Pushing a Rope: Lessons learned from implementing innovation programs at Bigcommerce and Atlassian

You cannot effectively push a rope, similarly you cannot force innovation to happen. You can only set up an environment where it is fostered and allowed to thrive. This is even more relevant in an Agile environment, where there is freedom to explore innovation. This talk will be a review of the lessons learned while implementing innovation programs in Agile environments at Atlassian and Bigcommerce. This session covers programs that worked (like FedEx/ShipIt/Hackathons, 20% time) and programs that failed (dedicated Innovation Team). Most importantly it will explore why certain types of programs are more successful that others.

It will also explore how Agile methodolgies and practices can help to improve the results of innovation programs. The talk will also detail some strategies for setting up a culture of innovation, and discuss the pre-requistes to creating and fostering an environment where innovation is celebrated.

 
4 favorite thumb_down thumb_up 9 comments visibility_off  Remove from Watchlist visibility  Add to Watchlist
 

Outline/structure of the Session

Interactive talk, accepting questions throughtout the course of the talk.  I used this format at Agile Australia and it worked very well.

First 2 to 3 minutes, review what were the goals of the various programs.  This includes a brief discussion of the different types of innovation (step, disruptive, etc).  Also define what is success.

Next 15 minutes review programs I initiated or which I helped run while at Atlassian.  Explain which were successful, and which failed, and why.
Next 15 minutes review the programs I have been involved with at Bigcommerce, why they are successful.
Next 5 minutes - review conclusions and explain the "why" of both the successes and the failures. Also discuss what is unique about agile that impacts innovation programs.
 
Lat 5 minutes Q&A to review any specifics about the programs, how I reached the conclusions, or discuss their own programs and ask for advice.
 
 http://www.agileaustralia.com.au/preso/Agile-Aus-2013-Day-1_Ted-Tencza.pdf - the slidedeck from this talk as given at Agile Australia.

Learning Outcome

Learn more that just what worked and what didn't, come to an understanding of why certain approaches fail to deliver innovation within agile development organisations.  

At the end of the talk, anyone should be able to plan their own innovation initiatives by understanding the underlying principles.   They should also understand what pitfalls to avoid, and how to incorporate their knowledge of agile practices and processes to increase chance of success for their innovation program.

Target Audience

Directors, Managers, or anyone in leadership roles. Anyone interested in starting or improving upon innovation in their organization.

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

Comments Subscribe to Comments

comment Comment on this Proposal
  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Ted,

       I dig the submission.  To ground it completely for me, could you say what could an attendee do / try the following week after attending your session?

    Best,

    Joel

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  4 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Joel,

            That is a great question.  The answer is "it depends on their organization."  If they alreay have a culture of trying innovation programs, they could use the ideas covered in my talk to evaluate their programs and look at ways to improve and ensure they are getting good value from their efforts.  If they are thinking of starting some type of innovation program, they will hopefully be able to avoid some common mistakes during the inital phases and target the program towards the specific goals they want to achieve (various types of innovation).  Finally, if they are in an organization that doesn't have programs, they can show mgmt the case studies that show the excellent returns that can come from these types of initiatives.  

             What it won't do is give specific examples and strategies for introducing innovation into an organization that isn't accepting of the idea.  I don't discuss overcoming mgmt objections, etc.   

  • Tathagat Varma
    By Tathagat Varma  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Ted - would you be able to describe the learning outcomes, say, in terms of specific areas like tools, process, infrastructure, people, quality, etc. Right now, the learning outcome seems a bit generic and offers no specific assistence given that innovation progarms is a very big topi by itself.

    Further, how would you comment on the ROI of these mechanisms - as much as setting up innovation programs is touch, it is only a means. It would be interesting to understand what impact it had on the results/topline/bottomline, etc.

    also, could you share some links from your past talks/slide decks on this subject (if you have presented) or similar work?

     

    -TV

     

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  4 years ago
      reply Reply

      Here is a PDF of the slide deck from when I gave this talk at Agile Australia - http://www.agileaustralia.com.au/preso/Agile-Aus-2013-Day-1_Ted-Tencza.pdf

       

      I will update the proposal to be more specific about the learning outcomes.  

      • Doc Norton
        By Doc Norton  ~  4 years ago
        reply Reply

        Ted:

        This looks interesting. I like the real-world lessons learned. Can you add the PDF of the slide deck to the main proposal so others can find it more readily when reviewing your submission?

        Thanks.

        - Doc

         

        • Ted Tencza
          By Ted Tencza  ~  4 years ago
          reply Reply

          Doc - done. 

