Agile in Buenos Aires

Last week I attended Agile 2008 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a fun, high energy conference. The highlight was a heated panel discussion at the closing of the conference.

On the Panel was Matt Gelbwaks, myself, Tom and Marry Poppdieck, Dave Nicolette, and Tobias Mayer. Tobias has posted a blog about the event. So that my opinion is not misconstrued, I'll share it with you here.

The future of Agile is Software Craftsmanship.

Software is a young industry and we're still discovering more about it every day. Yet, it has it's origins in electrical engineering. So it's seems that, at it's inception, people assumed software was a form of engineering.

And to build software systems should be no different from engineering any other creation. Take a bridge for example. Before building a bridge, you have to analyze the bridge requirements.

How long will it be? How much weight must it hold? etc… Once the requirements are understood, you design a solution. Build to-scale models that you can push and stress to make sure the design hold up. Then, once you have a solid design, can you begin construction of the bridge.

It's waterfall. Waterfall worked for engineering so waterfall was applied to software. We know now that waterfall doesn't work. Agile, is a realization that software is not a form of engineering. Agile is a realization that software is a craft.

I have been to every North American Agile conference since the very first, and I have noticed a trend. In the first conference in Charlotte NC, laptops were open on every table, around every corner, with someone or a pair of people writing code.

In many of the sessions, people were writing code or talking about it. This is the conference where people were bragging about their Ward number (0 if you paired with Ward Cunningham. n + 1 if you pared with someone with a Ward number of n.) and desperately trying to improve it.

It was truly a conference about software. Over the years, less and less coding could be found at the conferences. This last year, at the conference in Toronto, it was abysmal. Although there was some good content, I felt like the conference had been taken over by Scrum Masters.

It was no longer a conference about software development. It had become a conference about project management, people management, and Scrum. This makes me sad.

In middle ages, if you were a lord and you wanted to build a cathedral, you found a master craftsman. The master craftsman recruited other craftsmen and together they constructed amazing buildings that still stand today.

Photo of Notre Dame
Notre Dame ( source )

These craftsman were passionate about their work and cared about creating great buildings. That is what made it work. They didn't have scrum masters telling them what to do or cheering them on. The great work they did is a tribute to their craftsmanship.

The future of Agile is Software Craftsmanship. Developers out there need to realize that software is a craft. As such, developers should strive to become craftsmen; strive to learn more about software; strive to write better code; strive to build the best software possible.

The software you get from a team of true craftsmen will be unrivaled. It is the goal and quality within that drives a team of craftsmen. They'll find a way to overcome any obstacles and adapt to any changes.

Micah Martin, Chairman, Founder

Micah Martin is a former 8th Light employee.

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