Last week I went to Kraków for the first edition of the Agile Central Europe conference. The news is that the conference was, IMO, a great success for the organisation led by Paul Klipp, so here’s a short report about it.
I was never in Kraków before (and, for what matters, I was in Poland only once to date) and, as we all have, I had a certain expectation on the city: I read it is considered the Silicon Valley of Poland as a lot of high tech international companies have opened a site here. As such, it is a marketplace full of opportunities for software specialists. I also read the city has a nice historic centre worthwhile visiting.
Though I left space in my beliefs for some surprises, I was blown out by what I saw: the city is amazingly beautiful, starting from the location on the Vistula river, to the vast number of very stylish historically buildings.
In the city there are several universities, so the overall impression is one of a very young and active city, where almost everybody I met had the skill of compensating my non-existent Polish talking to me in a very good English!
The conference was held in the brand new Park Inn hotel, situated close to the centre, with a nice view over the Wavel Castle and the Vistula river.
The venue was perfectly suited for such an event and – attention you techies out there – even the wireless LAN was working amazingly well. In fact, it was the best wireless LAN connection I ever found at a conference!
Also the closeness of the venue to the city centre allowed for continuing discussing what we saw during the day over a nice dinner in the city centre – the type of atmosphere I miss in several similar events.
I could spend pages on describing what happened, but I’ll probably summarise it in a two words and let you experience them in yourself: Awesomely flawless!
As the event was fairly small – two tracks – it was possible to interact with almost all the speakers. I didn’t know several of them – several were, like me, quite new to the role – but I quickly learned to appreciate the expertise they brought to the event: For me, a very important value of a conference is what I learn by interacting with the people, and this team of speakers rocks!
I deliberately chose the word team: Andrea Provaglio called by email just a few hours before the conference for an informal meeting of the speakers for the evening before the conference and, after we got to know each other a bit, we started interacting almost as a team for the whole duration of the conference. I miss you guys!
On average the audience was fairly young and very well prepared. The level of understanding of agile technologies seemed to me very mature, more mature than some Western European countries I’ve seen. I also got the impression that agile could really go mainstream here without the trivialisations that often go with it.
The only thing I missed a bit was the possibility of interacting more with the people: it seems culturally the audience was often a bit shy in interacting with the speakers, though IMO they have all the needed resources and knowledge to do that. My only message to the audience is: you guys rock too, bring your knowledge in and share your experiences, because they are first class ones and I’d love to hear more of what you have achieved already!
The conference content
Very strong program, with a lot of topics on the soft skills side of agility. I highly appreciate this because, as we know since the old waterfall times, projects fail because of people, not because of technology. Agile is fairly advanced in the technical practices, so IMO it is time of balancing the software technologies with the human side of agile. This is actually why my speech was dedicated to a topic that helps us to communicate better and more productively.
The highlights of an average very good conference (for the whole program see here) were, IMO:
- Gwyn Morfey and Laurie Young from New Bamboo showed us some practical and low-tech tips they adopted in their organisation. The presentation, with slides made by photographing what they drew on their whiteboard in the office, was based on the interaction of the two speakers acting the typical situations they found and describing how they solved them: a recipe that guaranteed constant uptime in the audience through a mix of very useful information and a lot of fun!
- Simon Roberts gave us some tips to properly and stably install Scrum in the enterprise
- Maria Diaconu and Alexandru Bolboacă made their case for software craftsmanship and described their experience in promoting it in Romania
- Robert Dempsey gave some very practical tips on how to run a distributed agile team despite all the cultural differences that you can find going this way
- Marc Löffler was a great surprise: he decided to give a lightning talk at the end of the first and started preparing the slides during another presentation (I saw him…). He came up with a lovely talk about how a team can drive the ScrumMaster crazy, that he delivered beautifully though it was his first time on stage! The day after he succeeded again in another lightning talk describing how a ScrumMaster can drive a team crazy (and even the score, I guess…)
- Thomas Sundberg told us about how to write clean code: simple tricks we should all know but, as his real life experience consulting companies show, we don’t
I also heard good opinions on the following speeches, though I could not attend to them:
- Jens Korte with his ScrumFluenca
- Zuzana Sochova with Company Culture as the Key Agile Milestone
- Monika Konieczny with Coping with communication problems in agile projects
- Andrea Provaglio with Beyond Agility
The list is incomplete as, of course, I missed everything that was in the other track, so if you were there and have seen a great presentation from another speaker, please comment on this blog and share your view!
Overall a great first edition for a conference. I’m sure this event will, in a few years, become a “classic” in the world of the agile conferences. See you next years guys!
P.S. There is another report about this conference by Robert Dempsey. He wrote also a blog post for every session he saw, thus documenting the conference much better than I could do on this page: I highly recommend you to look there for additional information on the event and the sessions.