APMG International Agile Certification

There is a growing list of Agile Certifications out there:

  1. Scrum Alliance ScrumMaster Certification
  2. Project Management Institute Agile Certification
  3. Oh Canada! Agile Certification
  4. DSDM – Agile Atern Certification
  5. Open Agile Certification
  6. APMG-International – Agile Project Management

I’m sure there are more out there… and I’m learning more about these every day.

As for APMG-International: It is a global Examination Institute accredited by The APM Group Ltd, the Official Accreditor of the Office of Government Commerce. Their regional offices are located in Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Their portfolio of qualifications includes the OGC Best Practice qualifications of ITIL®, PRINCE2®, MSP®, M_o_R®, and P3O®.

I really am curious about these certifications, frankly speaking, I think it would be GREAT to have all of them under my belt! Am I a certification junkie then? Ok ok, I know that certification doesn’t mean you’re actually proficient in anything. I graduated with a bunch of knuckleheads in college, and graduated as a knucklehead in my Masters degree.

So, if you had the choice, which Agile certification would you do? Would you do all of them?


Agile Car Insurance

Dang, I really thought hard about having this article be funny, witty, and smart. But all I ended up with was some recent news:

First Insurance Company of Hawaii (FICOH), a property and casualty insurer, has implemented ISCS’s SurePower Innovation Policy Administration Suite for its new personal lines auto business. FICOH vice president, personal lines Tony Abad said ISCS’s agile methodology enabled them to draw on our critical staff for intensely-focused and manageable periods of time that minimized the long-term time commitment other technology development methods required. The team could see and react to the emerging solutions in a much tighter response cycle.

This is a sure #win for the small-time auto insurance company. Are the bigger insurance companies taking notice?

[More on insurance] – At most insurance companies, the software development process is highly inefficient and many have experienced major multi-million dollar software development failures. Improving software development processes is critical for achieving objectives.

Other financial services verticals, such as banks and hedge funds, were early adopters of agile processes, while insurance companies tended to lag behind or experiment on a relatively small scale. Most insurance company IT leadership has focused on lowering the costs of their software delivery model by outsourcing to offshore firms. This approach immediately delivers a lower cost per unit of labor; however, it comes at an extremely high and unanticipated cost: it dramatically increases the complexity of the software delivery model, making it much less nimble. Many find that efficient, timely delivery of high quality software remains extremely elusive.

Currently, almost all insurance companies have become familiar with these practices and are using some form of agile software development, especially for their leading edge and web development projects.

The barriers to successful agile software development process can be complex and span a wide range of challenges, including organizational and vendor management issues, an inability to gain the necessary cooperation from the business community, technical barriers, or resistance to agile practices within the IT organization.

[HT: Technology in Insurance]

Agile Transformation Walkthrough

What I love about being an Enterprise Agile Coach is the ability to work with great clients who not only love Agile, but have fully transformed their entire business around it.

The video above is an example walkthrough of a business that I had the pleasure of completing an Agile transformation with. The transformation included:

Want to know the most rewarding thing about this client engagement? The fact that they embraced Agile so much, they are now teaching Agile to their clients. Talk about awesome!

Retrospective 38 – Agile, Scrum, Developers and Tutorials


Agile Developers Please Apply

Coming from a developer background, when I think of working in a high-performance-agile-environment, I want to work with the best and brightest developers and team around. Who wouldn’t want to work in a high-performing company with competitive pay, great benefits, and innovation as a foundation?

“Joel Spolsky once correctly explained that you’re generally looking for two things in an employee: Smart and Gets Things Done. (Academia is teeming with people who are the former but not the latter.) First, though, you have to establish something else: Not Completely Inept. You’d be amazed how many totally incompetent people show up for technical interviews.” – Jon Evans – TechCrunch

So what should a real interview consist of? Jon offers a humble proposal: don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever. Certificates and degrees are not accomplishments.

“There is no excuse for software developers who don’t have a site, app, or service they can point to and say, “I did this, all by myself!” in a world where Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services have free service tiers, and it costs all of $25 to register as an Android developer and publish an app on the Android Market.”

Where am I going with all of this?

Agile Developers

  • Would it be too harsh to say that there are people that naturally fit within an Agile environment and those that don’t?
  • Would I be wrong if I were to say that great Agile developers are naturally great communicators and great collaborators?
  • Would it be too rough to say that there are personalities that just don’t mesh with flexibility and agility?
  • Would I be too off-base to say that the best developers for Agile environments are those that are naturally entrepreneur-minded?
  • Would it be wrong of me to say that Agile developers need to be innovative?
  • Would it be crazy to say that only lazy developers hate Agile and Scrum?

