XP Days 2008 program published

It’s finally DONE!

The Program for XP Days Benelux 2008 has just been published. It’s DONE.

At least… iteration one of the program is done. More details will be published in the following days.

Below you can see the sheets and cards I described earlier.

I think this is yet another strong program that will provide participants with lots of useful information, experience and food for thought.

I hope to see you (again) at the conference.


XP Days Benelux 2008 – Program selection

The XP Days Benelux 2008 program: almost done

When we coach teams we repeat ad nauseam: “Almost Done is Not Done”. So, the XP Days Benelux program is not yet done. The program will be published once we finish sending out notifications of acceptance and rejection.

We had a lot more session proposals than in previous years. There’s clearly a lot of interest and a lot of experience with Agile methods in our two small countries. Thanks to our cooperative session improvement process, most proposals are of a high enough standard to be included in the program. That makes the job of the Program Committee hard. Because of there’s so much interest, we decided to increase the number of tracks from 4 to 5.

Conference program recipe

Like in previous years, we have to create a program that satisfies a lot of constraints. The recipe is quite simple.

Ingredients: a bunch of sessions on index cards, two big sheets with the session slots, an initial estimate of value for each session and a small group of agilists.

  1. Use the index card to make a lot of information about the session visible at a glance: subject, type of session, how much experience we expect from participants… The size of the card indicates the length of the session
  2. Sort the index cards by estimated value. Each session submitter could vote for their Top-10 sessions.
  3. Put the top ranked sessions in fitting slots on the program until all slots are taken.
  4. When a constraint is violated, exchange a session card with another session card on or off the program.
  5. Repeat step 4 until satisfied

The process looks a bit chaotic at first, but it converges each time. We end up with a program for a conference we want to go to and where we want to invite our colleagues and customers. That’s one of our acceptance tests.

Just a bit more patience, it’s 90% done

You’ll get to see the XP Days program soon. Watch this space. But first, we have to send more acceptance and, unfortunately, rejection messages. And rejection’s tough to take.

After the program was settled, we discussed other fun stuff to do at the XP Days conference. We’re going to try some new things this year. Participants will decide if we’re successful. Participants can verify if we’ve taken last year’s feedback into account.

See you in Eindhoven on 20 and 21 November!


The Business Value Game: v1.0 released

How do you prioritize your backlog?

Business Value Game Persona card

If you want to create a good iteration and release plan, you should make sure that you work on the high value stories. But how do you know which stories have high value? It’s simple: your Onsite Customer will tell you. You do have an Onsite Customer, don’t you?

But how does the Onsite Customer decide? How does your company prioritize stories, epics and projects?

Playing with Business Value

In the XP Game you get story cards with the Business Value number already filled in. That makes it easy to prioritize: just look at Business Value/Cost.

The Business Value Game looks at the problem from the Onsite Customer’s point of view. Vera and I developed this game as a complement to the XP Game, to explain the difficulties facing the Onsite Customer.

We simulate a situation where a group of salespeople sell projects to customers (like Jonathan on the right) and need to decide what the development team will implement. The goal of the game is to make money by releasing features and by keeping customers happy (by releasing features).

Over 6 iterations, we introduce Customer Requests like the one below. Each request generates some income for the company when all the stories in the request have been implemented and released. Delivering a release makes the Customer happy. The players need to define the Business Value of each Request taking into account many factors: potential income, potential customer happiness, constraints, deadlines… Using the estimated Business Value and the estimated Cost (already on the Story cards), the team must decide which stories go into each iteration. Of course, the developers can implement no more than their velocity.

We introduce more and more difficulties and parameters in each iteration: developer output fluctuates, there are dependencies between projects, some Requests are inconsistent, you can invest in process improvement and many more that we can’t reveal now.

Tried out

Tryouts are an essential part of game development. I hosted a tryout at Agile 2008. Last Wednesday Vera and I hosted a tryout at the Belgian XP Users/Agile Belgium group meeting in the offices of Cap Gemini. We received a lot of feedback from the participants at both tryouts. Thank you.

We have so many tips and ideas that we’re thinking of creating two versions of the game: a basic version with 6 iterations in 90 minutes and an extended version with 9 iterations in 120 minutes. As we add more difficulties in each iteration, the 9 iteration game might become very challenging!

Try this at home!

The Business Value Game is licensed as Creative Commons and available online like the XP Game, the Bottleneck Game, the Real Options Space Game and Mirror Mirror on the Wall.


Creative Commons License The Business Value Game by Vera Peeters and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Belgium License.


Agile Fairytale #2

Agile Fairytales

The little dwarves from the Mirror Mirror session at Agile 2008 were quite a hit with everybody we met. Now you too can play with Snow White, the Hunter, the dwarves and… the Evil Queen!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Kanban

This is a mini-adventure of self-discovery to improve personal effectiveness. Here’s your chance to improve the way you communicate by developing a better understanding of others and of yourself. The mirror will show you your real ability in working with others. Once you and your colleagues know more about yourselves, you can use the game to create teams where everybody plays to their strengths and help one another address each other’s weaknesses.

You can download the materials and session description from the Agile Fairytales Game site.

The Mirror Mirror game is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 License by Portia Tung and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe.

Number two?

The Snow White game is the second in the Agile Fairytales series. The first agile fairytale is “The Yellow Brick Road: Agile Adoption Through Peer Coaching”, based on the adventures of Dorothy in Oz. This game will published on the site soon. We’re working on more fairytales.

More games

You can find more games at the Agile Coach site.

Another game will be published tomorrow. Stay tuned…


Agile 2008 – Final sessions, leaving Toronto

Re-runs and running

The last slot of the conference was filled with re-runs of the most popular sessions. Portia and I were interested in two sessions, but neither presenter turned up at their re-run. While we were waiting for presenters who never showed up, we played the “Mirror, Mirror” game with a few Crispies. A lot of people at the conference were interested in the games Vera, Portia and I designed. Watch out for more games on the Belgian XP users site, the Agile Coach site and the Agile Fairytales site.

Then we realized that “The Agile Playground – Learning Games for the Agile Practitioner” was also re-run. We really wanted to go to this session to learn more about learning game building, but it was scheduled at the same time as Mirror Mirror. We ran to the session, where Don McGreal and Michael McCullough graciously allowed us to join the session midway. We took part in one game and learned some lessons about game development. Don and Michael have a whole set of games at the Tasty Cupcakes site. We exchanged games with the presenters and participants. Like Vera, Portia and I, Don and Michael provide their games free of charge as a way to give something back to the community.

And then Agile 2008 was over.

We talked to a few of the other participants before they left and then went for a walk to the harbourfront to get some sun and fresh air. The evening ended with a fun experiment in simultaneous blogging: Portia and I brainstormed the highlights of our Agile 2008 visit; then we had one minute to write one sentence about each topic in turn. You can see the results here and here.

Goodbye Toronto

Saturday started with a long run along the lakeshore, followed by a walk to Kensington Market, Little Italy and Chinatown with Laurent Bossavit. The beautiful weather was replaced by rain. When we wanted to go on to the harbourfront, a heavy thunderstorm stopped us in our tracks. When the weather let up a bit, we went back to the hotel to leave for the airport. On the way, we joined the stream of people coming out of the Rogers stadium after the Blue Jays‘ defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

And then we’re on our way home.

Agile 2008 is over.