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From the 4th and 5th of September, our team headed down to Falmouth University for this year’s Agile on the Beach conference.

Agile on the Beach group photo
Buzzing with the sound of several hundred Agile enthusiasts (some from as far as Canada and the US), the main lecture hall was full to bursting in anticipation of the 9am Keynote presentation.

After a warm welcome from LEP Chairman Chris Pomfret, JB Rainsberger, a renowned and award-winning software development consultant and writer, delivered an inspiring speech on The Next Decade of Agile Software Development. He started off by explaining that setting hard and fast rules within Agile is not the way forward, and that we should aim to be more liberal with our approach to this method. We should do this by tailoring the tools we use to fit specifically into our own businesses. This was a theme that followed through within many of the other speakers’ presentations.

The conference was divided into four streams (as below) which meant there was always a presentation relevant to everyone, whether they were of technical or non-technical backgrounds.

The Business Stream

Some of the best-loved talks of the two days included:

  • Allan Kelly: Agile Beyond Software?
  • Flavius Stef: Stop Throwing Money out the Window!
  • Belinda Waldock: Agile Innovation – Embedding Agile in Cornwall
  • Kevlin Henney: Worse is Better, for Better or for Worse
  • Tom Sedge: TFDD for Business Strategy – Developing Agile Business Strategies Using Test-first

Many of the presentations within this track discussed the use of Agile tools and processes outside of software development, and within business and project management. There were examples of Lawyers, travel companies and fashion boutiques using Kanban boards, Stand-ups and Retrospectives in their businesses, showing just how versatile Agile can be.

“I found the Business Stream was the best track for me, and the seminars on Teams, Management and Recruitment were really thought provoking. It was heartening to understand that we have solved a number of issues with similar solutions as others.” – Steve Forth, General Manager at Bluefruit.

Bluefruit team having a coffee before the talks

Didn’t someone once say that programmers are just tools that convert caffeine into code?

The Teams Stream

Below are some of the most popular talks from throughout both days:

  • Marcin Floyan: #NoLearning
  • Dan Phipps: Hiring Well – How to Grow and Maintain Effective Agile Teams
  • Meri Williams: Awesome People Management with Agile
  • Agile on the Beach: Design a Degree for Cornwall
  • Pia Mia Thoren: Agile HR and Agile Leadership in a Nutshell

Complete with some brilliant tips for recruitment and leading a team, this stream was extremely popular and consistently attracted a big audience.

Because teamwork is so central to the manifesto, it’s an Agile business’s top priority to have happy and fulfilled employees who are keen to have autonomy of their work.

“Meri’s presentation on Awesome People Management was hilarious, but at the same time put forward a sincere, people-focused message. During many of her points, I thought to myself ‘Hey! We do that at Bluefruit!’, so it’s really encouraging to know I’m part of a company that already adopts so many of these great HR practices.” – Denzil, Software Developer at Bluefruit.

Bluefruit team photo

Bluefruit team photo – cheesy smiles all round

The Craftsmanship Stream

This stream featured a variety of hands-on workshops and presentations, including:

  • Simon Brown: Agility and the Essence of Software Architecture
  • Chris Parsons: Separating Allocation from Code: a Blob Implementation in C++
  • Jon Jagger: Lessons from Test Code
  • Jim Barritt: Hands on with Datomic: Time Based Facts in a Database
  • Steve Smith: Release Testing is Risk Management Theatre

This track was aimed towards developers and testers, and generally more technically-minded individuals. The presentations discussed new ways to work and different tools to use that can help development become more efficient.

“Not only did I learn a lot about Agile in the context of software development, but I gained some great ideas about how to apply Agile principles to Business Plan development, Learning and Design Collaboration.” – Paul Massey, Director of Bluefruit.

The Bonus Stream

Some of the best Bonus talks from the conference included:

  • Adrian Howard: Fundamentals of Lean UX
  • Sophie Freiermuth: Integrating smoothly the UX in your team
  • Melissa Perri: Beyond ‘Pretty’ – Creating Better Products with Measurable Design
  • Seb Rose: BDD by Example
  • JB Rainsberger: Mini ‘Legacy Code’ retreat

As well as including some more technical, hands-on sessions, the Bonus stream also provided some interesting insights into User Experience and Product design.

The satisfaction of the end-user is important for any product design, but particularly for embedded software, getting the User Experience right first time is paramount as, unlike computer software, you cannot simply issue a new update to fix bugs after the user has purchased it.

“I found many of the talks directly helpful to what I’m working on right now, like the ‘Legacy Code Retreat’ where I learnt good practices for improving old code safely. There was an amazing range of topics and even the ones I thought I had a good grasp of, such as TDD, were really useful for both reinforcing and expanding my knowledge. ” – Lucy, Test Developer at Bluefruit

Seb Rose explains BDD

Seb Rose explains how to implement BDD

But of course, the Agile on the Beach conference wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the beach! On Thursday evening, everyone headed down to Gyllingvase beach in Falmouth, a cove famous for its tranquil Mediterranean-like waters and soft yellow sand. With a marquee, bar, barbecue and volleyball net, it was the perfect way to relax after a long day of talks, workshops and tea-drinking, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect either.

The Bluefruit team enjoy a drink on the beach

The Bluefruit team enjoy a drink on the beach

The second day began with a Keynote from Bjarte Bogsnes, Vice President of Statoil and author of Implementing Beyond Budgeting, giving his advice on how to, and how not to budget in your business, and ended with an open Q&A panel in which anyone could sit at the front and answer questions given by audience members. It was a fun activity, and one of our Test Developers even got involved.

Bluefruit tester, Jeremy, gets involved in the panel discussion

Our own tester, Jeremy, takes a brave seat on the panel

Regularly supplied with copious amounts of sandwiches, pasties, biscuits and cream teas, the Bluefruit team thoroughly enjoyed themselves while also expanding their knowledge and insights into the world of Agile development.

Thank you to all the speakers and organisers involved with the conference, as well as photographer, Toby Weller. We look forward to seeing you all again next year.

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