What are your thoughts? When considering a transition to Agile, do the people matter?

[HT: Tech Crunch]

A Concrete Example for Small Increments

[Guest Post: Paul Boos serves as the software maintenance lead for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).  His team currently uses Kanban and Scrum to maintain the OPP legacy code base.  Prior to that he implemented Scrum as the Branch Chief for the National Development Branch within USDA/Rural Development. Follow him on twitter: @paul_boos]

I’ve been a believer in delivering small increments of working product for a long time, but I thought I would put out a warning on how easy it is to let yourself be seduced when you enter areas where others know more.  Before I get to my specific example, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I bow to other’s demands that the first time they want to see my (software) product is after it released?  Often customers don’t want to be involved in the development process, do I accommodate them and use proxies?
  • Am I getting advice on my applications from outside consultants?
  • Do I constrain myself in my schedule/plan in such a way that dependencies become tightly coupled and thus many things must occur almost simultaneously?
  • Do I allow myself to focus on optimistic timelines or cost savings if I take a particular course?

We encounter these types of issues constantly and all of them can become traps to taking the wrong path.  I will now provide you a concrete example; quite literally about concrete.

Piet Mondrian 1872-1944

I have a patio project I am working on; my design is sets of concrete rectangular slabs laid out similar to Piet Mondrian’s famous works.  In between the slabs, I am using small-pebbled gray gravel.  A majority of the rectangles would be tinted a simple tan, but a few were intended to be tinted differently, highly reflective of Piet Mondrian’s work.

Given the nice incremental lay out, my original intention was to form the rectangles up and using the mixer I had mix and pour each square one by one.  The hardest thing would be to be consistent with the tints from one rectangle to another, particular with the tan.  Each slab I pour would be a learning experience and I screwed up one, I only have that one to fix (refactor).  Sounds very Agile right?  It is…

My good friend built a huge portion of his home in Florida using poured concrete.  He had been advising me along the way (I had a retaining wall I had to do prior to the patio).  He knew I was sensitive to cost for my project (which was the primary reason I was doing it myself, not because I was a whiz with concrete).  He convinced me by working through the calculations that getting a concrete mixer and a pumper truck would be cheaper and make the job go much faster.  He had used this combination several times when building his house with great success.  He further convinced me that my Mondrian-inspired pattern was enough to look great, I didn’t need the additional colors.  That would allow me to get everything in one pour.  In fact, one truck would take care of the entire patio and I would have enough left to pour under my screened porch so I could use it for storage  What a deal! Continue reading “A Concrete Example for Small Increments”

Agile Estimation is Dead – Stop Estimating Stories?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about “not estimating stories in Agile…” or “why you should stop estimating all together.” – To be frank, I’m not quite convinced, holistically. I believe that there is significant value in estimating at some level, just not spending too much time doing it.

Accuracy over Effort

There is some value in spending just enough time doing estimation, but not spending so much time that it doesn’t amount to anything.

In my depiction of accuracy over effort here I say that find a healthy balance between just enough time, and getting some estimation done. Now, some would say: “The trick is to consistently estimate over time…” Maybe it’s more like: “Consistently estimate wrong.”

Michael Dubakov tells us 5 Reasons why we should stop estimating:

  1. You don’t waste time on estimation – It is waste of time.
  2. You shouldn’t explain to higher managers why it took so long – Focusing more on explaining the problems than measuring against an estimate… and you don’t need to explain anything more than just how you can resolve the issues.
  3. You don’t give promises that are hard to keep – People don’t believe your estimates anyways. Better not be accountable lest you have to explain yourself.
  4. You don’t put additional pressure on development team – Estimates = A deadline. You wouldn’t want that would you?
  5. You focus on really important things – Epic or not, size or not. Doesn’t matter. By not estimating you can focus on… whatever is most important (according to the Product Owner).

Do I sound facetious? I’m simply distilling what I see as his argument for not estimating.  Continue reading “Agile Estimation is Dead – Stop Estimating Stories?”

Scrum Tutorial with Strong Bad and Homestar Runner

Came across an interesting Scrum tutorial from the Collabnet guys. The tutorial is pretty interesting and covers all the basics.

While I was watching I couldn’t help but think that the characters… I’ve seen them before. Then it hit me. Yes. They are Homestar Runner and Strong Bad!

For those that didn’t grow up watching these guys. You’ve missed out on a small slice of internet #win.

