Impressions from YOW15

YOWFirst of all, this was my first YOW conference and I have to say that I was impressed. I have not been to a conference with such a high density of great talks. I think the reason this is the case is that this conference covers a wide variety of topics while other more narrow conference like an Agile or DevOps conference have it much harder to avoid a level of repetition.

Rather than talking about a theme let me dive into the talks I attended and my takeaways from each:

Don Reinertsen on Options Theory and Agile
I will be honest I bought a ticket to YOW15 because I wanted to see Don Reinertsen talk – you might have seen my previous blog post about how impactful his ideas are for me. And this talk did not disappoint – I have at least material for four blog posts from it; things I need to rewatch, explore further and build on in my head. But here are a few glimpses of what you can learn from this talk:
How options theory explains the benefit of Agile, Why speed is so important now and becomes ever more important, how the military org-culture is misunderstood Military and how it’s not the command and control we keep hearing about.

Keynote by Adrian Cockcroft
Every talk I hear from Adrian reminds of all the important things we still have to do to build corporate cultures that truly support employees to deal with complexity. And I loved the anecdote about kids believing that the TV is broken because you cannot swipe them like an iPhone. His point that Netflix is not that much better because it has better developer but rather that those same developers used to work in other organisation where they couldn’t thrive should make us all pause and reflect on whether we really do the right things to support our employees.

Randy Shoup on Microservices
I have sat in many microservices talks, but Randy’s has been the most practical. When his slides are available I will use them as reference. Absolutely great. Clear guidance on when and where to use microservices in a very practical environment. For many of us we will likely not re-architect our applications, but find areas where they can benefit us. Look out for his slides and the recording.

Craig Smith on Agile methods
Fantastic overview of all kinds of Agile methods. I think everyone in Agile should watch this once a year to remind himself of the methods out there and how what we now consider to be in the canon of Agile has come from many different forefathers.

James Lewis on Microservices
If Randy’s talk was about the when and where, James spoke about the how. He reiterated how important it is for microservices to have mature development practices in Continuous Delivery otherwise you will fail. He made a case to remove some of the layers of testing by architecting the service right and do the final validation in production. Very interesting thought. And as far as architectural guidance go the Discworld anecdote about the family axe is a great way to explain to architects how microservices need to be constructed to replace all elements eventually and repeatedly.
The Diskworld anecdote: “This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y’know. Pretty good.”

Jon Williams on Virtual teams
Working in complete virtual teams is not something we usually do. Jon defined what it means and how you can make it work. While I don’t think I will be in a real virtual team soon, I will surely look up the virtual team building tools he mentioned after I get a chance to watch the replay and write down the names.

Kathleen Fisher on Security
A perspective of security and how insecure our systems are. You keep hearing about vulnerabilities here and there but she brought it to life. I used to work with model checkers back in university and have not used it since. I am glad to hear they are making a real impact these days and might be one piece of the answer to an ever more complex world as the internet of things grows into our lifes.

Dan North on Organisational structure
Perhaps not the most practical talk yet – Dan mentioned he still working on it and some of the ideas require adaption advice. His skills register is however immediately useful to use someone’s self assessment and aspiration to guide the allocation to project teams. Very interesting. Challenging the common principle of persistent teams was another aspect that I need to think about a bit more to see whether I agree or not. I guess I will watch this one on replay as well. And he put one more piece in my puzzle – the adjustment of the return on investment adjusted by risk. Here is a way to try to quantify benefits of Agile and DevOps.

Dave Thomas on Agile is dead
Dave used a controversial title “Agile is dead” to reflect on the state of the industry and how we use the noun “Agile” often to sell something, while we should really use the adjective “agile” to learn how to incrementally do things better. As a consultant myself I am always torn between the ideal principle that Dave describes and which I really like and the reality I see where clients require some more concrete help. Nevertheless listening to him was a great reflection point to challenge myself on some of my beliefs.

Matt Callanan on the Wotif DevOps transformation
This was a great showcase of a DevOps transformation. Of course the practices are known and the complexities of any DevOps journey are contextual but his presentation sparked some ideas in my head that I will explore more going forward. His simple model of getting agreement across the organisation on standards and principles and then making it easy to follow them was something I really like. The automation of standards was another aspect that I hadn’t thought about before and I also liked the use of semantic versioning for the standards.

What a great conference, I will surely be back next year. Thanks goes out to the team behind the conference! Absolutely brilliant work!

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