ALM for Agile Comes to Madison, WI

The Agile experts at Centare, in partnership with Microsoft, are bringing a day of Agile Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) to you in Madison, WI. The tour that started in the Fall last year, with Chicago, IL, Milwaukee, WI and Indianapolis, IN is now coming to Madison, WI on January 25th.

If you would like to learn how to drive your business forward with Agile Application Lifecycle Management, check out this FREE day of learning. Centare’s experts will dive into the basics of Scrum, emergent architecture, Agile testing and the Microsoft ALM tools including Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Team Foundation Server and Test Manager.

Register for the January 25th event in Madison, WI.

Cloud Plumbing Podcast – Startups & Entrepreneurship

On this week’s episode of the Cloud Plumbing Podcast, an internet technical talk show hosted by Ryan Parsley, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Ryan for a bit and talking about Startups, Entrepreneurship and Career Passion.

During my career I have launched a number of startups and was entrepreneurial from a very young age. In this show we talk a little about my career as an entrepreneur, my stint in corporate IT leadership and the contrast between the two. We chat about my current startups and what it’s like launching a new business out of an existing established business. We also discuss my thoughts on agile, team colocation and remote workers.

One of the last things we discuss is the importance of career passion and community. And at the end of the episode, I announce a new community initiative for developers wanting to get practical, deep, hands-on experience with Windows Azure.

Check out the podcast at

Thanks to Ryan for having me on the Cloud Plumbing Podcast. Thanks to Jason Milgrim, Founder of Linxter, for introducing me to Ryan and for Linxter’s sponsorship of the show. And lastly, thanks to Stephanie Helf, Linxter’s Marketing Manager for organizing everything.

The Agility Revolution: It’s Here

Throughout the history of man-kind, we have innovated and strived to achieve maximum efficiency. In the 18th and 19th century we experienced the Industrial Revolution which streamlined agriculture and manufacturing through the use of technology and machinery. In the late 1990’s, the Information Age revolutionized¬†the accessibility of information with new communication channels and technologies like the internet and world-wide web. Most consider the Information Age as a period of process improvement and technology, but when you look closely, that’s not really what happened. This period was extremely inefficient and rarely delivered real value which is what paved the way to the dotcom bubble and the burst that soon followed. Cash was thrown around like it grew on trees, if you could fog a computer monitor you were a Senior Programmer, and technologies were developed without considering whether customers even existed. I do consider the Information Age to have been extremely valuable for the world; however, it was not about maximizing value.

The “this is too good to be true” bubble burst in the early 2000’s and challenging economic periods followed. These times have motivated organizations to seek ways to increase efficiency while delivering more faster than the dotcom gold rush. Everyday I observe our technology industry take steps to improve and at the recent Microsoft Partner ALM Summit this was very apparent in multiple areas. Microsoft has been and is committed to improving software development through Scrum, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and development tools. Agility in the development process increases deliverable value, reduces development cost and accelerates the time-to-market. At the other end of the technology and software development space, Microsoft’s Cloud strategy is boosting efficiency by eliminating huge upfront investments in infrastructure, reducing management costs and shortening provisioning time to accelerate time-to-market while enabling massive scale to appropriately accommodate demand. Gluing these improvements together, Microsoft, Apple and other industry leaders continue to innovate the mobile connected workforce, through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Our industry appears to be in an Agility Revolution and all of these efforts are increasing agility in a lot of ways which ultimately leads to increased value for everyone. If you are in the middle of this revolution and are increasing agility in your organizations practices, exploring the cloud and looking for opportunities to enable your workforce to stay connected wherever they are, pat yourself on the back and keep innovating. If you are not because you’re not sure where to begin, this is what I recommend.

Agile Practices

Agile ManifestoPrinciples of the Agile Manifesto
The first place I would recommend is the Agile Manifesto. In February, 2001, a group of seventeen thought leaders in our industry gathered on a ski trip and out of that the Agile Manifesto was born.

