it to Bolivia to help the poor. But that idea of the medical surplus and supplies actually has evolved into much, much more including building infrastructure for healthcare, including infrastructure for education, and now really building economic development, building roads and water reservoirs to create opportunities for the poor and the rural areas to become self sufficient.


3. I can see that you need bulldozers but why do you need software? You are going to be the customer all week long on a software project that is going to fulfill your vision? What is the vision that you need software for?

Yes, as we embark on these large expensive projects, really it is going to become more critical for us to be able to communicate this work that Mano a Mano is involved in. And two, find a way of being able to make that emotional connection with the potential donor, and what we are hoping is that through this process and the software that we are going to increase our ability to communicate and increase our donor base so that Mano a Mano hopefully could receive additional funding from donors to be able to continue to execute these projects.


4. All right, so we are going to follow you through the week, and meet up with you to see what you are experiencing in working with the XP team that is working down in the lab, or some of us are calling it the dungeon, here at Agile 2007 in Washington.

It's been very interesting for me at this time to be involved. I don't really come from a typical field in the technical field as we know it here. I feel a little bit out of place, when we started, when we talked about cutting and pasting things literally that's what we did, because we didn't have the knowledge, we didn't have the resources, and we literally cut and paste papers. But today, and now I am seeing how this whole Agile process is developing in front of my eyes, basically I could see one queue card at a time. It is developing this method and this concept, even though I feel out of place and it doesn't feel very clear yet to me, but I can see that as you prioritize these things, the process and the product itself begins to materialize in front of your own eyes.


5. DAY TWO: I understand that yesterday was your first day working with the team. Can you tell me what did you do with them and what is your impression of the way you were working?

Yes, it was quite interesting. When I arrived here I didn't actually know what the method was going to be and what we were going to be doing. So it was very unclear. But Bob and I sat down at the table and started talking about what we were hoping to achieve and again as I say I am hoping that through this process that we are going to be able to make an emotional connection with a potential donor, ultimately increase our donor base, to be able to receive additional contribution for Mano a Mano. And Bob started with queue cards, and started writing one idea after another; it looked like a family tree: one thing led to another thing, and so I could see that this idea, this concept was beginning to materialize in front of my own eyes. Then we went through the process of prioritizing for the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday work and so on, and as I could also see that as ideas become clearer that we will see that these queue cards and ideas can move, can be shifted around to address the need and to support the ideas that are being talked about on that particular day. It is going to be a fascinating process and again my hope is that at the end of this project that we, Mano a Mano will have a tool that will allow us to communicate more of the work that we are doing with the potential donor, and eventually be able to hope to receive additional contributions for the work that we are doing.


6. So you are going into day two, you are going to start working with the team again a little later today. Do you know what you will be doing today?

Yes, the engineers will begin to work on the histories of each of these ideas and concepts and begin to write software that will make the computer do what we are hoping to achieve. And as we do that today they are also going to identify some testers that will actually begin to break down or take those product parts or test them, and hope that they will be ready for tomorrow's ideas and tomorrow's concepts.


7. DAY THREE: And we are back after day two, and I would like to hear about the stories that you have been developing with the XP team in the lab at Agile 2007.

Great! First of all things have been going really quite well. Yesterday was a very productive day. We were working on stories that would link up our projects, for example to a Google Earth site that would make it possible for a donor to actually be able to see a project that they are involved in.


8. So, give me an example of a project that you would be looking at on Google Earth.

A project would be a clinic that would be visible once it is uploaded into a program in Google Earth. A donor that may have contributed to a particular project like a clinic would actually be able to go to Google Earth and locate the project on the Google Earth screen. Right now what happens we have a difficulty in telling the potential donor where their project is. Most that Google Earth does at this particular time is pin point to a mountain any it can hardly actually make the outline of a mountain, but with this program actually the interested person will be able to go to Google Earth and they will be able to place a little dot and if you click on the dot, actually the clinic the project itself will pop up with some information about Mano a Mano having built this clinic in this community and so on.


9. Excellent! What other stories have you been working on?

We are also working on the ability to be able to upload pictures, albums under Flickr, that will again allow, first of all they will host the pictures for us, and then we will be able to download the pictures down to our website so that somebody that wants to see again the progress on their particular projects will be able to see these pictures that are hosted in Flickr. There are quite a few stories that people are working on trying to finish up and maybe clear up a couple of minor little glitches, but it is coming along very well and we are very excited.


10. And how does it feel working with the XP Team?

Excellent, a wonderful team of people that are working actually very hard and to the point where they are not even interested in taking a break. People will come down and they will say "It's break time" and everybody ignores that.