Take the tutorial for a spin if you’ve got the time. There are a few opportunities for laughs as well. 🙂

[VIA: Collab.net]

Retrospective 37 – Customers, Skype, and Shoe Kanban

We’re going to need something Agile.” – Fast Five



Have a Customer Advocate in Agile

Agile is all about bringing value to the customer, whether that customer is internal or external. What makes Agile so great is the ability  to change the plan. This plan, if done right, is rooted in what the customer wants. What the customer needs. And although there are trade-offs in the development process (lose some features to ship faster, for example), the foundational “spec” written by the product manager helps keep the intent of the product intact.

Matt Heinz states that:

As more and more companies shift to an agile development methodology, it’s more important than ever for a customer advocate to be a daily part of that team. It can be the product manager, but there’s no reason it can’t be the development team directly. You’ll be far better off having the people writing the code also understand exactly how the customers think, how they act, and why they’ll buy.

While I agree with Matt that it’s essential to have a Customer Advocate within the team, I’m not so sure I’m on the same page to say that the developers are the best representative for this. It can work, but I would say that having a definitive person in a role that intimately understands the customer is what matters most.

Agile Customer Advocate Tips

  1. Intimately aware of the customer needs
  2. Is frequently receiving feedback from the customer base
  3. Works closely with the Product Owner
  4. Works closely with the development team as needed

[HT: Heinz Marketing]

Agile Simulation Group Exercise and Walkthrough

Brian Bozzuto over at BigVisible.com put together a fantastic Agile Simulation exercise during the recent PMI North American Global Congress that happened recently.

We liked these resources so much we thought we’d share them with a wider audience!

The purpose of this exercise is to introduce the mechanics of an Agile project and to highlight the role of the Product Owner. In Brian’s words:

“Many people at the end of the simulation came forward and talked about how powerful it was to have someone speaking on behalf of the business there for the whole simulation. The team got to feel the power and collaboration of showing a business partner real time progress and making changes based on how they were doing. For some of us who have been preaching Agile and Scrum for a while, this may sound patently obvious.”

Below are the (very cool) templates for Agile Charts and Task Boards. Make sure you download them!

Continue reading “Agile Simulation Group Exercise and Walkthrough”

[Hack] – Use Skype for Agile Teams

Skype rules. I simply love the way you can easily use it to connect with other people. In my house, the Grandparents love it because they can see their grand daughter. So how can you make the most of Skype for your decentralized Agile team?

The guys over at Skype journal let us in on a list we just had to write about.

Using Skype for Agile Teams:

  1. Dial in video conferencing – For team cohesion, offsite team members video Skype to the daily standup meeting. Extend this for other meetings too!
  2. Remote pair programming – In pair programming, two programmers work together at one screen. Turn on Skype desktop screen sharing during a voice call with your programming partner.  You’re both seeing the same things and can talk to each other. I believe that @joem uses this with his programming with Pivotal Labs.
  3. IM team backchannels – Skype has persistent chat: This means your conversations continue, even when other people are offline.
  4. Language translation – Take advantage of the free Chat Translator and Speaker for Skype, which pipes your IMs through Google for live machine translation.
  5. Be connected to other offices – Open up a full screen video call on a large monitor (or television) and just leave it on. It offers for a sense of being connected and the opportunity for chance conversation.
  6. IM notifications and alerting. The Skype Public API makes it easy to write apps that will pipe notifications from code repositories, test frameworks, and work tracking into Skype text chats.
  7. Avoid distractions. Skype offers the ability to turn off bells, beeps, and bloips for each chat room. The /alertsoff and /alertsoff IM commands give you control. Skype says:

“/alertsoff” Disable message alert notifications.

“/alertson [text]” Allows you to specify exactly what needs to appear in a chat for the chat to pop up. For example, /alertson London will only alert you when the word “London” appears in the chat.

Full of #win! Watch @joem below in an example of utilizing Skype for pair programming:

[VIA: Skype Journal]

Walk with Agility – Kanban Works… with Shoes!

“Not long ago, the production process at New Balance’s Norridgewock shoe factory spanned eight days…Today, the plant makes shoes in 70 minutes from start to finish, thanks to recently adopted production techniques pioneered by Toyota Motor Corp.”

