Agile on the Beach 2019

15 Jul 2019 4-minute read Al Eardley
Agile on the Beach

Agile on the Beach (AOTB) sounds great. Let’s face it, a conference on a beach, how could that not be great!

In its 9 years of running AOTB has built a reputation for having quality speakers presenting useful and engaging content and this year attracted 400 attendees from across the world. And considering that it is in Cornwall, and is not the easiest or quickest place to get to, that really says a lot about the quality of the sessions.

With tracks that cover Agile Practices, Product Management, Agile Business, Software Delivery, Agile Teams and a Bonus Track, there was a lot to choose from. I am not going to highlight some session which provided me with inspiration and nuggets of useful practice that I can implement on Monday morning, which is really me measure of a successful conference.

As an AOTB newbie, I did not really know what to expect, so the first keynote, really set the bar very high!

Wicked Problems

Tendayi Viki presented an engaging session making the argument that innovation is a “wicked” problem, and not in a good, cool kind of way but in a prickly, painful kind of way.

Image of Tendayi Viki

As Tendayi described a wicked, problem, they have no definitive formulation to describe them and they never stop. The other thing about them is that there is not true solution to them, only better or worse solutions at a given time.

And that set the tone for the rest of the conference!

Software Architecture

As a solution architect and business analyst I focus a lot on discovering information and then replaying it back to sponsors, stakeholders, delivery teams, anyone with an interest really! There was an abundance of ideas and inspiration in this space:

Simon Brown’s C4 approach to describing software architecture is something I have been aware of for many, many years, and it was great to see Simon describing it again as it reminded me of aspects to the approach that I don’t necessarily use as much as I should.

Design Sprints

Kjell Eldor-Evans presented a great session on doing a five day design sprint based on the his experiences and adaptions of the Google Ventures approach. As with all of the sessions, there were engaging questions and I was lucky enough to win a copy of the book that Kjell based his presentation on (thanks Kjell!)

Lessons from Agile Transformations

Matt Hosking shared some excellent lessons from his experience of doing transformations in organisations. There were so many takeaways from this but one of the biggest for me was a simple slide that showed where the bulk of the problem lays in an agile project. And conversely, a “sad graph” that shows where the initial perception palace the problem.

Image of the “sad graph”

If the above graph were “happy” and the other way up, it would present a better picture of where the real challenges lay.

Unlearning: The Challenge of Change

The keynote on Friday by Jessie Shternshus was great! Engaging and fun was the best way to start a Friday morning after a barbeque on the beach in misty rain (everyone kept saying the weather was so good last year, which didn’t help!) Jessie explained that organisations and people have to unlearn things to be able to learn new ways of doing things, and she had some great ways to demonstrate this through experiential games.

Image of Jessie Shternshus

Design Thinking

Justyna Pindel’s session on Design Thinking was really good and made me rethink about the prominence of personas in the delivery environment. Having them up on the wall and talking to them sounds like a great way to reinforce the importance of empathising with the end user

Valuing a Feature

And the last nugget I want to highlight was Allan Kelly’s session of valuing a feature. It was such a simple concept, but such a highly engaging one that I cannot wait to try it out. Put simply, Allan positioned a Product Owner as the “pitcher” in a Dragon’s Den environment with the product stakeholders being the Dragons bidding for features. The outcome was then a prioritised list of features.


As a final note, I have to say that as well as having great sessions, the organisers did a fantastic job and the whole experience was slick and well stage managed which is never easy when organising a conference like this. The attendees were also great, I met some really interesting people and as always it was fantastic to learn form other people’s experience.

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