           

           

  • Prasad
    By Prasad  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Ted, 

    Agile & Innovation, something very intresting to me..  Love to see more details on how innovation coexsisted with a committed product backlog. How business view these innovation pograms?

    • Ted Tencza
      By Ted Tencza  ~  4 years ago
      reply Reply

      Prasad,

             Innovation should be considered (and accounted for) as part of the product backlog.  Part of my talk is explaining how there has to be time made for innovation, and tolerance for the correct types of failures.  The two companies I will be presenting in the case study both view innovation as absolutely necessary for their business, for their markets, and for attracting and retaining top developer talent. 

  • Ted Tencza
    By Ted Tencza  ~  4 years ago
    reply Reply

    Moving this to agile lifecycle based on feedback frokm beyond agile reviewers.


  • Martin Fowler
    Martin Fowler
    Chief Scientist
    ThoughtWorks
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    60 mins
    Keynote
    Intermediate

    In the last decade or so we've seen a number of new ideas added to the mix to help us effectively design our software. Patterns help us capture the solutions and rationale for using them. Refactoring allows us to alter the design of a system after the code is written. Agile methods, in particular Extreme Programming, give us a highly iterative and evolutionary approach which is particularly well suited to changing requirements and environments. Martin Fowler has been a leading voice in these techniques and will give a suite of short talks featuring various aspects about his recent thinking about how these and other developments affect our software development.

  • Liked Rae Abileah
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Rae Abileah - Engendering Justice: Women, War and Peace

    45 mins
    Keynote
    Beginner

    One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Half of the seven billion global population are women so that means one billion women alive now will, or have been, beaten or raped or beaten. Women and children are disproportionately affected by war and occupation as well. And yet numerous studies illustrate how uplifting women's work and leadership can strengthen the whole society and economy. Women are at the forefront of global campaigns challenging militarism and violence, and working to redirect resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. What can we learn from these women and their successes thus far? How can the technology sector support this crucial work? How do these social movements stay agile to rapidly respond to breaking news while building a long-term progressive movements for deeper social, economic and environmental justice? As Arundhati Roy said, "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." In this talk, Rae Abileah will share visionary examples of women-led work for peace and justice and explore the paradigm shift needed for equality, human rights, and justice for all.

  • Liked Todd Little
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Todd Little - Leveraging Global Talent for Effective Agility

    Todd Little
    Todd Little
    Executive Consultant
    Accelinnova
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    60 mins
    Keynote
    Intermediate

    A major challenge in agile development is the ability of test teams to keep pace with ongoing development while simultaneously ensuring that new development has not created regression failures. This case study from Halliburton shows how together with two globally distributed outsourcing partners they developed a comprehensive test automation strategy for their agile teams that effectively leveraged both in house and outsourced activities. This approach resulted in a significant quality improvement from prior releases.

  • Liked Ash Maurya
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Ash Maurya - How To Build Features People Will Want

    Ash Maurya
    Ash Maurya
    Founder
    Spark59
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    60 mins
    Keynote
    Intermediate

    Most products fail. Not because we fail to build what we set out to build, but because we waste time, money, and effort building the wrong product.

    In this talk, I'll share our lean product development process that utilizes continuous customer feedback loops to ensure you don't go astray and instead build products people (will) want.

    What you'll learn:

    - How to track your your feature lifecycle on a validated learning kanban board
    - How to use qualitative testing techniques for early validation during the design and test phases
    - And then follow up with cohort based quantitative metrics to verify you have built something people wanted.

  • Liked Ryan Martens
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Ryan Martens - Beyond Agile Execution: Agility for Business and Impact

    Ryan Martens
    Ryan Martens
    CTO
    Rally Software
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    60 mins
    Keynote
    Beginner

    Agile is not just a process change, its a mindset change for most. With faster time to market, better feedback and highly functioning teams, the Agile mindset opens our eyes to a better way of working as humans on large complicated and complex problems. Combining it with the concepts of Lean Startup, delivers another leap in team capacity and capabilities. It also opens the possibilities of using agility for more than just software development.

    Do you wonder how can we drive innovation in a disciplined way to tame our world's toughest problems? Can we apply the lessons learned from Agile and Lean Startup? Over the past three years, we've been able to apply agility at a new level, beyond business impact. Through our corporate social responsibility effort, "Rally for Impact", we aim to apply the agile mindset to mobilize citizen engineers to serve our communities and protect the planet. I want you to consider this growth path for yourself and your agile teams.

    Let's open the worlds mindset to a better way to empathize, explore and execute in these complex times.

