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What to expect from Agile2015

From large-scale Agile news to how science impacts Agile, presenters discuss the topics that will be included in Agile2015.

Hot topics to keep an eye on at this week's Agile2015 conference include hands-on, large-scale transformation advice, the role science can play in making Agile efforts more effective, real-world mob programming experiences and the best way to deal with hostile middle management.

More than 2,000 people from 40-plus countries are descending on Washington, D.C., to attend Agile Alliance's popular annual conference. The conference brings in Agile-related consultants, authors, trainers, coaches, vendors, teams and practitioners, as well as those just getting started.

We asked panelists and experts to give us a preview of what to expect at Agile2015, and for advice on how to get the most out of this sprawling conference, which is known for being a bit unorthodox.

If you're attending, you'll want to look at the schedule or download it as an iPhone app  or Android app. You can also follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #agile2015.

Twitter coach discusses Agile scaling

Speaking of Twitter, Monica Yap, the new Agile coach at the social media service, has returned to speak at Agile2015 after a several-year hiatus. Her session, "Scaling Agile: Patterns and Anti-Patterns," is near to her heart because she focuses on large-scale Agile transformations, which provide some of the toughest challenges. Her session is a workshop during which she expects attendees to learn a lot from each other. "Anyone who is in the midst of an expensive, large-scale transformation or is about to do one should attend," she said.

Yap's basic premise is that while every large company has a DNA that makes it unique, there are common patterns among every organization -- and those are the patterns upon which to build Agile. "You can do Agile at scale, if you try and work within the patterns," she said. "Solutions can be repeated to solve the same problems [from company to company]." Large-scale Agile doesn't have to fail the first time, as long as the organization can clearly see the patterns and the anti-patterns. "You don't have to learn to drive by crashing the car," she said. "And that's how we've been doing Agile at a large scale -- we've been crashing the car. I want to show people how to create patterns that will benefit everyone."

 Agile from the brain's point of view

Linda Rising, Ph.D., Agile speaker, author and consultant, spends a lot of time doing things that other Agile people don't: She talks to neuroscientists about how the brain works, how patterns are laid down and how learning occurs. Because so much of Agile is based on decision making, Rising believes it's important to have a good understanding of why and how people make decisions.

And that's where scientific experiments come in. "You want to do experiments in Agile, but we're often biased and not careful. And we may not have a hypothesis or do the right analysis," she said. So her plan for her Thursday session is to teach people how to conduct easy experiments that will have valid results and can "help keep Agile real."

A flash mob -- of programmers

Nathan Wilson, research director for Agile at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., said he expected large-scale Agile transformations and the continued merger of Agile and DevOps to be hot topics at the conference this year. That said, he pointed out they've been popular topics over the last few years and that the conference itself -- given its long history and popularity -- should just lose the name "Agile" and call itself what it really is: a software development conference. He noted that Gartner predicts by 2018, the majority of software development projects will come from Agile environments.

Joking aside, he said a session about mob programming is of interest. Unlike pair programming -- which is two developers and one screen -- mob programming is five or six people in front of one big monitor who all code together. "This can be a way to quickly get high-level feedback," he said, and might be a good solution when a company needs to get code out quickly. Jason Kerney, developer at Hunter Industries in San Marcos, Calif., will share his first-person experience with mob programming at the session on Thursday.

Muddled middle managers

Em Campbell-Pretty, a well-known Agile expert and partner at Agile enterprise consulting firm Context Matters in Australia, plans to be up front with attendees on how to "thaw" middle managers who've frozen themselves into Agile roadblocks.

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