Archive for the ‘SEPG’ Category

Field notes from SEPG-NA 2009 – Tuesday

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

San Jose, CA. Day started (for me) @ 4:45am PDT (which my body believed to be 7:45am) with a work out, some email and chat, quick breakfast, and a teleconference with a prospective client. I arrived to the conference hall just as Dr. Paul Nielsen, CEO of SEI was introducing the first keynote, Scott Cook co-founder of Intuit Inc. (now chairman of the company’s Executive Committee of the Board).

Intuit Impressive start-up story, but more impressive is their use and integration of TSP and Agile (Scrum).

He also told the old story about Chevrolet and Toyota in which Toyota ran a Chevrolet factory in this area using their production system keeping Chevrolet’s UAW employees. Resulting in turning the worst plant in the company into the best Chevy plant in the entire company. Anyway, he probably spent too much time on that story. Unfortunately, too many people in these circles aren’t professionals in process improvement to know that story — which is now part of the process improvement lore.

Though he summarized TPS in an interesting way, saying that it’s a process for rapid experimentation. I can see how he’d come to that conclusion considering the emphasis with TPS on Kaizen. He also spoke about the lack of process improvement in businesses who would desperately need it, like hospitals today in the USA. (I should note that UPMC is an exception in leading the way. Get with it everyone else!)

EMC-400 Jim Bampos, VP of Quality at EMC spoke as the next keynote. Turns out he was a toy tester for Milton Bradley when he was in kindergarten. Spoke about leveraging processes and process improvement to facilitate their Total Customer Experience (“TCE”) program. The way I’d say the same thing — to my clients, not to correct Jim — is that it’s necessary to connect process effort to business values and goals. Nice. Jim was up-front that they have no interest in CMMI appraisals, and he didn’t know the CMMI appraisal lingo, which made the sincerity of their effort that much more obvious. He mentioned that after several months of process improvement effort and measurement, that despite having great data, it still didn’t connect to their “TCE”. Very poignant!

Very refreshing keynote in that he was brutally honest about quality and findings of their investigation into what drives customer experience and loyalty. They take process so seriously that they tie improvement to metrics, goals and bonuses…. FROM THE CEO on down! NOT process compliance or some crap like that, but their actual demonstrable process performance measures tied to money as a function of whether it supports their corporate goals — which are laser-focused on customer experience. EMC is looking to implement all three CMMI constellations. For good measure, he spoke about the fact that they’re using agile practices all over the place.

Who’s “pushing” them to do all this? NO ONE OTHER than themselves. Almost makes me want to work there. Almost.

In all, really great keynotes. Each SEPG conference should be so lucky.

Next up: CMMI or Agile: Why Not Embrace Both! Being led by Mike Konrad. Jeff Dalton, David and I joined Mike on stage. We stood because there weren’t enough seats for the audience and the union wouldn’t allow us to bring any more seats into the room due to capacity concerns. (In fact, a guy stood outside the room to prevent people from coming in. One such person blocked out was Alistair Cockburn, whom I went out to drag in despite the protests of the bouncer dude.) Mike reprised a presentation he’d done elsewhere summarizing the main points of our paper and adding some new material making a case for process discipline in a couple of engineering-related process areas of interest. The slide, here, is an idea David and I intend to “borrow” from, depicting, manifesto style, concepts we value from CMMI compared to other concepts possible from CMMI we value less.

Last for me for the day was an interesting perspective on CMMI and Innovation. Presenters’ positions are that CMM started as something that would help organizations take revolutionary steps in innovative improvements as well as evolutionary steps and that while the model innovation-400still can support this, use of the model has been far from it. In addition, they discussed innovation as a process and then how CMMI could be enhanced, supplemented, or even “constellationed” into being more proactively in support of innovation. The speakers were very passionate about innovation. Props for that. Need more of it. They also posited that “maturity levels” for organizations using such a model would be superfluous and that what would matter most to anyone pursuing innovation would be business results. While I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of innovation as a pursuit to which processes can be applied, I was left wondering why *must* it be a CMMI? Maybe I’ll be able to tag-up with one of the presenters to ask before week’s out.