  • Liked Jim McCarthy
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Jim McCarthy - Culture Hacking: The Prospect of Magnificence

    Jim McCarthy
    Jim McCarthy
    Founder
    McCarthy Technologies
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    60 mins
    Keynote
    Beginner

    A culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that both describes and shapes a group. The unique challenges of creating software have demanded totally new types of corporate culture. In response, we have created Agile, Scrum, and XP and many other cultural disciplines. These represent the birth of culture engineering and, although significant, are primitive compared to what will follow. Jim McCarthy introduces "culture hacking," a kind of cultural engineering that focuses on protecting personal freedom, extending openness, and embodying rationality. In the near future, a system made up of shared commitments and interpersonal protocols for hosting cultural innovations is likely to become available and standardized, leading to enormous personal and collective cultural and productivity gains. Happily, these gains will be based on culturally designed nobility of purpose, and a potent and virtuous cycle will continue to emerge, whereby profit derives from ennobled behavior. This cycle will lead to an era of widespread and abundant greatness - an era of unparalleled magnificence.

  • Liked Dave Thomas
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Dave Thomas - Unknown Knowns

    60 mins
    Keynote
    Advanced

    In 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld introduced us to the concepts of known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. But he left out Unknown Knowns, things that we know without knowing it. And it turns out that these Unknown Knowns are actually the biggest category of knowledge - tacit knowledge.


    As developers, we work with knowledge: knowledge of the problem domain, knowledge of our tools, knowledge of our techniques, and knowledge of each other. So getting good at accumulating tacit knowledge is important.

    This talk will look at how we are poorly served by most of the current ways we are taught to be better developers. Can we do better? Only if we stop talking and start showing. Let's see why.

  • Naresh Jain
    Naresh Jain
    Founder
    ConfEngine.com
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Workshop
    Advanced

    As the popularity of Agile methods have grown, so have the misconceptions or myths associated with Agile also grown. These myths get even more glorified when we talk about them in the offshore or distributed context. And to make matters worse, you can throw in a fixed-price contract spanner into the engine.

    Worry not! In this fun-filled activity, we'll collect facts from the participants that they believe are true and then we'll declare them as confirmed or busted after an interactive (heated) discussion.

  • Corey Haines
    Corey Haines
    CTO
    Wavetable
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Tutorial
    Beginner

    Everyone has acronyms, mnemonics, and a list of rules to guide their everyday software design. In order to get the most out of these age-old gems, one needs to deliberately practices them. Rules are a good way to remind ourselves of these gems.

    Corey Haines emphasies his design guidelines in form of the "4 Rules of Simple Design." Attend this talk to understand the four rules and their importance in everyday programming.

  • Liked Corey Haines
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Corey Haines - Stories from 10 Years of Extreme Programming

    Corey Haines
    Corey Haines
    CTO
    Wavetable
    schedule 3 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Talk
    Intermediate

    10 years ago I was introduced to Extreme Programming. Since then, I've been an avid practitioner, applying the techniques and values to my life as a software developer. Over that time, I've bounced between many extremes, learning and reflecting on the value that I get when building systems both for myself and for others.

    In this talk, I'll share some of those learnings and how my life as a software developer has changed with the times.

  • Liked Bernd Schiffer
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Bernd Schiffer - Net Promoter System for Agile Companies

    45 mins
    Talk
    Intermediate

    Customer collaboration is essential to every Agile business. To create and collaborate to keep a customer is the purpose of an organisation. But still lots of companies try to make bad profits, i.e. profits earned at the expense of customer relationships. The Net Promoter System (NPS) is a renowned open-source system which addresses and measures customer collaboration. And did you know that you not only can use it to get feedback on your products and services, but also on your employees and your personal performance?

    NPS is a perfect fit for Agile companies - and those who want to be. Most of the companies I worked with (Agile coaching, training, consulting) had not heard about it, and far less were actually using it. This really surprises me, since NPS integrates like a charm with Agile, e.g. within product development via Scrum.

    In this session I'll explain the basics of NPS, i.e. promoters and detractors, satisfied and delighted customers, bad profits (how to deal with bad feedback?) and good profits, and why and how to measure these. Several stories from companies like Apple Retail, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, and others will help to make my point. I’ll further show why NPS is a very good fit with Agile regarding products, employees, and personal performance. Dos and Don’ts regarding NPS (also from personal experience) will close this session. Related to the Don'ts, I also cover some of the negative critiques out there.