11. This is passion, isn't it?

It's passion and it's a wonderful concept when you see a conference like this sponsor a non profit organization and a group of people that are really interested in not only learning, but contributing with a product that can be used at the end of the conference, a project that is very real, usable, and effective, so it is a wonderful mix of how business and groups like this can contribute to causes like Mano a Mano project.


12. Have you had any difficulties while you were working with the team?

Not really. I think the biggest thing, and it is probably more my issue than anything else, was making sure that the goal is clear, in this case for me, and being able to convey that message. I think because we are working in two separate worlds: one is the technical world that I don't know too much about and so it was a little bit difficult at the beginning to kind of convey that message clearly. But once we did that I think we are on our way.


13. Can you tell me about the set up of the room? What do you think of the way they are set up?

It's quite a large space so that a lot of people can be down there. There are quite a few computers that are set up, so that they can work in teams of two. Some knowledgeable expert usually works with another individual that's interested in learning how to work on the code, or how to program. And so they are working in teams of two. It's quite relaxed, very open, friendly, and wonderful. We're down in the basement so we are a little bit, they are saying that is the dungeon place, but it actually is a very nice place. We are using the walls as kind of a board where the stories that I have written out are posted by day, Monday through Friday and they move to stories that are on deck and stories that are being actually in process in development, and then stories that are completed. Once they are tested, they go into the completed portion, so they have it structured very nicely.


14. Are you working with the testers yet?

We did do a little bit of testing yesterday and on our particular computer it worked quite well, when they uploaded it to the system, it had a glitch.


15. So you are still game to continue?

Definitely, more than that I am really hoping and I have talked about paying, I am hoping that they will invite our organization again next year to work on the second phase of the software need that our organization has, that we deal with basically what we call the microlending or the community lending program, which would be the next phase for us.


16. And I heard through the grapevine about another connection that has been made, with somebody that has already written open source software for microlending in France.

As a matter of fact, so that is very exciting to know that, and I know one of the other individuals that works and volunteers with us is looking into that and that would make it even much easier and better. So I am hoping that it will materialize.


17. There are always a lot of good connections made at this conference.

It has been a wonderful experience, it is quite overwhelming for me because I did not expect when I stopped in at the receptionist, who said "Oh you have a large group", and I asked "How many?" and she said "About a hundred". And I said "Oh my God, how am I going to present to a hundred people". And then they were a thousand, so they did pretty well.


18. DAY FOUR: What's coming up today?

We are continuing to develop our stories and a couple of the people are finishing up a couple of them, and then we are going to do some testing. We have a couple of new stories that we have developed.


19. So, do you didn't have all your current stories at the beginning?

No we actually had not thought about this, and this will be very nice for us. Right now we are using a third party basically to receive donations for us, so the donations are channeled through "Network for Good", but the team is actually going to tackle to reformat the "Network for Good" sheet to look like a Mano a Mano sheet to make it a seamless operation that somebody will go into that page, even though it's "Network for Good" but it will actually look like a Mano a Mano page, and hopefully that will make them feel more comfortable with the donation, because it doesn't go through another entity, another organization.


20. DAY FIVE: We are back and today we are going to descend into the little known "dungeon" underneath the Washington Renaissance Hotel, where the Agile 2007 XP Lab is creating the software for Segundo's Mano a Mano project. Segundo has promised to give us a tour.

Yes, it is very nice here. Well we started Sunday afternoon on queue if I may say, where Bob Payne and a couple of other people got together with me on a table very similar to this, where we started talking about what product might come out of this conference by the end of the week. Bob started writing down basically the stories that would have to be worked on or solved, to achieve the goal. There are many, many, queue cards what I call on the table, they are prioritized from order of priority from the most urgent to the lesser important one, and once those queue cards were written out and verbalized, then we actually located them on the board. The workload which was laid out for each day of the week from Monday through Friday and also all these queue cards were put out on the board, in order of priority from the most urgent one to the least urgent for each day.

Individuals including people from 8th Light and so on, came in and started looking at the board to take on a project. They would grab one of the queue cards and actually begin to put it on deck or in development. The teams here are working in pairs, generally one individual that knows the code and some other individual that might be coming in to learn the code and working with the people, so they pair up. And they are working on the cards and the projects and depending on the progress would go to the development or into the "Done" category, in this case it also shows quite many of them have had the related testing which means that they actually have run through the testing and that they are ready for release. I would like to show you the various tools and boards that the teams used.