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

These four statements are simple and seem like common sense. But, when you drop your guard and truly consider them, are you headed in the opposite direction? You should consider these principles as you walk through your agile journey and your steps should align. – Scrum Guide
The next place to check out would be is an organization founded by Ken Schwaber who is one of the creators of Scrum. Their purpose is to help organizations with knowledge, training and implementation of Scrum in order to improve the software development profession. Now you might be asking yourself, what is Scrum? I have good news, provides a FREE 21-page Scrum Guide and it is a great, concise overview of the Scrum Framework and whether Scrum is a new term or you have experience with Scrum, it is a good read.

Agile Project Management with Scrum
If you are the type that likes a good book to gain knowledge, Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber is for you. This book will provide you with rules and practices for implementing Scrum through a series of case studies and real-world lessons with successes and failures for you to learn from.

Partner with Success

Once you decide to set sail on your journey and begin organizational transformation, partner with a successful agile consultancy. I strongly believe that this is critical to be successful with agile adoption. I intentionally chose the word partner and in order to be effective, you need a solid partnership.  You need a team who is there to guide you and help you through the complex issues that come with this significant culture change. Your partner should be able to demonstrate previous successes, provide training, consulting, long-term coaching and a team to jump start your development project. Agile adoption is not an overnight makeover and you need to be prepared to run the race and not expect a short dash.

These are my suggestions for getting started with agile and I will continue my thoughts about the Agile Revolution and Cloud Computing in follow-on post.

Bringing our ALM Summit experience to You

As I leave Milwaukee and head towards Redmond on a full flight with five of my Centare colleagues , I cannot help but think about the week ahead at the Microsoft Partner ALM Summit. The question that keeps entering my mind is, how will this week of insight, guidance and relationships add value to our team, company and customers? All of these groups are important to consider and should benefit from this trip, but how? Pondering these questions, I’ve decided to offer some ideas for how these groups will benefit. While these ideas will be specifically considering the ALM Summit, they should apply to any educational event or conference.

Knowledge Transfer
At any educational event knowledge is gained, some more than others, but non-the-less education occurs. Two things can happen with this new knowledge. It can be horded and guarded like trade secrets, or it can be shared with others. I strongly believe in community, and members of the tech community should frequently collaborate and share work experiences to strengthen the group. At Centare, we make a conscience effort to gather our team regularly for educational and social events. We will strengthen our internal community by sharing the knowledge and best practices learned with our team through these gatherings.

Boost Effectiveness
Not only will we pass along new insights, but the team will collaborate and bounce ideas which will naturally improve retention and practicality. Our team is a great group of leaders who are passionate about delivering business value through software development. Our team also constantly seeks ways to sharpen the saw and be better at what we do. New information will be considered by our team and will eventually lead to experimenting, dissecting and developing personal conclusions. Ultimately, the new information is a catalyst for thought, leading to action and resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness.

Spread the Word
Thus far, I’ve been completely focused on how this benefits our internal team and company but have not talked about our customers. This would all be a waste if our customers didn’t gain value. Our customers will certainly benefit from our team being more knowledgeable about software development practices and specific technologies. Our customers will also benefit from our team’s increased effectiveness. But how do we make it practical for our customers as quickly as possible? I believe our customers would benefit from sessions similar to our internal sessions. The word should be spread and we should equip our customers with insight and practices to be most effective. We regularly hold Lunch & Learn events for our customers and the community to where our leaders present emerging technologies and best practices. This would be a potential forum for passing along this information. However, we could also engage organizations through targeted, intimate sessions. These Customer Briefings would provide insight and guidance and create an environment that encourages good dialog.

Get Involved
You might be asking, how do I get involved? If you are a part of an organization in Milwaukee, Chicago or Madison area and would like to hear about the practices and knowledge that we pick up this week at the Microsoft Partner ALM Summit and in the future, please contact me and let us know to include you on our Lunch & Learn invites. If you are interested in a private Customer Briefing, shoot me an email with your contact info, a little information about your organization and what would be most valuable for your Customer Briefing. Unfortunately, because of the fixed size of our team, Customer Briefing availability will be limited and available on a first-come first-serve basis, so get in quickly.