Overview and Key Themes of IIL’s 2021 Agile & Scrum Online Conference

IIL’s 6th annual Agile and Scrum Online Conference: Co-Create for Greater Value opens on June 3, 2021. Our theme this year is Co-Create for Greater Value. In this article, we’ll preview what you can expect to take away from this unique learning event. View full event and registration details here.

Agile has become one of the hottest topics in the project management world, mainly due to its proven success in software projects and its ability to deliver quick and real value to customers. Today, agile concepts have expanded well into nearly every industry, across products and services. In a post-pandemic world where disruption and change is the norm, an agile mindset and approach are front and center for individuals, teams and organizations alike.

Agile and Scrum concepts are about everyone on a team coming together, and being empowered to work towards an end goal, with a customer-first mindset. Where do teams even begin with agile transformation? How can we create business and customer value? What kind of culture and mindset can drive success? What can we do differently, with our teams?

Our goals will be to understand: Agile transformation at a team and organizational level; creating value in client-centric processes and projects; and the crucial soft skills that enable collaboration and creativity. Let’s take a deeper preview.

Agile Transformation

Enterprises across the globe are evolving to become agile organizations to thrive in today’s unpredictable rapidly changing environment. Agile transformations are long-term journeys that begin with an open mindset and vision from the top. Embedding new ways of working, applying enterprise-design thinking and customer centricity in problem solving are key themes of agile transformation.

To start us off, join us for the keynote on Agile Leadership & Enterprise Transformation with Marcel Greutmann, VP Cloud Advisory Services at IBM Europe. Marcel will share his enterprise transformation perspective from working with firms across Europe, Asia, and the U.S. His personal insights grounded in real-life stories about what works and what doesn’t will inspire you in your way forward.

Helping us Scale Agile with Simplicity by eliminating complexity in large Agile programs will be Tyler Spindel, Agile Program Lead at Capital One.

Stuck on your Agile Journey? Become a Learning Organization, says Scott Ambler, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute (PMI). His keynote will explore how to apply the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit to improve your continuous improvement strategy.

And when is the ‘right time’ for a team to scale agile? To help us make sense of the choices, timing and elephant traps involved in scaling Agile, join Roy Shilling, Senior Agile Coach and Trainer at IIL in his session The Do’s and Don’ts of Scaling Agile.

Creating Value in Client-Centric Processes

Attendees will learn the practical tools and skillsets needed to drive an agile approach in teams and organizations. We’ll hear from CEOs of leading agile startups, Agile practitioners, coaches and thought leaders who will share key ideas and knowledge that can help you lead with an agile mindset and skillset.

What’s it like to be working in 3 hour sprints at some of the top global automotive and AI companies in the world? Leading automotive companies are developing new digital products, services and interfaces at lightning speed. Don’t miss Agile at Tesla – The Misinformation that you can’t Apply Agile to Hardware, with Joe Justice, CEO of Wikispeed

There is no better place to learn agile than from the nimble start-ups that are leading the charge in the cloud-based computing space. In his session Shifting Left until We Shift Right, Rob Zuber, CTO of CircleCI will help us understand the principles such as DevOps and CI/CD in the context of agile development, and how scenario planning can minimize cost and risk while maximizing value delivery.

Learn and practice new and essential skills of Test-Driven Development: A Stunningly Quick Introduction, one of the foundational practices of high-quality product development in the session with Richard Kasperowski, author, teacher, speaker and coach focused on team-building and high-performance teams.

Understand the difference between pursuing agile and Leveraging Agility for Business Problem-Solving with Leila Rao, President of AgileXtended and creator of the Compass for Agility framework which enables organizations to shape their own compass as they adapt, innovate and thrive in challenging environments.

Learn how to create well-defined Value Stream Mapping, one of the most important Lean tools for an organization wanting to plan, implement and improve a product or service to the point of reaching the customer, with Jorgelina Bross-Puglisi, Trainer & Consultant at IIL

The newest kid on the block for project delivery is DevOps, a merge of development and operations. DevOps takes what is good about agile and builds on it with some key differences. Understand why DevOps is critical for many organizations and the success factors in delivering sustainable value from DevOps investments, in the keynote DevOps Will Fail, Unless … with Paul Wilkinson, Business Development Officer of GamingWorks.