Here is an example of the scribbling, if I may say that, that the team members used to try to understand what the customer was actually trying to say. Here an example from when we were talking about trying to track the number of donation dollars that would come into a particular project, an idea was that maybe we could show a track of road that would change as the number of dollars were coming in, that would be allocated to that particular project. Right now the team actually opted to measure the general number of dollars that would be coming in into a project, on kind of a thermometer like scale that would measure on a percentage the number of contributions that are coming in.

Team members use the boards not only to understand which roles these names play, in this case some of these are actually real people that would be inputting information into the computer, updating the program, but also David, who is the potential donor, and the queue cards connect or are attached to those names. And team members use the board to see how the process that would take for them to actually be able to write the code which ultimately would deliver a product at the end of the week. As you can see just an example of the code to me it really doesn't mean or doesn't say anything, but to them it makes the computer do things that they are telling the computer what to do and actually it is quite impressive.

The next thing that I would like to share with you is how the team responded to the request that we had, and those an idea to be able to show our donors the location of the projects that they were supporting or involved in. And it is a way for us to be able to access Google Earth, and then Google Earth actually takes us to the very project. But I didn't know that actually this could be done, but talking with the team and so on we determined that this is precisely what we needed, because what it does for us is it takes the donor and shows the donor the very project that he or she might be supporting in Bolivia. Google Earth right now zooms into Bolivia and it barely shows the outline of the mountain but with this program and the program that the team wrote, they actually will see the very clinic and information about Mano a Mano. I would like to introduce Paul from 8th Light who, along with his team, was very involved in developing the software that Mano a Mano will be using in the future.

Paul: In the original envisioning process, we sat down with Segundo and we extracted some of the values that he wanted for the website. What is going to make this website be able to provide an emotional connection between the donor and the person who is receiving the money. So it is not just a faceless charitable organization but there is a strong bond, there is a strong connection, and you can get very granular in a way that you donate money. And so we weren't really sure what this meant at the time, we knew we had some ideas of what things we could do and we had some ideas from the old website, so we were able to bring across some of the old ideas and put together some new ideas, we wrote them all down as stories, and we weren't sure exactly what this website was going to look like.

So here starts the project management process of prioritizing, Segundo picked which stories are more important and which ones were less important, and it was not a very technical process, it was pretty much "Ok, these ones let's put them over to the left, they are more important, and then somewhere in the middle are middle important", but there was no linear value, it was just bucketing the ones that were most important really. And so after that we took some of these cards and we estimated them, we provided a value for how much we thought they would take to get done. This value was kind of arbitrary by us the developers because we hadn't started the project, we don't know yet.

After this, Segundo was able to pick out what is first iteration, what the first group of stories in a certain amount of time were going to be. And as we developed those, we brought Segundo over, we did customer acceptance tests. Customer acceptance tests were what is the meaning for this story to be done. Before we finish the story we have to have this acceptance criteria that was specified by Segundo passing, so we get all the criteria. In this process where also Segundo is giving us examples of what the story will do and in those examples we are pushing back to Segundo what we can do. And that process created other stories. We came with a couple of ideas of what the website should look like, and we came out of those sessions with actual technical ideas like "Let's put a YouTube video on there, let's use Flickr and Google Earth to connect these people".

Because these are all tools that in our every day existence we use. So we finished up the acceptance tests, the developers go off and hunch over and write their program, and at the end we have a passing an acceptance test and when we have the passing an acceptance test we give the story card a big checked mark and we move on to the next one and the whole process starts over again, until we have a complete iteration. And when we have a complete iteration, we come back to Segundo and we have all these story cards that we created during that iteration. So there are all these new ideas "Let's put a YouTube video up there" and those all get rearranged back on the board with all the other story cards.

And based on what we got done in a certain amount of time from the last iteration, we choose how many of these story cards, how many of these index cards, sum business value on them, are we going to do for the next iteration? Our iterations have been started with morning/afternoon iterations to a day, and that got to be too much time technical overhead to get any value done. So we just decided we will double the iterations and make them a full day. So we doubled the velocity and just continued working.


21. Well I would like to introduce you a few members of the team that have worked on many of these projects. Of course to my left is Bob Payne and then Paul over here, who is one of the leaders, Ian and Matt who are working with Bob Payne.

That's multiple countries and Minnesota and various businesses too. And we are very excited about showing you how this one program is working, showing the location of one of the projects that Mano a Mano executed in a very very rural area in Bolivia. The team members will show us how this particular software program will show how a potential donor might be able to find their own project being executed in the rural areas of Bolivia. Ian if you would show us the process. Here from the main Mano a Mano website the donor will chose the particular project that they are interested in learning about, and once they click on that they will go to the Google Earth site, which is right on the website itself, and then the wonderful thing happens that technology will actually take you to the very site where this particular clinic is located.

