Call for Session Proposals – XP Days Benelux

Mechelen, December 1st – 2nd 2011

XP Day Benelux is an international conference about Agile methods, intended for people from all walks of life who are involved with IT. It provides a good opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing experiences and is suited for both experienced participants and beginners in Agile methods. The focus of this conference is on practical knowledge, real-world experience, and active participation of everyone.

XP Days Benelux 2011 will have something for everyone. Sessions for people who are new to Agile, sessions for experienced people, a good mix of technical, experience, management and process sessions. We’ll have sessions on Agile in real life, stories of success and horror, hands on workshops, and sessions that will completely surprise you!

You can be a contributor too

We’re looking for enthusiastic people who want to lead these sessions. People who work in any role, business or form. People who are willing to share, and are prepared to learn. Reflective practitioners who are not only interested in quality work but also want to know why things work as they do.

Are you new to presenting? Do you have a nice idea, but you don’t know how to shape it into a session? Don’t worry, we will offer lots of ways to help you:

  • We have coaches who can help you create your session.
  • Through our session proposal system you will get feedback that will help you shape your session
  • We provide opportunities before the conference to try out your session.
  • We have a set of personas to give you some idea of the type of participants you’ll meet at XP Days.

Have you presented sessions before? The extensive feedback will give you an opportunity to improve your session further. And you can use your experience to help other presenters to improve their session.

How to propose a session for XP Days

Becoming an XP Days presenter is simple (but not easy):

  1. Submit a session idea (until July 9th, 2011)
  2. You’ll receive a login to our session improvement tool
  3. You complete your proposal and improve it with the feedback you receive (until August 27th, 2011)
  4. You give feedback on other proposals to help their presenters to create the best proposal they can
  5. Early September, the program committee selects the sessions for the program based on the following criteria:
    • Quality of the session
    • A balance of session subjects and formats
    • Participation of the presenter in the improvement process
    • Votes from everybody who proposed a session

Important dates

  • Now to July 9th, 2011: submit session proposals
  • Now to August 27th, 2011: improve session proposals
  • September 12th, program committee meeting
  • September 19th, program decided

Propose a session now to get as much time as possible to get feedback and improve your session.

See you at the conference!


Slides for “Agreeing on Business Value” online

Agreeing on Business Value slides

Here are the slides for the “Agreeing on Business Value” session we ran at Mini XP Days Benelux 2011 and will run again at the SPA conference in June.

The exercise uses a case study that’s not published, so you can’t peek and prepare for the session 🙂


Bottlenecks around the world

Playing The Bottleneck Game

The “Bottleneck Game” is a simple game that illustrates many Agile, Lean and Theory of Constraints topics. It’s available for free with a Creative Commons license so that everybody can play it. And people do play it all over the world. For example:

Great productivity improvements for both teams! But we all know software development isn’t manufacturing, right?

Try the game. Try some of the ideas. Just like in the game, your team can create more value with less effort and a lot less stress.


Agreed on Business Value at Mini XP Day 2011

“Agreeing on Business Value”

Portia Tung and I ran the “Agreeing on Business Value” session at the Mini XP Days Benelux 2011 conference. In the workshop participants have to create a “Business Value Model” for a case we provided. The Business Value Model shows the most important goals and measures of the company and the relationships between goals. We often run this workshop to let a team come up with a common definition of “Business Value”. As a result of the workshop, everybody’s has a clear and common understanding of the value the project or product is going to deliver.

We asked the teams to add what they learned at the workshop on the posters. Here’s a gallery of the outputs of different groups. Click on the images to get a larger picture.

Team 1

In the model different types of goals have different colors: financial goals are blue, organisation goals are green and people goals are yellow. At the top are the “lagging measures” (those that can only be measure late). At the bottom are the “leading measures” (that can be measured early) that will be used to predict the achievement of the desired lagging goals. Arrows indicate that one goal has an effect on another. You’ll see that most things are interrelated. The good news is that achieving one goal can help achieve other goals in reinforcing loops. The bad news is that you may have to achieve many subgoals to achieve your desired goals.

This team identified the following learnings:

  • Makes a complex project more clear
  • Business alignment. Today business cases are made individually
  • Helps to give an overview of goals for all stakeholders
  • Make decisions at goal level, not at feature level
  • (You can use this for) portfolio management!
  • Thinking about measures

Team 2

Here we se a simpler model, but still representing the financial, organisational and people goals with their relationships. Everything leads to “Make Profit” 🙂

What they learned:

  • When we talk about business value, we need to think about how to measure leading and lagging indicators
  • Adding the relationships generated new insights
  • Plan-Do-Check-Act
  • Eliminate “business value” that doesn’t really add value

Team 3

Another very clear model with positive (+) and negative (-) effects between different goals. In the end, it all results in “Cost Cutting” 🙂

What they learned:

  • It starts with a vision
  • You involve everybody
  • To build a model, iterate over the following steps until satisfied:
    • Identify goals
    • Define Lagging and Leading measurements
    • Identify relationships (“Diagram of Effects”)

Team 4

This model has exactly one leading and one lagging indicator per area. Together, the goals result in profit.

This team created a diagram of what they learned:

  • Value is not just money
  • Value must be measurable
  • We have leading (“early”) and lagging (“late”) measures
  • We need to identify the relationships between the measures

Team 5

This team considered more lagging (yellow) and leading (pink) goals. Many of the goals have more than one possible measurement. If you have multiple ways to measure a goal you can choose the cheapest measure to collect or find some data that’s already being collected.

The important points for this team:

  • Identify
  • Categorise
  • Quantify
  • Relationships

What the presenters learned

  • Everybody got the same case, but there are differences in the models. There is no “right model”, the team has to find one that’s useful. Over the lifetime of a product or project the business value model will probably change, as different goals change in importance
  • The case is not too simple, and there’s lots of information, just like a real project. Despite that complexity teams of six “strangers” came to a clear agreement on the goals of a project within 90 minutes. How long does it take in your project to come to agreement on goals and priorities. If your projects are like mine, probably the whole duration of the project 🙂
  • Making our definition of business value clear, finding ways to measure and thinking about effects and relationships helps to come up with new insights
  • Participants don’t ask many questions. We were available the whole time to answer questions about the technique or the case, but despite having real live “customers” in the room, participants concentrated on the written materials
  • We started by describing and drawing the company vision on the whiteboard. Most teams quickly lost sight of the vision. Once they “rediscovered” the vision, they found that it answered some questions about value and priority. It would be good to remind people of the vision before every turn. Maybe we could do this in our work too? Why not start each project meeting with a reminder of the vision?

If you want to know more, head on over to the agilecoach.net site where you’ll find more about Business Value Modeling and some other useful tools.

If you applied any of these techniques, let us know how it went.


Business Value at SPA 2011

Portia Tung and I will present “Agreeing on Business Value” at the SPA 2011 conference in London, June 12th to 15th.

In this interactive tutorial you’ll be able to apply “Business Value Modelling” on a case study, to decide on the goals and definition of value for an improvement project.

Come and play with us!