Episode 84 – You Need To Understand The Business Impact with James Shore

 In Podcasts

In this episode, Phil chats with James Shore.  James teaches, writes and consults on Agile development processes. He is a recipient of the Agile Alliance’s Gordon Pask Award for Contributions to Agile Practice, co-creator of the Agile Fluency Model, and co-author of “The Art of Agile Development”. James has also been named as one of “the most influential people in Agile” by InfoQ.


­­­(0.31) – Phil started by asking James to tell everyone a bit more about himself. James explained that he started his I.T. career as a programmer. In 1999, he was introduced to what was known as Extreme Programming (XP), which is the most prominent of the Agile software development methodologies. At first, James was not convinced, but when he tried it, he was hooked. So much so, that he decided he could not work any other way. At the time, he could not find anybody else working the XP way, so he decided to teach the method himself. That is how he became an Agile consultant.

(2.45) – Phil and James discuss the fact that Agile is not new. It has been around for just over 20 years now and the movement is really gathering pace. However, James does point out that “a lot of what people call Agile is not really Agile.” The quality of implementation varies quite a bit.

(3.26) – Phil asks James to share a unique IT career tip. James responded by saying you need to “make a point of understanding the business impact of what you’re doing.” He went on to remind everyone that a typical software team costs circa $1 million to run. A cost that has to be covered by the value the team adds to the business. He highlighted the fact that a 5% improvement in a team’s performance is worth at least $50,000. When you ask for something to improve efficiency remember to make the business case and explain the cost savings clearly.

(4.44) – Phil asked James to share a business experience from which he learned something important. For James that happened 20 years ago. At the time he was working for the firm that provided the robots used by Intel to move silicone around on its chip production line. James was part of a team who worked on a distributed system that had multiple services running on different computers. Each service worked in its own environment, but when they hooked it all up the problems began. At the time, the waterfall or phase gate development method was the norm for software development. It was supposed to be a flawless development process. But, in reality, it was not. That project and several others James worked on that followed the standard “waterfall” method were disasters. At that point, James realized the futility of a development method that tried to predict everything in advance, lock things down and come up with the entire design. He also saw how dangerous it was to wait to the very end to validate the work and make the biggest decisions. It was then he understood the flaws of the way development was managed 20 years ago. It was this experience that helped him to recognize the true value of Agile development methods when he was introduced to them.

(8.51) – Phil asks what James considered to be his best career moment. James explained that about two years ago he consulted for a start-up that had just gone public and had growing pains. They had 40 teams, so keeping tabs on what they were all doing was impossible. Plus, there was a lot of interdependency between teams, so everything took forever. James discovered that waiting around for another team to do something was causing 95% of the delays. On one project, during a 3-month period, only 3 or 4 days of real work could be done. This stop-start, multitasking way of working, was terrible for focus too. James minimized the teams and got the firm to start by working on the smallest projects that added value, first. These changes minimized the amount of inter-team dependency and got everyone working together and actually delivering working projects fast. He also encouraged teams to solve more of their problems internally. The net result of his changes was that they reduced the delays from 95% to 0%. Most MMFs were completed in just a week or two. The company thrived and grew very quickly.

(12.49) – Phil wants to know what excites James about the future for the IT industry. James explains that the fact the industry is so young is exciting because it means change is possible and can happen quickly. Agile is the exact opposite of the Waterfall way of working, yet in less than 20 years people have adopted this new way of working. That is a 180-degree change. In an older industry that just would not happen. In I.T you can suggest new ideas and people will actually be willing to try them.

(15.05) – What is the best career advice you have been given? James responded with three words “be well-rounded”.

(15.11) Phil asks if you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? James says that he would focus on networking and finding a mentor.

(15.20) – Phil asks James what he is focusing on, right now. James says he is really focused on his business The Agile Fluency project.

(15.29) – What is your most important non-technical skill, the one that has helped you the most in your career, so far? James says my “curiosity, flexibility, and a desire and willingness to experiment.”

(15.40) – Phil asks James to share a final piece of career advice. James says that if you are working somewhere that does not enable you to do your best work you should try to change that from within. If you discover that is not possible, you need to move on and work for another organization.


(3.13) – James – “A lot of what people call Agile is not really Agile.” “The actual implementation tends to vary in quality by quite a bit.”

(3.25) – James – “One of the most valuable things that you can do for your career is to make a point of understanding the business impact of what you’re doing.”

(11.50) – James – “We went from 95% delay for most teams we got it down to zero delays, no delay at all.”

(12.12) – James – “It’s a big cultural mind-set change. And making that sort of change requires making sure that everybody’s involved and understands how they benefit from this change.”

(13.15) – James – “Every single company of any size whatsoever needs software. Anybody that’s larger than tiny needs custom software.”

(13.25) – James – “It’s a young industry. It’s open to new ideas and ways of working.”

(13.37) – James – “Best practices, at the time, was waterfall, which is basically the exact opposite of agile and now 20 years later, agile has taken over the world.”

(16.08) – James – “Don’t put up with mediocrity. Don’t put up with a lousy work environment, just because it’s got a great salary.”



Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-shore-7475b6/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jamesshore @jamesshore

Website – www.agilefluency.org

Personal Website – www.jamesshore.com

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