SEPG NA 2010 wrap-up

Here’s the summary I promised on my experiences at SEPG North America 2010. Overall: great people and many good discussions on agile, CMMI, measurements, and practical real-world improvement.

Some related web references:

By the numbers (of course!): According to Anita Carleton at the Tuesday opening, nearly 800 people attended, of whom 250 were newbies, and 125 were from overseas (furthest: from Nanjing). One thing that was not clear: how many people actually attended all four days of the conference?


8:30-10am – Judah Mogilensky and Hillel Glazer
“One Stop Shopping: An Appraisal Tailoring for Increased Efficiency and Improved Collaboration” (mini-tutorial)
Key takeaway: A more real-time, collaborative approach to appraisals is not only cheaper and better, it’s more fun and less work for everyone involved. Why would you not do it this way? (tweeted)

10:30-12 – Beth Layman
“Reducing the Costs and Increasing the Value of CMMI Re-Appraisals” (mini-tutorial)
Key takeaway: This is a solid “lean, green” approach to reappraisals that makes good (re)use of PIIDs. Classic Beth!

1:30-5pm – Kent Johnson of AgileDigm
“Agile CMMI: Obtaining Real Benefits from Measurement and High Maturity” (half-day tutorial)
Key takeaway: Kent’s experiences co-teaching and co-coaching at Systematic illustrate that even a high-maturity company can use agile methods effectively to help fill the ‘how’ that CMMI [purposely] does not prescribe. (On the other hand, TSP can also fill the ‘how’ nicely, and in an agile way …). Also, Kent made the often-overlooked point that “in the agile manifesto, just because it’s on the right side of the list (eg processes and tools), that doesn’t mean you ignore it; it only means that you prefer the ones on the left.” (tweeted)


Keynote panel: “Process Improvement on a Regional Scale”
Panelists: Barry Dwolatzky (JCSE, South Africa), Wan Peng Ng (MDeC, Malaysia), Rafael Salazar Chavez (Mexico)
Moderator: Caroline Graettinger
Key takeaway: TSP not only works on various sized projects for a very large scale organization, it’s an effective way to accelerate building a high maturity, country-wide software discipline – but great senior management support and great coaching (not necessarily in that order) are mandatory.

Keynote: Agustin de la Maza – global practice manager for Softtek in Mexico
“Best Practices for TSP Implementation on Outsourced Application Development Projects”
Key takeaway: PSP has given them a framework for having the ‘fastest developers on earth’. Keys to effective deployment?
– “To start to transform your organization, start by transforming your management style.
– Making teams accountable for the whole lifecycle is proven to be much more effective.


10:30-11:15am – Gene Miluk
“Changing Behavior: The key to adoption of complex process technology”
Key take-away: “Belief drives behavior.” When you go into an organization and see behavior that doesn’t make sense, ask yourself, what beliefs are driving this behavior? Need to change the beliefs to change the behavior. Most effective way to change beliefs (based on years of psychology): show results inconsistent with the belief. (tweeted)

11:15am-12 – Kieran Doyle
“Information Security and CMMI for Services – A Pragmatic Approach”
Key take-away: CMMI-SVC + ITIL v3 provides ‘what’ and ‘how’, but not information security. ISO 20000 (“20k”) covers it and ISO 27001 outlines requirements for it. Mapping ISO standard 27001 to the CMMI-SVC framework, and leveraging existing ITIL mappings, enables an efficient SCAMPI appraisal that provides feedback across all of these areas. PIID worksheet available on request. Very logical and practical approach which illuminates a route for extensions such as safety. (tweeted)

1:30-2:15pm – Kileen Harrison and Anne Prem
“CMMI and LSS – A Dynamic Duo” (LSS = Lean Six Sigma)
Key take-away: Successful use of LSS projects to identify and implement improvements, with the “CMMI people” focusing on risks and challenges. (tweeted)

2:15-3pm – Sujata Bapat
“Applying High Maturity Practices in Agile Projects”
Key take-away: Without asking agile teams to collect any new data, they were able to apply quantitative measurement practices. What wasn’t quite clear was how or whether doing this added value to the teams or the business. (tweeted)

3:30-4:15pm – Dirk Malzahn (Germany)
“Will ontologies help to optimize process improvement? – How ontologies can be applied in a multi-model, multi-size environment”
Key take-away: Ontology mapping is a process modeling approach that’s easy to understand and ‘automize’, not driven by tools, and useful to identify circular dependencies and islands.

4:15-5pm – Pat O’Toole
“Maturity Level 4 Results in a LOT of BS” (BS=Behavioral Stimulation)
Key take-away: Sophisticated, complicated models and measurement tactics aren’t necessarily needed to stimulate high-maturity behavior. (tweeted)


8:30-9:15am Anita Carleton and Linda Northrop
“Keynote – New Math: 1 + 1 > 2”
Key take-away: Combining TSP (Team Software Process) and ACE (Architecture-Centric Engineering) strengthens requirements, architecture and design among TSP teams, and provides a process framework for architecture teams. Awesome. (tweeted)

9:20-10am – Judah Mogilensky and Hillel Glazer
“SCAMPI Evidence from Agile Practices”
Key take-away: Concept of interpreting CMMI is not unique to agile, it’s a general issue. If you are achieving the purpose of a PA and avoiding the risk, then the goal of the CMMI is met. (tweeted)

10:30-11:15am – Gabriela Souza and Carlo Pires, Instituto Atlantico
“Agile with High Maturity Levels: An Innovative Approach”
Key take-away: Using DMADV with agile delivered good results and impressive quantitatively measured business improvements! (improved productivity 52%, quality 28%, reqt stability in sprint 57%)

11:15am-noon – Robert Simmering and Wadi Adam Lahrim, Booz Allen Hamilton
“Leveraging CMMI-DEV, CMMI-SVC, and collaboration tools to enhance an Agile development environment and improve investment returns”
Key take-aways: They succeeded because they ‘adopted practices that focus on exposing and fixing both people and technical issues using agile retrospectives’. Their GSD team needed online tools to substitute for literal ‘cards on a wall’ – Microsoft TFS didn’t work for them because they were unable to tailor the Scrum template enough to meet their needs (would have liked details on that). They adapted their tools to include technical debt on their dashboard, and a radar chart for total quality. NB: This presenter used for reference the same VersionOne agile poster that I keep in my office.