  • Liked Mukesh Bhangria
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Mukesh Bhangria - Continuous Refactoring at Amazon: A Case Study

    45 mins
    Talk
    Beginner

    Between the project deadlines, we always feel there is code which needs to be improved

    Usually Developers have the following 3 options:

    - Bite the bullet and do the refactoring as they go along.
    - Park the issue and address it later.
    - Allocate special time when the project gets out-of-control.

    As customer facing stories take higher priority, usually Developers are forced to choose the last option.

    However a team at Amazon took a different approach. Attend this session to listen to their first-hand story of how they changed this typical behavior to achieve Continuous Deployment on a critical service.

  • Liked Victoria Schiffer
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Victoria Schiffer - Agile Coaching? Sure thing! What about Life Coaching in Agile Thinking?

    Victoria Schiffer
    Victoria Schiffer
    Agile Coach
    SEEK
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Talk
    Beginner

    I love being around awesome people, who build great products customers desire. 
    I love learning from and together with these amazing minds. 
    I love creating the right environment for teams to flourish. 
    I love change, and learning from new experiences. 
    I love working in Agile environments.

    How about you? 
    I bet there are some elements of this list why you're in Agile, too. And you can probably add even more elements to it.

    The Agile Manifesto states amongst others individuals and interactions, customer collaboration and responding to change.

    In our everyday life doing Agile we already respect these aspects in many ways. 
    But do we practice what we preach as best we can?

    I'd like to challenge your current way of thinking about people and processes. 
    I'd like to challenge you to focus on you, before you focus on others. 
    I'd like to challenge your current way of reflecting. 
    I'd like to inspire you to go different ways. 
    I'd like to inspire you to inspire others.

    In Agile we're already good in improving our processes and creating well performing teams and hence building the right things in the right way. And in the Agile Manifesto's communication and collaboration piece we can even get better.
    "You have not yet reached the limit of what you're capable of!" means we can always further improve. And we do follow this idea in our Agile processes, too, through continuous feedback (Retrospectives) and improvement.

    And why not take it even further? Why not go "Beyond Agile"?!

    Here's where aspects of Life Coaching come in handy: through also understanding and improving ourselves (how do we interact with people due to how we perceive our environment) we will even further improve communication and collaboration.

    Life Coaches believe our clients know the answer. And even if Agile Coaching is slightly different than Life Coaching, I see it as very relevant in Agile Coaching, too. If we apply this in Agile, instead of giving our clients (team, colleagues) the answers, asking them powerful questions to help them be more aware of what's happening at the moment, they will find their answer for it and will have a much better commitment to making the change for themselves, their teams and the company. It's not for us to TELL them what to do, but to ASK them what's going on for themselves. Here's where I see a huge chance for improvement.

    In my session I give lots of examples on how to link Life Coaching ideas to our Agile work environments. I've given the session at LAST Conference Melbourne and at the Agile Coaching Circles Meetup Melbourne. The audience was engaged and the attendees were very happy about having some new ideas on how to improve their daily work life.

    Come along to be inspired by Life Coaching and thus to benefit our Agile Thinking!

  • Liked Giovanni Asproni
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Giovanni Asproni - Methodology Patterns: a Different Approach to Create a Methodology for Your Project

    Giovanni Asproni
    Giovanni Asproni
    Consultant
    Asprotunity Limited
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    90 mins
    Tutorial
    Advanced

    In the software world we have been looking for “The Methodology” to solve our software development sorrows for quite a while. We started with Waterfall, then Spiral, Evo, RUP and, more recently with XP, Scrum, Kanban, DAD, SAFe (there are many others, but, their impact, so far, has been limited).

    In this tutorial, I'll show why this search for the holy grail is bound to fail--each methodology has strenghts and weaknesses that make it suitable only in some contexts--and I'll describe a different approach based on patterns and pattern languages, that teams can use to create their own methodologies to suit their specific needs, which, in my experience, has a higher chance of success. 

    The approach is based on the observation that all the practices used in all modern methodologies--e.g., user stories, use cases, team self organization, TDD, unit testing, acceptance testing, continuous integration, iterative and incremental development, etc.--come from the same set. Different methodologies just mix and match them differently. All those practices can (and many have already been) described as patterns whose relationships with each other form a set of pattern languages.

  • Liked Naresh Jain
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Naresh Jain - Scaling XP Practices inside your organization using Train-the-Trainer Model

    Naresh Jain
    Naresh Jain
    Founder
    ConfEngine.com
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    90 mins
    Workshop
    Advanced

    How do you effectively scale skill-based, quality training across your organization?

