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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Samuel Crescencio and Juan Banda on Agile in South America

Samuel Crescencio and Juan Banda on Agile in South America


1. This is Shane Hastie with InfoQ and we are here at the Agile 2013 Conference and I am here with Samuel Crescencio and Juan Banda. We are talking about what is happening with Agile in South America. Samuel, Juan, welcome. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. Would you mind briefly, for the benefit of our audience, introducing yourselves, Samuel?

Samuel: Sure. Thank you, Shane, for the invitation. So I am Samuel, as you said, from Brazil, the beautiful Florianopolis, where we are going to have the next Agile Brazil conference next year and I have the pleasure to be the chair of that conference. I am also the founder of OnCast. It is a Brazilian company like we help other companies to become Agile and we also develop software to them. We are currently launching a product in the market to help with that as well. Another interesting point of my experience with Agile is the creation of the Lean Pyramid which we talked about a little bit last year and that model is really helping us improve to Agile in the companies and with our friends.

Shane: Thank you very much. Juan.

Thanks for the invitation. It is a real pleasure to be here. What can I tell you about myself? I have been a project manager in different organizations and then I got luckily exposed to Agile and Scrum and I started my journey learning and practicing these new frameworks and ideas that are great, by the way. I have been serving in companies that provide outsourcing services for big companies mainly based in US and at the present time I am working in a company Innovision that is developing software solutions for oil companies in Argentina. My current engagement with this company is in a location based in Bolivia, my home country, and we are working out of there to provide these software solutions for Argentinean companies, like I said. There is a lot going on in Bolivia and in the Latin American countries, in general, but we can elaborate more on that during the interview.

Shane: We will indeed. And you are also both on the board of the Agile Alliance. Juan, you were elected at the members’ meeting at this conference. So congratulations!

Thank you. It my pleasure and it is a real honor to be part of the board and contribute from here to, you know, expanding this community and serve it better.

Shane: Juan, you are actually talking at the conference this year.

Juan: Yes. That was on the first day of the conference and the topic was “PMPs against Agile project managers Clash of the Titans”. The title is kind of provoking but there was really no fight. It was more a trying to settle down this issue because in reality there is no issue, but it was provoking, it was fun for me to be part of this session and I think that the audience enjoyed it hopefully.


2. You say that there is no clash, but surely there is. The perception out there is that Agile, well, Agile says don’t need project managers, doesn’t it? You say that there is no clash, but surely there is. The perception out there is that Agile, well, Agile says don’t need project managers, doesn’t it?

Juan: Right. It is a perception and often times people take it too seriously and to a level that they are in conflict with other visions, without realizing that you need to be pragmatic. The bottom line is that you need to use every technique, whatever you can, to make the project successful for the people that it works for and also commercially and technically. So, regardless of the approach that you take you cannot just tunnel your vision and focus on one thing.

Shane: So, how do we bridge, for instance, the focus on perhaps gant charts and tasks versus we want the self organizing team to be effective and achieve our goals and change is good.

Juan: I believe that there are different aspects inside a project. There are engineering aspects and collaboration and, you know, the people in the team needs to perform at their best and that is where Agile can help a lot. But there are other administrative needs that need to be performed by somebody, somehow, and for those particular needs there are still some techniques of the PMP or the PMBOK can be and should be applied. There is knowledge there that is still valuable. We cannot just discard it because Agile is the new craze.


3. The two can mish together?

Juan: Certainly they can. They can merge together, they can coexist but for this you need to have the right mentality and you need to be open-minded and you need to be considering different alternatives for attacking the same problem.


4. Your traditional PMP project manager needs some help, or?

Juan: Oh absolutely, absolutely. There are things that traditional project managers need to learn. I was a traditional project manager and it took me minutes to read the manifesto, but it took me years to assimilate and to make the transition because it is not just knowledge, it is something deeper than that.

Shane: We talk about Agile being a culture.

Juan: Yes, indeed. I totally agree with that definition. It is a change in culture and behavior. Behavior patterns need to change if you really want to embrace Agile.


5. Can you tell us a little bit about what is happening in South America from the point of view of the growth of Agile and changes. Samuel, you have been heavily engaged with the Brazilian Agile community and I know there are some initiatives happening there. Could you?

Samuel: Sure. So, first of all I would like to say that I am very happy that Juan is in the board now of the Agile Alliance. I had the pleasure to be the first Latin American guy here and now there are more of us here and actually Juan and I have been engaged in the Agiles Conference since its beginning days till the end. That started even before the Agile Brazil Conference and is still ongoing and this year it is going to be, I think, in Peru. I heard good things about that. It is growing and we, from the Latin American perspective, I believe we have a great community like there is a strong community in Argentina, there is a really big community in Brazil, communities growing in Bolivia, in Chile, in other countries and from that perspective my goal is really to help those communities to flourish and we have already been seeing good results of that, for example, we had the Agile Brazil this year in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil and the goal of having the conference there was really to attract the government’s attention and we could do that. More than 50% of the audience of that conference came from the government, so about 500 people were directly connected to the government, including some directors of important government organizations and deputies and I have heard good things about the Agile there. So I am really happy with that.


