27–29 September 2017, Churchill College, Cambridge

The trials and tribulations of agile conversion

A 45 minute Case Study by:

Leigh Griffin

Red Hat

Brendan O'Farrell

Red Hat

About this Case Study

Moving from a traditional waterfall approach of pre-defined roles and stages to a model of team ownership is a jarring experience for most. However, it's an experience that more teams will encounter as the move towards cloud computing gains momentum. Cloud deployments, embodied by the SaaS (software as a service) model for building and consuming services, are becoming more affordable and more desirable from a customer's perspective where a need to respond to change rapidly is a core business value.

Natural resistance to losing technical ownership, combined with a faster pace of development along with incremental deadlines approaching, is one of the main reasons why agile fails in a company. In 2014, Red Hat acquired FeedHenry, a SaaS-based mobile platform which joined an experienced SaaS development team with an experienced waterfall cadence QE team.

Shortly after acquisition, the teams had tried to reuse the standard waterfall-based release model, applied to a product that had been moving fast. The result was a failure. Teams working in silos, following their own processes and interpretation of the methodology, combined with a huge amount of code churn and ever-changing requirements, was a huge problem to solve. Our first release spent 3 months in a QE phase before going to production, due in part to 6% of our overall issues being verified prior to release testing. 12 months and 15 major releases later, our most recent recent release went out in the bounded context of a sprint, with 96% pre-release verification.

That is the outward success story but there is a hidden side to agile adoption, one that is rarely spoken about at conferences. The dead ends that we reached, the frustrations within the teams, the roadblocks we hit and the staff turnover that occurred. Things that can not only halt an agile adoption, but if not dealt with, that can fracture a team that is not prepared for it. This session will be more encompassing than the path to success - it will cover the trials and tribulations of a team in transition. Lessons learned that can be applied to any team at any stage of their agile journey. Learn from our mistakes and from our ultimate success and take away some key points to apply to your project in this exciting case study.

About the Speakers

Leigh Griffin

Leigh holds a PhD in software engineering, having worked as a researcher in the telecoms sphere for 8 years. This work led him to become an agile practioner. While serving as a senior software engineer for several multinationals, he always brought an agile view to the table, culminating in his becoming a scrum master and later scrum coach for his current employer. Day to day he is an engineering manager with Red Hat Mobile and agile coach for the mobile team. He's also helping to guide the wider middleware team as they replicate the success of the mobile team and help transition to an agile way of working.


Brendan O'Farrell

Brendan joined Red Hat early 2017 as a software engineering manager and an agile coach. Previously he worked in a telecommunications research institute as a quality engineer and later as a scrum master, helping bring a scrum-based approach to academic research projects. He has over 20 years' experience in the home automation industry, with wide-ranging responsibilities from project management through to home network cabling.


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