13th July 2017

Highlights from Agile on the Beach 2017

Ashley Warner
Development Manager

Last week Deeson paid for me to attend Agile on the Beach, a 2 day conference in Cornwall covering the themes of software delivery, business, products and teams. Before the event I didn’t really know what to expect – I’ve been doing agile for nearly 6 years now and would like to think I’m doing things the right way, but you never know! I went into it with an open mind, hoping for some reinforcement that I was on the right track but also keen to pick up some new skills.

Delivery is a culture not a process flyer

I arrived at the conference on the Wednesday afternoon to register and collect my tote bag (among the contents of which was a snazzy Deeson flyer and sticker, as we sponsored the event this year). The accommodation was in student apartments, and my room contained two beds which turned into desks, which was handy in case I needed to do any work while I was there.

On the Wednesday evening there was a pasty and quiz gathering at the performance centre. It was a great opportunity to meet people from other companies, and a few of us formed a quiz team, calling our self the INVESTables – a combination of the INVEST mnemonic and the The Incredibles film. We did quite well in the quiz, but sadly didn’t win. We did have a great night though, talking about how the companies we work for do agile.

Agile on the Beach group photo

The conference kicked off in full on Thursday. Notable sessions from the day were Story Mapping with Jason Bootle, an interactive workshop that guided us through the process of mapping out the story of booking a holiday. It was interesting to see how other people approached the task, and reaffirmed for me that our approach to story mapping at Deeson is strong.

Dave Longman gave an interesting talk on predicting the future without planning, in which he demonstrated a mathematical approach to accurate estimating using the concept of ‘Epics’, ‘Features’ and ‘Stories’, and showed how you can use these to find an average at each level and use these average to give an indication of size, thus being able to answer the question of how much work is left.

On Thursday evening I attended the beach party at Gyllyngvase Beach. I reconnected with the people I’d met on the Wednesday evening and we caught the provided bus to the beach. The organisers had sectioned off a section of the beach, and there was a BBQ, bar and an ice cream cart. Everyone gathered for a group photo and then say around a fire pit, talking about work and how agile our companies were (or weren’t).

Beach at Cornwall

Friday was the last day of the conference and notable sessions included Get Kata presented by Kevlin Henney, who gave a really interesting talk on refactoring a problem. He talked through many solutions in different languages, and I found it really engaging. It made me think about how we should make sure that we are factoring in refactoring into our estimates with stores that touch on existing code.

In the afternoon I attended the Retrospective Sailing given by Belinda Waldock. This was an interactive workshop where we performed a retrospective of the conference itself in groups. Once we had our sails and anchors, we had to give them a mark from 1-10 for sails and -1 to -10 for anchors, which we then had to come up with actions for increasing the mark we gave the card by 1 point. I had done the sail boat retrospective before but I hadn’t done the marking and looking at actions in that way, so this is something I will use when I give my next retrospective. The closing keynote by James Lewis was great – funny and very engaging.

Friday evening was the retrospective boat trip from Prince of Wales Pier. A bus was provided from the campus to take people to the boat. The weather was lovely, even into the evening. The boat took us by the beach and food was provided, including some caramel chocolate brownies, which may have been my personal highlight! I spent the two hours talking to people about how they’d found the conference and what they would take away from it, and sharing how we use Jira with the dual board setup at Deeson.

Boat on the sea

All in all, I found it a great conference. I picked up lots of useful new information but also came away feeling encouraged that we are on the right track with how we do agile at Deeson.

We’re looking for an experienced Delivery Manager to join our team. This role can be based in our London or Canterbury offices, or can work remotely from anywhere in the UK.