    Over the years, I've experimented with different ideas/models to scaling skill-based training across an organization. In the last 4 years, I've pretty much settled down on the following model. Its very useful when mentoring teams on skills like Test-Drive-Development (TDD), Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), Product Discovery, Writing User Stories, Evolutionary Design, Design Patterns, Problem Solving, etc. I've successfully implemented this model at some very prominent fortune 500 enterprises.

    The goal of this workshop is to explore what other successful models organized have used to scale skill-based training in their organization.

  • Liked Daniel Zen
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Daniel Zen - Agile Engineering Javascript with Jasmine & AngularJS, Karma & Jenkins

    Daniel Zen
    Daniel Zen
    CEO
    Zen Digital
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    90 mins
    Tutorial
    Intermediate

    Agile & Test Driven Development of frontend JavaScript User Interface code is often passed over using the excuse that the UI code is "declarative" (What you see is what you get) and therefore does not 'need' to be tested. Others, will dismiss testing frontend AJAX code as too difficult to maintain or unnecessary because it is only important in context with the server. We will show how these misconceptions are false. 

    We will cover several popular JavaScript tools and technologies that make Agile frontend web development easy. We will show how these front end technologies cannot only be functionally tested, but Unit Tested. If time is available will cover Continuous Integration, Dependency Injection, & Mock objects.  

    By including your front-end code in your automated testing process you can prevent the inclusion of bugs that are usually only caught with manual testing.

  • Naresh Jain
    Naresh Jain
    Founder
    ConfEngine.com
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Demonstration
    Intermediate

    "Release Early, Release Often" is a proven mantra and many companies have taken this one step further by releasing products to real users with every commit a.k.a Continuous Deployment (CD).

    Over the years, I've built many web/infrastructure products, where we've effectively practiced CD. However at Edventure Labs, when we started building iPad games, we realized there was no easy was to practice CD, esp. given the fact that Apple review takes a few days.

    Our main question was: As mobile app developers, how should we architect/design our apps for CD?

    We were a young startup, learning new behavior about our users (kids aged 5-8) everyday. We could not afford any delay in releasing latest, greatest features to our users. To solve this problem, I believe we've built an innovative solution to enable any mobile app developer to achieve CD.

    If you are building real products, which have platform/3rd-party dependencies and you want to practice CD, this session is for you.

  • 45 mins
    Experience Report
    Intermediate

    Agile processes are the new order of IT implementations. These talk will elaborate on our experience and learnings during agile process implementation at Walmart. 

    We will touchupon following 3 key areas and our learnings that helped us scale agile in large enterprises.

    • Process Visualization - Our learnings related to visualization of existing processes and practices and how it helped us identify signals from noise

    • Product Backlog Elaboration - In a complex and large programs product backlog management and role of product owner needs to be revisited.

    • Team Working Agreement - This is particulary crucial for scaling agile as dependency management is one of the key aspects of enterpsie agile implementation.

    We will conclude with our key learning of how processes needs to be continuously evolved in large scale implementation.

  • Liked Pramod Sadalage
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Pramod Sadalage - Ten Patterns of Database Refactoring

    Pramod Sadalage
    Pramod Sadalage
    Developer
    ThoughtWorks
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Talk
    Beginner

    Over the life of an application as requirements change, application usage patterns alter, load and performance changes the need to change database and database architecture is inevitable. There are patterns of these changes such as

    1. 1. Encapsulate Table with View
    2. 2. Migrate method from database
    3. 3. Replace method with views
    4. 4. Introduce Read only table
    5. 5. Split table
    6. 6. Make column non-nullable
    7. 7. Drop column
    8. 8. Add foreign key constaint
    9. 9. Merge columns
    10. 10. Replace columns

    In this talk we will discuss the above database refactoring patterns and different implementation techniques to enable blue, green deployments, allow for legacy applications to work with fast changing database and enable the teams to effectively refactor the database to fulfill the changing needs of the organization.

  • Liked Cara Turner
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Cara Turner - Building Creative Teams: Motivation, Engagement and Retrospectives

    Cara Turner
    Cara Turner
    Agile Coach
    Khanyisa Real Systems
    schedule 4 years ago
    Sold Out!
    90 mins
    Talk
    Advanced

    How do software teams become creative? If you're not a start-up, does creativity even play a role in the business driven world of software development? Idea generation is the basis of all our work - no matter how challenging or mundane. With a scientific approach to implementing change, creativity is the basic tool we have for addressing the challenges of software development.

    This talk explores the elements of engagement and creativity along with the neuroscience of generating ideas. These give us specific insight into how employing different agile retrospective formats over the course of the product development process can extend our usual practices and develop a thinking mind-set comfortable with tackling daily work with a fresh and explorative approach.