Mindset and Culture

The greatest predictor of success is any project are the courage, the creativity and the conversations that we have with others.

How do you apply agile practices and practices at scale without stifling the creativity, autonomy, and energy of your teams? Aaron Bjork, Principal Group Product Manager at Microsoft shares his perspectives in The Intersection of Agile and Culture.

Learn the actions that everyone can take away to foster better conversations with stakeholders in How Daring to Dialogue Improves Performance and Creates a Culture of Agility, a keynote led by Marsha Acker, CEO of TeamCatapult.

In her keynote The Agile Mindset: Motivating vs Mandating Change, Dawn Nicole McIlwain, Agile Transformation Leader of BrandDisco LLC will offer you the key tips and techniques to overcome challenges in motivating your team towards a continuous Agile mindset.

Acknowledging our project stakeholders, team accomplishment with courage and creativity will be a key theme of The Grateful Agile Leader talk with Susan Parente, Principal Consultant of S3 Technologies.

Are you ready for change for yourself, your teams, and your organization as a whole? Move from Resisting Agile to Yes, Agile! with Louria Lindauer, Agile & Leadership Coach and Founder of Success Agility, LLC.

Learn from real-life experiences of coaches and practitioners who have been there. The New AI: Agility and Inclusion with Sara Murdock, PhD, Global Leader and Culture Leader will help you use Agile as a lens to put concepts of Inclusion, Belonging and Psychological Safety into action. Erin Bolk, Senior Scrum Master at National Guardian Life Insurance Company, will share the essential tools you can use to uncover challenges, strengths and possibilities with yourself, your team and your organization, in Showing Up to Be Your Best Every Day.

Additional Learning

Be sure to attend two on-demand courses (complimentary to attendees) that provide foundational understanding of key Agile concepts. Introduction to Agile for Executives presented by Max Langosco provides an overview of Agile values and principles, the key benefits of an Agile approach, and its differences with the traditional Waterfall method. Agile Release Plans with Jeffrey Nielsen will equip you with the necessary knowledge to bridge the gap between product vision and ‘product backlog’ as defined in the Agile approach. Both are presented by certified Project and Scrum Masters. Don’t miss these essential learning opportunities!

Register for the Agile and Scrum Online Conference today! Learn more about the event and register here. Teams and organizations requesting a group rate or unlimited license, click here.


Agile for Non-IT Projects

By Mohamed Khalifa
Project Management Consultant, Coach & PMI Authorized Instructor

Since seventeen people met in February 2001 at Wasatch mountains of Utah to discuss and draft the Agile Manifesto, software projects have been the main focus of Agile. Since this time, Agile became one of the hottest topics in the project management world, mainly due to its proven success on software projects and its ability to deliver quick and real value to customers, reduce the risks and increase collaboration between different stakeholders.

After years of using agile methodologies, tools and techniques many professionals around the world started looking at the Agile Manifesto through lenses other than software development. They proclaimed to very clearly see that the Agile Manifesto, principles, tools and techniques can make the same level of success on different types of projects in addition to software development.

In the current turbulent and fast changing world, we need to go back to the basics, back to the reason which made agile successful which is “be Agile, be Adaptive”. If we start referring to the main Agile Manifesto and do small changes in the statements, we will find that they will work fine with projects of different types.

Let us have a look at the Agile Manifesto which requires preference of:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,
  • Business value over comprehensive documentation,
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The above can work in any project and can be adopted as an organization’s philosophy to deliver fast, reduce the risks, solve the conflict between different stakeholders and clarify the requirements as we work on projects.

To successfully execute non-software projects using Agile, we can use the Agile principles to set clear expectations with stakeholders, bring sanity to project execution, and mine the benefits of Agile.

While this approach may look similar to the principles followed in an Agile software delivery project, their applications are quite different when it comes to non-software projects.

  • Define “Working Product or Service” can be used to refer to any deliverable that is produced by the project and brings value to the customer.
  • Define “Customer” can help us to define who is the ‘right’ Product Owner.
  • Define ‘Done’: Work with the sponsors and product owner to identify ‘done’ for each story/deliverable.
  • Measure Business Value: Measuring or establishing the business value of the work done is key for any project.