Field notes from SEPG-NA 2009 – Monday

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

San Jose, CA.  I’m at (no surprise) SEI’s annual big deal conference, SEPG-NA.  As might be expected, attendance is way down due to the economy.  SEI had to scale back a lot of the more splashy touches — no-frills tote bag, nixed VIP socials mixers bare bones staff.

kanban_ladas I arrived in time to teach a CMMI-SVC Supplement course for the SEI on Sunday — scheduled to coincide with SEPG for the convenience of travel — that evening I shared conversation and a bottle of really nice California Merlot with Alistair Cockburn, Tami Zemel and Steve Masters.  Earlier in the day Alistair listened in on my class from the corridor and over cheese and fruit bluntly reported that the content made his ears bleed.  Unfortunately, he’s right.  Despite the mostly very positive feedback, there’s only so much charisma can do for certain SEI materials.

Alistair challenged me to explain CMMI to him in 5 minutes or less or he’d fall asleep.  I believe I succeeded.  He Tweeted as much at least.  As it turns out, not to either of our surprise, whether using agile terms or traditional terms, if you’re working to improve the experience and situation of "development", you have the same goals and face the same challenges.  With that settled we called it a night and met this morning over breakfast to joke about travel anecdotes and strategize our individual plans for the day.

image With other obligations on my plate for this week, this morning I only sat in on half of a half-day tutorial this morning on the excellent topic of The Role of Organizational Culture in Process Improvement.  Rather than a bunch of finger-wagging (which, from other presenters, such a topic title might devolve into), anthropologists, Palma Buttles and Fred Valdez, and process improvement uber-guru Judah Mogilensky gave a very well-informed, thoroughly enjoyable, interactive and insightful tutorial on several very specific attributes of culture that affect how to introduce, address and implement process improvement, and the challenges faced by consultants, appraisers and users alike due to culture.  Concepts on the perception of time, surface or hidden emotion/expression, stated vs. rewarded values, and so on.  During this session, David Anderson arrived.  We commiserated over the registration statistics and what it may imply for other large-scale conferences like Agile2009.

To round-out the day’s sessions I attended Corey Ladas’ mini-tutorial, Launching a Kanban System for Software Engineering.  He put up a slide depicting a "waterfall" life cycle which included a "stabilization" phase-gate to which he said, "I don’t think I’m saying anything anyone doesn’t already know will fail."  Someone in the audience stopped him to ask (with incredulous tone in her voice), "Are you trying to say that this approach doesn’t work?"  <<Snicker.>>

After the tutorial, I headed off to the exhibit area for the "grand opening" of the exhibit hall.  As part of the fanfare, a troupe was hired to march around the exhibit hall in oriental dragon costumes accompanied by drums and cymbals.  It was festive and lively.  Though it would have been more appropriate had they been asked to start things off, lead everyone into the hall, do a circuit around the hall, then be done.  Instead, they continued to perform for a lot longer than needed.  In addition to causing traffic problems (which wasn’t really a huge issue), they made it hard to speak while nearby.  That was an oversight.  After a break, they returned to continue, only playing softer.  Still, their initial display was too long and they didn’t have to come back.  It wasn’t that it was bad, it was merely unnecessary.  As for the exhibit hall… so sad… so many fewer, and each booth featured fewer people.  The student posters, were a refreshing new feature this year.  I was impressed with their efforts, both in terms of research and commitment.  First person I ran into was from, of all places, UMBC.  Yup, home turf.

Afterwards, David Anderson and his gf joined several of us for a wind-down at the Marriott’s concierge lounge.  Well, as I should expect, my increased visibility within SEI and within the CMMI-oriented market has also resulted in never having to sit alone if I didn’t want to.  Even then, I didn’t always succeed in getting long stretches of time on my own.

Agile+CMMI Panel @ SEPG

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Just thought I’d put in a quick plug for an impromptu addition to the SEPG North America line-up next week.

On Wednesday evening from about 5-7pm (or 1700h-1900h for our 24 hour friends) in a room to be determined, SEI is sponsoring a panel discussion on Agile+CMMI.

On the panel are expected to be the authors of the soon-to-be-published SEI Technical Report, CMMI or Agile: Why Not Embrace Both?!:

  • Mike Kondrad
  • Jeff Dalton
  • David Anderson, and
  • yours truly.

If you’re planning to be at SEPG, keep an eye out for this session.  It may be posted/listed as a "Birds of a Feather" event.

Also, I’d like to put in a plug for a poster and a session being presented by my buddy Jeff.  His session, Notes from the Blgosphere, covers some more of the fun and interesting Q&A that he gets on his Blog.  The session is Wednesday 4:20PM in Room 22 & 23.  If you’re looking to fill that time-slot, consider his session.

Safe travels!