The Agile 2014 Conference is much like a symphony with many individual movements that form a whole, like the Agile movement in general. 4 of the 5 days included 15 planned tracks with at least 4 presentations per track (Friday has a much smaller number of presentations). The variety of presentations and topics reflected the range of related, but different movements classified as Agile. Topics ranged from the social sciences of psychology and sociology targeted at coaching teams and organizational change to highly technically topics such as pair programming and DevOps.  The conference attracted 3,000+ attendees and speakers. For anyone interested in Agile this is conference that not allows but almost insists on an Agile immersion experience.

Several attendees that have attended in years past suggested that this year’s attendees reflect a subtle shift. There were more decision-makers than developers/practitioners in attendance. The theme of scaled Agile was also more prevalent than in past years.

Many of the early Agile thinkers were in attendance and involved not only in presenting, but shaping the conference. None of the early thinkers have lost their particular fire. For example, one speaker from this cohort publicly lamented that sponsors were monetizing the conference. Ken Schwaber even suggested turning the branded lanyards over to hide the branding. From my perspective, picking on the vendors is an easy target that could have negative consequences. The vibrant vendor community present was a positive and provided the sponsorship needed to hold great special events that made the conference more than just a fire hose of information. Agile 2014 was also a social experience.

If continual presentations and interactive workshops are not to your liking, there were plenty of less structured events. The conference had constant hallways talks, lean coffees every morning, Open Jams, coaching clinics and space provided for one-on-one conversations. There was no shortage of ideas, nor any shortage of space to discuss those ideas outside of the formal agenda.

This conference is large enough to hit some of your important topics one day and then to explore topics outside of your comfort zone the next and then have time to switch back and forth on the third, fourth or fifth days. I overhead folks discussing an interesting strategy; spending a day attending sessions that were exactly opposite of those you would typically attend to make sure you were exposed to new ideas.

Conversations with in the hall suggest that attendees that have been part of the Agile movement for more than a few years feel that innovation experimentation by Agile practitioners is slowing.  That the cycle of inspecting how Agile practices are performed by organizations and teams are being codified and in some cases being practiced as cannon and orthodoxy.  Hallway conversations suggest that the hardening of the rules that some groups are exhibiting is being noticed.  Leading voices are beginning to reemphasize learning and experimentation. One of the reflections of the slowing in evolution of Agile  is a suggestion from a few people that I chatted with that unless you are new or in the business of Agile consulting that attending the conference every two years and reading blogs is enough to keep current. I am not convinced that this suggestion is 100% accurate yet but it maybe soon unless innovation accelerates again.

There were very few negatives.  One downside worth mentioning was that many speakers that I went to see ran out of time. It seemed almost a badge of honor for speakers to announce they were out of time even though they were not done with the material they intended to cover. This included one of the two keynote speakers. Many of the offending parties I would consider professional speakers and know better. Not the end of the world, the ones I really want to know the rest of the story I will track down and interview on the podcast.

As Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Agile 2014 is part of my journey of enlightenment.