It’s interesting to note some very special stats from New Balance:

  • The plant can make some 7,700 pairs of shoes daily with a staff of roughly 360.
  • A few years ago, Norridgewock had a “batch” production system, in which different sections of the production line worked largely independently, said Wentworth.
  • Executives learned the process at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant. Shoes now move down the line continuously, assembled in 44-second intervals (the goal is 38 seconds) by workers at 32 stations.
  • New Balance recently adopted a scheduling system called “kanban,” which means “sign” or “billboard” in Japanese.
  • Wilson said kanban matches demand, inventory and production, allowing the company to receive materials and make shoes at the same rate they are shipped.
  • New Balance eliminated some 35 jobs with the changes, but Wentworth said quality improved and production time dropped to 70 minutes. In addition, the plant eliminated $500,000 in inventory costs and is making shoes in less floor space.
  • Wilson said that although labor costs at the U.S. plants are more than 13 times higher than those in Asia, the domestic plants have an efficiency advantage.
  • “We are more than 13 times productive than they are,” he said.
  • Single piece flow” manufacturing also lets New Balance ship shoes on the same day they are made, meaning less wait time for customers, a competitive advantage in North America.
  • “If you make a shoe in Asia, the lead time is at least a month. And if you air freight it, it costs seven bucks or more a pair,” he said.
  • New Balance makes and ships the custom shoes immediately so they arrive anywhere in the country in four to eight days.

Looks like a major win for New Balance and kanban. Would it be biased to buy American-made shoes that are built in an Agile-like fashion? Meh. I think my next pair of shoes are going to be New Balance.

[HT: Online Sentinel]

Gossip is Anti-Agile and Anti-Productive

Agile is about transparency, disclosure, and openness. Agile promotes open and candid communication between the development teams and the business. Frankly, Agile can never succeed without candid communication and feedback. If you’ve been around a business for long enough you know intimately how gossip works in the work environment. It’s simply counter-productive.

“Gossip kills possibility. It kills the business, or at least its real potential, which is essentially the same thing. We end up working harder to undermine our fellow workers than we work to make the business work out in the market place. Competitors couldn’t possibly thwart the possibility of our success to the degree we thwart it ourselves.” – Dan Pallotta

So what is Dan’s secret to killing the gossip-game?

Make ruthlessly honest communication, at all levels, priority number one.

For Dan and the rest of us, it seems that the true potential cannot be realized unless communication is placed above everything else. That has to start from the top. A culture of communication cannot sprout from the bottom up. And it could never be sustained that way. Embedding good communication throughout an organization means much more than setting an example. Being a servant leader maybe?

I’m not always too close to this, being an outside and objective viewer of things, but I can easily see very quickly how it infects organizations inside and out. Keep honest communication at the top of the backlog. That’s exactly where it needs to stay at all times.

[HT: Harvard Business Review]

Retrospective 36 – Top #Agile #Blogs and Coach Camp 2011


Rally Success Tour Atlanta

Rally Software is taking Agile to a whole new level, utilizing social media, coaches conferences, and client success tours. Yesterday was the Rally Success Tour in Atlanta. There was a great turn-out and there were some fantastic speakers there to share their success with Agile, not necessarily all about Rally.

I personally had a great turn out for my “Agile Basics” break out session. We played some Agile games and made sure we posted up enough big visible stickies to take pictures of for the participants. Some good time was had by all.

It’s great to know that there are companies out there willing to spread the knowledge and success of Agile. Rally, we salute you!

Agile Coach Camp 2011

[Guest Post: Paul Boos serves as the software maintenance lead for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).  His team currently uses Kanban and Scrum to maintain the OPP legacy code base.  Prior to that he implemented Scrum as the Branch Chief for the National Development Branch within USDA/Rural Development. Follow him on twitter: @paul_boos]

Get Some S’mores – It’s Camp Time!

Agile Coach Camp is a non-profit conference where coaches come to network and develop ideas and practices for enhancing Agile Software Development. It’s an Open Space, a self-organizing, highly participative (un)conference in the vein of Bar Camp.

Agile Coach Camp is truly a special venue for Agilistas. As an Open Space event, there are zero speakers; only participants. Everyone that is attending is passionate about learning more through shared experiences. The agenda is set by the coaches attending and will be facilitated by Mike Sutton; himself an experienced Agilista and passionate facilitator. The conversations that occur are powerful and deepen everyones understanding.

Anyone that is currently or is interested in becoming an Agile Coach is welcome to attend. Consider Agile Coach Camp to be for any of the following:

  • Thought leaders looking to develop or try out new ideas.
  • New coaches who have been thrust into helping others adopt Agile Principles and Practices.
  • Experienced coaches who wish to network and share experiences and problems that have encountered. Continue reading “Agile Coach Camp 2011”

Top 200 Agile Blogs RSS + Twitter Lists

I’ve gotten quite a lot of emails asking for the RSS. Well here you go.