Since most of the deliverables exist as theories or prototypes, it is important to prepare a business case at the start of the initiative that clearly provides the cost benefit for this initiative followed by articulating the benefits achieved at regular intervals, preferably at the ends of iterations.

Expect the Unexpected: Project scope, objective, and goals are liable to change frequently and drastically. Therefore, go for shorter iterations, joint workshops, paired development of deliverables, continuous expert and peer reviews, and proper socialization of theories and ideas. Having senior strategists, architects, or consultants is helpful, especially if they have a deep experience on the subject matter as well as with the overall organization.

Did you try to apply Agile Mindset in your projects? Is it working? What was good? What was bad? Share with us your valuable thoughts.

Explore IIL’s Agile and Scrum Courses here or contact us at learning@iil.com or (212) 758-0177. 

Reflection and Takeaways on Agility from the SMC-IT 2018 Space Mission Design conference

By Tom Friend – Agile Consultant / LtCol USAF (Ret)

The 6th International Conference on Space Mission Challenges for Information Technology, held in Alcala de Henares, Spain, brought together scientists, engineers, and researchers from NASA, the European Space Agency, universities and industry.

Case studies on how agile methodologies have been applied to mission planning and how scrum has been used in spacecraft construction were discussed, as well as topics such as developing and delivering software, reliability and reuse of software, onboard processing, and communication.

Representing Scrum, Inc. as a keynote speaker, I opened the conference with “Scrum to the Stars” which looked back into aviation history and to the future of innovation in aerospace, and how Scrum methodologies have been, and will continue to be effective tools.

Iterative discovery has been at the core of aviation exploration since the dawn of flight. Whether it was the first aeronauts in balloons, or the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, explorers of flight used processes that built on incremental failures and successes. Aerospace design processes were modified as improvements to flight technology were discovered, and the knowledge base expanded. Empiricism and Incremental improvement evolved as a standard path to improvement.  This standard path emerges as patterns.  For example Interfaces in small satellites are deliberately over-designed to reduce need for disruptive renegotiation.  The pattern of S\simple pre-negotiated physical bus structure for data and power increase design versatility, and loose production coupling.  One of the most significant scructural patterns is that of standard adapters allows objects with incompatible interfaces to work together by wrapping its own interface around that of an already existing interface.  These are just some of the patterns that when combined defines the evolving path to improvement.

In essence, Scrum was there at the start of aerospace exploration. Over the years, as systems have increased in size and complexity, common sense has been lost, and projects hit overruns in both time and money spent. By utilizing an Agile framework, you can break down these complex systems into smaller pieces that can then be integrated into the whole design. The step-by-step, incremental approach can be an effective time and cost management tool.

Today the trend in space exploration is making small satellites. Frequently, these small satellites are part of a larger mission.  In doing this, risk is reduced by breaking a complex mission into parts and delivering it in smaller submission components. Think of it as component architecture with your software systems, same pattern. The end deliverable: small satellites that are tailored to a particular mission.

This approach complements Agile planning where focus is on delivering small increments of value and dedicated Scrum teams to build and deliver the satellites.   The success and low cost of small satellites with focused space missions is now mainstream with a standard type of microsatellite called, “CubeSat” that follows set size and weight requirements. This standard is a simple 6-page document keeping with the Agile tradition of minimum viable documentation.

CubeSats by necessity have evolved to leverage many Scrum in Hardware Patterns to speed development and reduce costs. This conformance to patterns has created a whole cottage industry of commercial off the shelf (COTS) suppliers.  They provide hardware and software systems and components that can be used together like LEGOs because they have standard power, size, bussing, and know stable interfaces that allow them to be configured quickly and with low expense.

One of my favorite ways to demonstrate how effective Scrum can be in a hardware setting is a class I give using the CubeSat format. This class is generally offered in a 6-hour format, and is very hands on. In this course, we build a 3D paper CubeSat with a specific mission. All the steps from mission design, roadmap, and components are broken down into a backlog and worked by a scrum team to deliver a fully functional model.  We then walk through the launch and operation of the CubeSat, discussing what each component is doing as it circles the table in the middle of the room that represents Earth.

This simple class exercise using scrum to build components and the visualization of talking through a mission shows how prototyping lets you see problems with design early and builds shared understanding on the team.  These are lessons that you can take back to your own teams to make them even better.