And then the donor will actually click on that, and then the very project that Mano a Mano is executing will show. This particular frame will also give a little bit of information about the size of the community, maybe the population, how long it took to construct the clinic and so on. We are very excited because I think this, as Paul indicated, really will give that emotional pull connection to not only to Mano a Mano, but their own very personal project that they can identify with. And our hope is that donors because of that connection that they might be more attached to work with us, to collaborate with us in these projects. I am very pleased, very excited about the potential of the type of software that technology can bring to an organization such as ours.

When a group of experts, a group of people can come together and work together, understand the customers' needs and can actually put together in their language this method of communicating our emotional need to a potential donor, I think that's when really there is such a bridge that takes place between those little wiggling numbers that don't really mean anything to us but here, because they were able to put together this program and it can in fact transport the donor to a far, far, away place like Bolivia, in the end is that bridge of the wiggling, numbers, actually connecting the emotional touch to a donor making that project really hopefully a very real thing for the donor.

We are very excited about what it can do for us. I am very, very, happy and definitely this week produced more than I was expecting. The wonderful things actually quite a few these people have indicated and on going desire to continue to work on some of these stories. So we are very excited about them. And yes the boards still shows quite a few stories to be taken up. And then of course also Bob Payne put up a list for individuals to sign up so they can continue to work on some of these stories. So as this week comes to a draw, we are very pleased, we are very grateful to the conference for having invited us for this, but also we are very grateful to the team and individuals that have devoted their time and energy to make these ideas that I had into realities that they can then yield in hopefully additional or broader donor base support.


22. AFTERMATH: We are at the end of the conference, it's the last day, last night during the banquet we had a demo of one of the more impressive features, that were developed this week by the Rails Fest group, and it was the Google Earth feature that was done to show people exactly what they were giving to when they were supporting a project for Mano a Mano. Segundo what are your thoughts as you are walking out the door?

Well, it has been a wonderful week, not only that I met a wonderful group of people, that worked on the software for Mano a Mano, but the actual product that came out of it. We are very fascinated, this morning when I was in the elevator and walking over here quite a few people talked to me about how fascinated and how awed they were with the Google Earth software that they developed. So we are very, very, pleased and quite happy and moved that this kind of technology will actually make it possible for us to communicate the benefits that a potential donor has and a link that we can make between the donor and his product in a very remote area of Bolivia.


23. Can you tell me about the difference between what you imagined when you came in and what you know now?

First is that I know much more today about software and software development and the people. Sometimes they talk about geeks but that was the farthest with this group of people. They were a wonderful group of people, became my friends in this short period of time and I hope to be able to stay in touch with them. And the commitment that they have, truly on quite a few days, people came to tell them that it was time for lunch, or break, and they just kept going on and as they say "Coding away". So, a wonderful group of people and I am so pleased that I was part of this conference.


24. We are too. What's next?

We are going to continue to do what we are doing, expand on this larger economic development projects. I am hoping that next year that we are going to actually tackle the community lending program which will make it possible for us again to continue to reach out to a broader base of donors to make it possible for us to continue to do more and more of these projects.


25. You are talking about returning, at Agile 2008 in Toronto?

Yes it have been hinted that the conference might invite us again and I am hoping that it will be the case.

May 06, 2008

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Community comments

  • I enjoyed working for Segundo's project

    by J. B. Rainsberger,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I got the chance to work for a few hours on the Mano a Mano project and really enjoyed it. I happened to meet Segundo in the hotel elevator near the end of the conference, and it was heartwarming to meet a customer who truly appreciated even the small amount of work I did for him. I wish I had more customers like that.

  • .seriously ..kml file, youtube integration in a week ??

    by Hasan Kamrul,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    How many agile developer does it take to write a kml file ?

    4 dev + 2 lead in a week without break and double shift

    ..u guys are brilliant man

  • Re: .seriously ..kml file, youtube integration in a week ??

    by Deborah (Hartmann) Preuss,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.


    Actually, the project had multiple objectives. Writing the code was just one of them. From what I saw there, I'd assume there were other objectives, as well, such as:

    * write the code
    * help advance a worthy cause
    * show curious conference attendees what a team room looks and feels like
    * let developers try TDD, pair-programming, refactoring and other practices in a non-threatening environment
    * networking opportunity for those who participated
    * learn now to set up the infrastructure for an agile team (servers, tools, etc.)
    * spread the idea of using charity work to get experience and build your resume. Which, I think, is a great idea! No more whining: "I want to do Agile but have no experience - who's going to give me my first break?" To which, apparently, the answer is: give yourself your first break!


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