Clicking these links are the fastest way to subscribe to the blogs that you want to follow. I decided to create the list instead of drop an XML file on you all. This way you can pick and choose which ones you want to follow.

For full details on the Top 200 Agile blogs go here.


Continue reading “Top 200 Agile Blogs RSS + Twitter Lists”

Agile Blogs Top 200 – Update

I’ve received many emails about the ranking system for the Top 200 Agile Blogs list.

The picture above is what I’ll be working on for the rest of the week so that means no NEW blog posts (I’m tired).

What does this mean for you?

  1. You have a chance to state your peace and enter your blog into my system by 6/9/2011 at 11:59PM.
  2. If you feel like I have missed your blog, please comment on the Top 200 Agile Blogs post.
  3. I will run you through the program and see if you’ve made the cut.
  4. BTW – Some blogs have already been bounced due to algorithm anomolies. For example: If a total blog has 0 Alexa, 0 Compete, and 0 RSS and is tied for that number with others, they receive a similar grade, interestingly enough, they get a points for shared ranking, which is the reason why you see a couple of blogs on the list with relatively zero influence… those are now gone.
  5. I like to give people a fair chance. So grab your chance to get into the top 200 list.
  6. I’ll also be adding an Honorable mention section past the 200.
  7. I’ll also be editing the post so you can grab the RSS feeds for each of the top 200 as well. Aren’t I swell?

Top 200 Agile Blogs

[If you’re not on this list and would like to be considered, post your blog information in a comment at the bottom!]

There are hundreds of great Agile blogs and software development blogs to read, but do you ever wonder which Agile blogs everyone else is reading? Ever wonder which ones are worth reading?

I do. I burn about 1400+ RSS feeds of Agile and software development blogs (growing weekly) with people emailing me monthly for my RSS XML file.

Here are the best 200 Agile blogs out there for 2011. Some focus exclusively on Agile and coaching, while others are more on leadership, news, consulting, Product Ownership, ScrumMastering, and specific Agile methods. Regardless of how you label them, these are the world’s most popular Agile blogs written by many of today’s most influential Agile leaders, practitioners, coaches, consultants, and hippies.

Want to brag about your rank or give some link love to the Top 200 Agile Blogs list? Embed the badge at the bottom of this page on your website.

For a legend and to understand how the rankings are computed, scroll down past the list.


As of June 3, 2011 – Updated on June 8 with new data and changes.

[Click here for the Top 200 Agile Blogs RSS links!]

Continue reading “Top 200 Agile Blogs”

Retrospective 35 – Scrum Master Interview and Games


FAQ Overflow – Simple Answers

A quick note on this random Friday. I’m a big fan of Stack.Exchange and Stack.Overflow and the crew that runs those sites (Some of which I met at RallyON2011). Love that stuff. These guys over here at FAQ Overflow put together a simple distilled list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Worth a quick browse. Have some good quick-and-dirty answers to Agile specific questions.

[VIA: FAQ Overflow]

Congratulations on Application Accepted! – Now Pay

As acceptance letters start rolling out to prospective PMI-ACP applicants for the new Agile Certification, I was (for some reason) just struck at the apparent bluntness of the acceptance letter. I actually received this letter while at lunch with another Agile coach and turned to him to show him the letter.

“Congratulations! Your PMI-ACP application is complete and been approved… The next step in the process is to submit payment. Before you can schedule your examination, you need to first pay the fee.

Yep. Straight to the point. I shouldn’t complain really, it’s part of the process, correct?

I guess it’s the nature of the beast. I’m looking forward to taking this “test” to show my ultimate Agile skills and complete Agile awesomeness to the world.

Agile Is… Excerpts from RallyON 2011

[Link to video here]

RallyON 2011 was a fun conference for sure. Read about my experiences here.

“For me RallyON was one of those – you know what, I am living my dream – moments in life. My favorite town (Boulder) was filled with 150 of our largest and best customers along with 85 expert agile practitioners from our coaching, product and technical account management teams. It was a swarm of agile expertise all gathered to share with each other for the sole purpose of getting smarter and building community. And you know what? It turned out great!” – Ryan Martens, CTO/Founder of Rally Software

Looking forward to the next one!

Oh, and you may be wondering why I’ve put up such a dumb-looking self-deprecating photo of myself. It’s because I’m fun. 🙂

[VIA: RallyDev]