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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Rebecca Parsons and Phil Brock on Agile 2013 and the Agile Alliance Goals

Rebecca Parsons and Phil Brock on Agile 2013 and the Agile Alliance Goals


1. Hello this is Shane Hastie with InfoQ and I’m here with Rebecca Parsons and Phil Brock. Rebecca is the current Chair of the Agile Alliance and Phil is the manager and director. Rebecca, Phil, welcome and thank you very much. A really successful conference so far from my perspective as a participant, it’s been fun, it’s been a great vibe, how does it feel from the Alliance perspective, tell us a little bit about the conference.

Phil: I think we’ve got a great event going on this year, we’ve exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance, have over 1756 attendees here representing 38 countries and yes, the excitement is palpable.

Rebecca: I think the spread across the countries is particularly significant and we are definitely expanding the foot print, although this is clearly a North American Conference, we have 45 states of the US represented and I believe it was 7 provinces in Canada, but the fact that we have representation from that many countries I think also speaks well to the content that we are putting together and the community that we are building here, and globally.


2. Tell us a little bit about more about the structure, how many sessions we’ve got going on this year?

Phil: We have I believe 210 sessions and are considerably more speakers than that because many sessions have two speakers, but there are 210 sessions on 16 separate tracks this year.


3. And how many proposals came in?

Phil: Over 1100 proposals which made quite a bit of work for the review staff and I really understand and encourage people to apply and submit their papers for acceptance with the conference. It is tough competition, I think we have a great lineup of topics this year.

Rebecca: I think the other interesting thing is there are experiments going on every year around the conference format, we’ve got some crowd source sessions for Friday morning where both repeated sessions where there might been too much interest so people couldn’t get in the room, as well as some sessions that were not accepted into the main conference program, so we are experimenting with things like that; there is also the Lightning Talks where people have a chance to at least get an idea out there a research track or something that is perhaps more speculative, but the community can learn what different people are experimenting with across the Agile spectrum.


4. And what was this year conference team?

Rebecca: Practitioners making Agile work so we are looking at what things can be brought back into people’s workplaces to change the way their work is happening next week, so try to keep this very focus on people who are doing Agile as part of the main conference. Main conference agenda, although this does extend you from project management, enterprise, development practices, testing across the entire spectrum.

Shane: Tell us about the sponsors, because the sponsors are also very much a part of this event.

Phil: Sponsors are our partners on this event, we couldn’t put it on without them. We are very fortunate to have over 50 sponsors for the conference. There are nearly 40 that have booths here that are sharing their goods and services and information with this very energetic crowd, so it’s a great group of sponsors.


5. And there are three Keynotes talks, do you remember what they are?

Rebecca: Yes, number one I don’t remember his name.

[Editor’s Note: the speaker is Abhi Nemani and this is the talk].

The organization is Coding for America and he was bringing the message of how technology can impact government. His focus is actually on the city level in the US and he was describing some of the activities that their organization participates in to make local government more responsive. They have a fellowship program where people, not just 19 year olds, but people who are actually in there to further into their career taking a year off and work for this organization and they partner with cities to deliver technology solutions to problems in the city ranging from simple citizen interaction to working with the Boston Public School System to actually help parents select what school their child should go to, so it’s quite an interesting organization that they are trying to bring technology into the government round.

Phil: And the focus also really there was to challenge the audience to consider working for government which is an interesting concept especially in North America.


6. I will say it was a pretty inspiring talk, and then we have Tim Lister this afternoon?

Rebecca: Tim Lister is this afternoon and then on Friday. We will have a keynote talking about DevOps.


8. Rebecca is the Chair of the Alliance, this is being your first year as a Chair, how has it gone?

Rebecca: Well it’s gone quite well. When I got involved I had two goals: one was to help us realize a broader international print and we’ve been partnering with a group in Brazil, will be making an announce at the member meeting that this afternoon regarding a partnership with a group in Brazil to extend the Agile Alliance influence into Brazil and we are looking at Brazil as a jumping off point for Central and South America. The other thing that we are looking at doing is expanding our content offerings. A lot of the focus of the last several years has been how do we get Agile into more organizations, get more people with the basic skills of delivering software in an Agile way, and over the last couple of years there has been an inflection point where Agile isn’t a dirty word anymore, where it’s starting to become quite Mainstream and yes, there is still a population that needs to be reached with the fundamentals. We also want to provide a platform for the existing practitioners and the people have been doing this for 10 - 11 years, since the signing in the Manifesto, to expend and specialize and advance the depth of our understanding of Agile and where can be applied and not just look at the breath of the Agile adoption. So those had been my two goals and I feel like we are making progress on both fronts here.


9. If I recall the mission statement of the Alliance it is to make the world of Software Development human, sustainable and productive, and we talk about the Alliance that is being The Big Tent, or the big Umbrella of Agile, can you give us a little bit more background into that?

Rebecca: Well there are many different approaches that fall under the Agile Umbrella and very often will get into the these debates, are you Agile because you do TDD, are you Agile because you value people and interactions over processes and tools, are you Agile because you believe in transparency … We try to stay away from those debates and look at it instead from the perspective of if we ground ourselves in what the Manifesto is trying to tell us, not just from the specifics but from the principles, principles and the values, how are those principles and values realized and that might be through Scrum, that might be through DSDM rather than focusing on one specific approach, we are hoping to educate and promote the use of tools that are appropriate to particular situations. We hear very often “Agile works well if you have a small team of a collocated developers but it will never work in a distributed sense” well, people are doing distributed Agile, “it won’t work across an enterprise” well we have a lot of sessions here at the conference looking at how you apply Agile at the enterprise and so we are trying to take a very expansive view of what should come into our discussion of Agile Principles, so Lean and Lean Startup, some of the specific techniques like Kanban, all of those things are welcome here at the Agile conference. Phil: It’s a very pragmatic approach really and I think that is pretty much what you are saying there.

Shane: Pragmatic and inclusive.

Phil: Pragmatic and inclusive absolutely.

Shane: Well thank you very much both of you for taking the time to talk to InfoQ today, we really appreciate it and good luck with the rest of the conference!

Phil: Thanks for having us! Rebecca: Thank you Shane!

Jan 13, 2014

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