We’re Bringing the Tech Back!

My blog post about the OnAgile 2015 Virtual Conference was recently posted on the Agile Alliance’s blog.  Here is a copy of the post:

It felt like the hardest decision of my professional career.  I stared at the program guide for the opening session of the Agile 2014 conference, and the volume of choices was unexpected and overwhelming.  For each breakout session, there were over 15 talks and workshops from which to choose.  And those sessions were divided into 15 categories, like Coaching & Mentoring, Collaboration & Teams, and Enterprise Agile.  It was my first Agile conference, and I was quickly realizing that the Agile community was broader than I had imagined.

Attending the conference was career changing for me.  I met so many like-minded Agilists from all over the world.  I was exposed to new ideas and stories and participated in challenging workshops.  However, upon returning back to work and discussing the event with my teams, I was left with one critical concern – I had not learned about many new development ideas.  In fact, only one of the 15 session categories, Practices & Craftsmanship, was targeted at developers.

So when I learned that the Agile Alliance would be offering a conference targeted at technology trends, I jumped at the chance to volunteer.  The premise of the new OnAgile conference is that, even though technical practices are critical in Agile transformations, the technical members of our community have been underserved in recent years.  In true agile style, the conference has been designed as an MVP-like (Minimal Viable Product) experiment.  First, rather than hosting a traditional conference, the organizers decided to allow participants to attend virtually.  The goal of this experiment is to determine if Agile Alliance members want and will attend a conference online. Second, the focus of the content is on the future of technology.  While we believe this is desirable content, we won’t know for sure until the conference is held.  Will only technical members attend, or will managers and executives be interested too?  Is there a strong enough interest to conduct a separate technology conference each year?

As a manager, I understand the importance of learning about these technical trends even though I stopped being a developer many years ago.  I no longer have the technical skills to mentor my teams with practices like continuous integration or test-driven development (TDD).  However, after being introduced to these types of ideas, I can better communicate with my teams and evaluate the potential investment of adopting such practices.  For example, last year after attending a session of my local Tampa Bay Agile meetup group, I learned about the benefits of automating releases.  In the subsequent months, I worked with my architect to implement continuous integration and push-button release management.  Then we sent our entire team to automated testing training, and got them focused on the importance of automating all tests within our sprints.  None of this would have happened had I not been exposed to these ideas through the Agile community.

So what technical trends do you need to learn about to revolutionize your organization?  Perhaps you will learn about the awesome promise of Continuous Delivery from Jez Humble, who literally wrote the book by the same name.  Maybe you need the perspective of an industry stalwart like Martin Fowler, who along with Rachel Laycock will discuss the importance of having a strong technical foundation, or Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, who will discuss software craftsmanship. Perhaps you need to hop on the DevOps train with Gene Kim before it passes you by, or explore what Exploratory Testing is all about from author Elisabeth Hendrickson.  Or maybe you need inspiration from an Agile company like Pivotal to see what a day is like for their team.  Take a look at this impressive speaker lineup and decide for yourself which of these trends could best help your organization:

As a volunteer for OnAgile, I am certainly biased in my feelings for how great this event will be.  But as a practitioner of Agile, I am curious as to the results of the experiment.  Does the Agile community want a virtual conference that is focused on technology trends?  In a few weeks, we will have data that will provide some answers.  Between now and then, please help us out by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues.  But most importantly, if you decide to attend, please, please provide us with honest feedback.  Besides, without your feedback, how would we be able to improve with our next iteration?

See you all (virtually) on May 14.

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