About the Author

Tom Friend is an accomplished Agile consultant, trainer, and coach with 23 years’ experience leading software development teams in various industries to include federal, banking, cable, telecommunications, and energy. He has 12 years of hands on Agile / XP / Scrum software development experience.  He is a distinguished graduate from Air War College and has a BS in Aeronautics.

3 Critical Similarities Between Project Management and Agile

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D.     |     Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

The intent of this blog is not to enter into the debate of whether or not Agile and Scrum are outgrowths of project management, but to show some of the similarities that between them that have increased their rate of success. There are three similarities that I will discuss.

Executive Understanding

Years ago, executives viewed techniques like project management as something that was nice to have rather than a necessity. As such, project management was seen as a fad that could disappear quickly. This resulted in limited support for any and all techniques like project management, except in a few project-driven industries where project management was a necessity.

The growth of project management, as well as Agile and Scrum, is largely due to a better understand of these techniques in the top floor of the building and the accompanying support. Consider the following words used by executives in describing project management:[1]

  • An international, multicultural and global approach
  • Allows us to capture best practices
  • A technique for continuous improvement
  • Selling customers on our project delivery process is just as important as selling them the deliverables
  • The processes increase our credibility as a trusted partner
  • Allows us to have repeatable success and accelerate the time to value for our customers
  • The processes provide us with a competitive advantage
  • The processes shorten our time-to-market
  • The processes allow us to create a more integrated and agile organization
  • The new processes allow us to eliminate unnecessary steps that we used before
  • We can now provide our customers with end-to-end multiservice solutions
  • We are now making decisions based upon facts and evidence rather than just guesses

These comments could very well reflect how executives see Agile and Scrum today rather than just project management. For many of the companies that speak these words, managing traditional, Agile or Scrum projects is more than just a typical career path. In these companies, once every few years, there is an assessment as to which four or five career paths are a necessity for the company’s growth over the next decade. In these companies, project management, Agile, and Scrum mastery are now seen as some of the four or five strategic competencies necessary for the firm to grow. The support for these processes now exists at the senior-most levels of management.



Within the last decade, significantly more companies have begun trusting project leaders to make both project and business-related decisions. For decades, many of the business-related decisions were made by the executives, project sponsors or business owners. Simply stated, there was an inherent fear that project leaders would begin making decisions that were reserved for the executive levels of management. Decision-making controls were put in place.

Today, we believe that we are managing our business by projects. Everything we do in the company can be regarded as some sort of project. As such, project leaders, whether in traditional project management, Agile or Scrum, are seen now as managing part of a business rather than merely projects, and are expected to make both project and business decisions, within certain limits of course.



When mistrust prevails, executives maintain control by developing rigid methodologies for managing projects. The methodologies are based upon rigid policies and procedures, and every project manager on every project must follow the same policies and procedures described within the methodology. While project leaders may be allowed to make “some” decisions, all critical decisions are made by the project sponsors or the executive levels of management.

Today, rigid methodologies are broken down into four components; forms, guidelines, templates and checklists. As a project leader, picture yourself walking through a cafeteria. On the shelves are all the forms, guidelines, templates and checklists that make up the methodology. Because of the trust placed in you, you have the right to select only those forms, guidelines, templates and checklists that you need for your project. This is a freedom that did not exist years ago.

Agile and Scrum activities, as well as many forms of traditional project management, use the term “framework” rather than methodology. Frameworks are flexible and allow the project leader and the team to select which of several tools will be used on a given project. There may be as many as 50 tools from which selections can be made.

In my opinion, the biggest reason why Agile and Scrum have been successful is because of the trust that senior management has placed in the hands of the project leaders, or Scrum Masters as they are called in Scrum. Accompanying this trust is the freedom to use only those portions of the framework that are appropriate to satisfy a particular client’s needs.

These three similarities are greatly enhancing our success rate on traditional, Agile and Scrum projects. Are there other similarities? Most certainly there are. But in the author’s opinion, these appear to be the most critical today.

[1] Adapted from Harold Kerzner, Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence, IIL, and Wiley Co-publishers, 3rd edition, 2013; Pages 13-15


Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks, most recently Project Management 2.0.