A requiem for an #Agile Practitioner Conference

As someone who has participated on Agile projects for the last seven years, I find myself searching for an Agile conference that provide more of a practitioner viewpoint. What I am really looking for is a conference that has ‘tales from the trenches’ from other practitioners. I hope to hear from other people who also have struggled with large Enterprise Agile projects. I long to hear about what practices they tried and how they succeeded and failed. In return, I would share my war stories on what worked and what didn’t work on my Agile projects.

Unfortunately I seem to find more discussions on the general theory rather than the application of theory. Rather than hearing about how you don’t need to estimate at an abstract level, I would love to hear how someone convinced Senior Management how they didn’t need to estimate and how the project turned out not estimating. I’d love to hear how Pair Programming worked in an environment that was hesitant to adopt the process. Was it beneficial? What problems did they encounter that I could avoid by learning from their experience?

Coach versus Team Member

One of the things I always look for are people who were team members throughout the project rather than coaches. Depending on how you define a coach, I believe they sometime involve a lesser commitment than a team member. Typically, I will see coaches that periodically are present and sometime they even aren’t there through the project until the end. Although these coaches can have valuable insight, I am really interested in the people who are there throughout the entire project. They are the ones that had to solve the problems and ultimately live with maintaining the application after it went live. Those are the stories I would like to hear. Rather, those are the stories I need to hear so I can learn…


So in search of an Agile practitioner conference with an emphasis on team members rather than coaches, I reviewed the speakers at Agile 2013. I reviewed how the speakers described themselves in their bios. (So there may be some inaccuracies depending on how they described themselves) I also excluded speakers who did not provide a bio.

I separated the speakers into 4 categories:

  1. Coach
  2. Company Executive (Of either a client or consulting company)
  3. Practitioner with recent project competency
  4. Other (Unable to determine)

The Results

What I found surprised me.


So of all the speakers only 14% had recent relevant practitioner experience. Actually it was only 13.46%, but I rounded up because I’m that kinda guy.. 🙂 38% were executives and 17% were coaches. I had a challenge with determining what the primary role was for the remaining 31%, so I left them as ‘other’.

Regardless, it confirmed my initial feeling that we need more practitioners to present to take Agile to the next step. I believe we need to have vibrant practitioner to practitioner discussion to trade stories and share practices. Although educating people on concepts and building awareness is also critical, we need a forum to allow Agile professionals to take the next step. We definitely need to continue the building the awareness of Agile, but it addition I wonder if we can increase the discussions between Agile Practitioners.

That I think, would be beneficial for all involved.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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