6. You were talking about the Agile Alliance of Brazil. Can you tell us a little about what is happening, what is going on there?

Samuel: One thing about the Agile Brazil Conference is that it is made by volunteers. It is made by guys like us who are passionate about Agile and want to spread that message. So that started in 2010 and every year we had been suffering with the same problem because it did not have a formal organization that could hold the Conference and hold its funds and so on. So, we approached Agile Alliance to start a partnership that could help us to sustain that conference; so a good thing is that after some months of conversation and understandings how we could work together we realized that the formation of the Agile Alliance Brazil as an institution would be the best way for that and this institution is now in the process of being formed and we are really happy with that because the next year’s conference will be the first one to have its own institution and we believe that we will make that conference sustainable and growth in a more healthy way.


7. And the Agile Alliance of Brazil modeled very much on the Agile Alliance?

Samuel: Very similar. We have some constraints regarding the Brazilian laws since the institution is being formed in Brazil, but the idea is to have a very similar organization that can help foster the Agile Communities.


8. Fantastic. Juan, what is happening in Bolivia and further afield that you are aware of?

Juan: Well in Bolivia we had a couple of editions of a local conference that we call the Scrum Bolivia Day and we were lucky because Samuel was one of the first speakers of this conference. We attract talent from Brazil, Argentina and France this year and it was great because we had more than 150 people attending and what is interesting is that these people are coming from different industries and with different backgrounds and we were fortunate to have several Scrum masters in attendance but also PMPs and people from the oil industry. So I believe that the Scrum movement and Agile in general in Bolivia is moving pretty fast and as a consequence of this initiative we are going to have another conference a week from now. It is going to be in August, the 17th and it is called the Scrum Café which is going to follow the World Café format in which you do not have any speaker that is directing the dialog.

Different from that, you are going to have like six guys sitting at a table and discussing a question that a facilitator is presenting and this is time box. The table, as a group, needs to provide an answer in five minutes or so and then you move one person from that table to a different table and you switch to another question. And the idea is to generate this constructive discussion and enjoy the medium because it is informal, like a café. This is highly experimental. We have not done this before and we will be happy to share the results, good or bad, after we succeed or fail with this attempt.


9. I look forward to hearing about it. Now, if I can ask the two of you. You are both actively engaged in the volunteer community, volunteering in the Agile community. That is quite a commitment. Why so, Samuel?

Samuel: I used to say that Agile is a little bit of pressure with no oppression and the reason why I am involved in this is because before I started learning Agile back in 2003 and before that, I could say that it was really really hard to work in the software industry for several reasons. It was hard to deliver quality software, the customers were usually not happy, you were usually in environments where command and control would be the culture and that is not good for us. So we could not have quality life and when I discovered the benefits of Agile and I could see those benefits in my projects, I realized that everybody should be doing that. And then I just started spreading the message and it just happened that we ended up organizing Agile conferences and now we are here talking to you and my goal or my personal goal is that the whole software industry could understand and change in that direction. If we look at the Brazilian industry, for example, in my standing point, at least 60% of that industry is not Agile, including the government which is the main buyer of software development in Brazil. So I would really like that we could change the laws, change, you know, be\ig corporate cultures so that everybody could enjoy the same benefits.


10. And Juan, why are you engaged?

Juan: That is because I am not satisfied with the way that we are building software and I have not been satisfied for a long time until one day I discovered Agile and decided to take the next step and start taking action and I believe that this really can transform organizations and can take people to work in a different way. Not more organized, but something that allows them to be happier at the end. I have great results with this and I just want to share the benefits. Some people in the process helped me and this has started to gain memento that really motivates me to continue. I started meeting people that encouraged me to continue and do more and that really helped me. I mean at a personal level, I felt really motivated but seeing a result from people from other organizations that tried something I recommended. They came back saying: “OK. We left it like you said, but then we explored different things and now we are ready to share these are the things that we discovered in the process.” And this is fantastic, I mean this is building this beautiful synergy that I am seeing when you are trying to do these things as a community and that is part of my motivation.

Shane: Gentlemen, thank you very much for talking to InfoQ today. It has really been good to hear that there is such a thriving community in South America and we look forward to seeing it grow.

Samuel: It is our pleasure. Thank you.

Juan: It has been a real pleasure. Thank you so much.

Nov 27, 2013