Lunch and SEI Member Awards
The SEI Membership Awards Lunch gave me a welcome opportunity to reconnect with Gene Miluk and Tim Chick of the SEI TSP team, as well as 3 work colleagues (2 from Sweden). Congratulations to Bill Smith on winning as Member Representative, to Kathy Smith as Outstanding Contributor, and to Gary Coleman as Outstanding Advocate!

1:30-2:15pm – Hillel Glazer
“Love and Marriage: Why Agile and CMMI *Need* Each Other!”
Key take-aways: Important factors that affect perceptions of Agile and CMMI compatibility: misuse of CMMI (‘model malpractice’), and lack of accurate information on what CMMI and agile are today. His challenge to us: learn, then go out and ‘tell the truth’.

2:15-3pm – Mike Phillips
“CMMI v1.3 Plenary Session”
Key take-aways – what will be new in CMMI V1.3:
– New PA to be added at CMMI ML5: Organizational Performance Management (OPM)
– Agile interpretation guidance – 9 PA’s will have informative material updates on what the PA means in an agile environment (tweeted)
– Architecture development guidance (retweeted)

After the talk I took the opportunity to chat briefly with Mike about People CMM, which got relatively little attention at this year’s SEPG, and whether it would be aligned with the latest constellation approach. He reassured me that it’s still being enhanced.

3-3:30pm Book Fair
I met up with Bob Stoddard (my IPPSS instructor); we chatted about our ongoing work on the CMMI-Six Sigma Body of Knowledge working group.

Peer-to-Peer Sessions (photo)
1) CMMI-Six Sigma
Very small group, but a very good discussion about blending CMMI and Six Sigma. My key takeaway to bring back to the working group: people want to blend the two improvement methodologies, not just apply CMMI practices to Six Sigma improvement projects or apply Six Sigma techniques to CMMI-based improvement initiatives.

2) TSP Symposium Program Committee
I enjoyed meeting Michele and Rafael in person, and reconnecting with Bill, Alan, and Tim.


8:30-9:15am – Hillel Glazer
“Top Ten Clues You’re Probably Not Doing Engineering”
Key take-away: “Not everything involving software is engineering” – or Development – and suitable for CMMI-DEV. CMMI-SVC fills a real need by sketching a clear path for non-engineering organizations to still benchmark their performance and work to improve. His suggestion for a new value to be added to the Manifesto: “we value Improvement over Compliance” (tweeted)

9:15-10am – Winfried Russwurm
“The multi-model and multi-appraisal quagmire – an approach to organize them by a classification scheme”
Key take-away: This classification scheme defines a way to visually portray multiple models in ‘footprint charts’ (disappointingly, the charts he’s completed do not seem to be available).

10:30-11:15am – (my presentation slotmy slides)
“Using Requirements Metrics To Guide Project Management And Assess Process Improvements”
Great audience (84 people!) – Q&A discussion focused on how often to measure.

11:15-noon – Dennis Goldenson
“The Role of Expert Judgment in Improving Software Estimation Processes”
Key take-away: Reference to a Magne Jorgensen and Barry Boehm debate on estimation, moderated by Stan Rifkin which was published in IEEE Software in March/April 2009 – must fetch/read. (tweeted)

Lunch: Hillel and I skipped the SEI Partner lunch to look for the tweetup table, but #39 seemed to be occupied by others (and we didn’t get the ‘table 46 overflow‘ tweet until too late). The mixup did give me a happy chance to talk at some length with Bill Nichols and Jim Over of the SEI TSP team, and learn more about AIM (the new IDEAL) and how they are using it to help organizations greatly accelerate their maturity progress.

1:30-5pm – Diane Mizukami-Williams
“How to Create and Deliver Great Presentations” (Professional Development Workshop)
Key take-away: Most advice on presenting is on how not to fail – not how to really succeed. Her goal: to be remembered. She offers six techniques for being different. General strategy: Break the ice and help your audience get comfortable with you as a person (I’m going to try her “Which one is the lie?” quiz in the near future).

I also took time on breaks during the week to visit the student poster area. Some had interesting ideas, although they were not at the level of quality in content or format that I am used to seeing at academic conferences – I am sure this will improve over time. I used my digital camera to capture their URLs and contact info (one student completely omitted this, oops!).
(poster 1)

Photos will be attached within the next few weeks …

Overall, pluses and minuses:
+ Great gathering of people, including a nice proportion of women
+ Stronger emphasis on practicality, lean, agile, and efficiency
+ Most of the sessions I attended were good to great (I gave ratings that ranged from 6 to 10)
+ Savannah was a fun location
+ Incremental innovations in logistics (scannable badges, social media)
– Crowded rooms and thin walls made for sometimes-uncomfortable learning environments
– Session layout in the convention center make it impractical to get from one track or activity to another quickly
– Few power connections and no wifi in the sessions drained my netbook and precluded live blogging
– Having to download the proceedings one at a time, with multiple clicks per download, is not lean or efficient.

Do I want to go to SEPG in Portland next year? You bet!