Communities in Scrum

Episode 38

December 14, 2011


The Agile Weekly Crew and Perry Reinert discuss communities in Scrum.

Derek Neighbors: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the ScrumCast. I’m Derek Neighbors.

Roy vandeWater: I’m Roy vandeWater.

Perry Reinert: I’m Perry Reinert.

Chris Coneybeer: I’m Chris Coneybeer.

Communities In Scrum

Derek: Today we’re going to talk a little bit about “Communities in Scrum.” One of the things every team struggles a little bit with is, “How do you get outside of just your team”? Meaning, you can inspect and adapt all you want. But if the only model you have is your own, you probably are not going to inspect and adapt nearly as much as if you were influenced by other teams, other models, coaches, et cetera.

How do we get outside of our own insular team, and how do we get into a larger community? How do are you guys seeing people engage in community around Agile and Scrum currently?

Chris: For us, here at Integrum, we actually participate in the local user group, the Scrum Alliance user group, which is something where we get to meet people all throughout the valley here in Phoenix that are involved in Scrum and we get to talk to them about some of the issues that they are having their implementation and we get to learn from them.

It’s very beneficial, and Roy and I were just at a last week and had a great time.

Derek: Scrum communities are great for that type of stuff and even exploring some of the user groups that are for other Agile methodologies, like let’s say you’re doing Scrum, it definitely doesn’t hurt to try to attend somewhat on Lean or maybe Kanban type user groups as well to try to see things from another perspective, even if you have no intention of switching over to something like that.

There’s a little bits and pieces or technical practices that you might be able to steal and apply to your team as well.

Roy: I know a lot of communities have eXtreme Programming XP groups as well and that some of the bigger metro areas have XP groups. There is usually IIBA, Institute of International Business Analysts and PMI which both are starting to bring on some Agile methodologies.

For somebody, that’s a good place, maybe not necessarily to learn as much, but to share some of what’s going on. Especially, if you’ve done a Agile transition recently, probably a lot of people going through similar things to be able to share experience and share stories with.

There’s a ton in the way of good conferences and good ‑‑ I don’t want to say coaching opportunities ‑‑ but training opportunities out there as well, the Agile Open Series, the Open Spaces as well as Agile 2011.

Maybe as part of that, Perry, you were recently at Agile 2011. What were some of the things that you saw from a community perspective that you really liked at Agile 2011?

Agile Conference 2011

Perry: There was a ton of community. Just the way they structured the conference was really built around community. They had different stages. They had all sorts of different specific like birds‑of‑a‑feather type groups. After‑hours events were with those same various birds‑of‑a‑feather groups, and it was really cool from that standpoint.

Finding A Local User Group

Derek: For people who maybe live in an area where they’re not sure if there’s a Scrum user group, how would somebody go about finding a Scrum user group in their local area?

Perry: For us, the Phoenix Scrum user group, it’s really easy. We’re one of the top searches. If you just go out and search for Scrum in Phoenix, you’ll find us on Google. But since it’s a Scrum Alliance‑supported activity, we’ve registered with the Scrum Alliance. Anybody can go out to Scrum Alliance, and they actually have a find‑a‑user‑group‑in‑your‑area link.

You can look in your area and find a user group. We have a website,, and most Scrum Alliance‑based user groups do have their own website within their city.

Derek: Definitely I’ve noticed a lot of LinkedIn groups as well that seem to be regional around Agile and Scrum, that’s another good place to essentially get plugged in as well as maybe looking at and some of other areas or even Facebook searching some events.

Being involved a little bit in Phoenix SUG, tell me a little bit about what it entails. A lot of people may not have a local Scrum users group, and maybe they’re a little bit afraid to make the jump to actually run a users’ group.

Maybe tell us a little bit about what it took to get one up and running and then what it takes on a monthly basis. What kind of commitment does it really take to run a Scrum user group, and is it worth your time to do it?

Effort To Start And Run A Local Group

Perry: First of all, I definitely think it’s worth our time, and I’ll back up to the beginning. Anybody can just start a group. Get some friends, start a group, and start marketing. The next step for us was to make it a Scrum Alliance sanctioned user group.

What that allows you to do is to advertise on the Scrum Alliance site, post your meetings there, and it also allows you to use the Scrum Alliance logo with your web site. That gets you going. To get a website and have some page where you can post the date and the time and what the meetings are.

In terms of the monthly work, what we’ve done is, we have a steering committee. That’s just the original four guys that started. We meet once in between sessions, once between the general meetings. We think about what it is that we’re going to do for the next couple meetings.

It’s really about scheduling the next talk. Once you get the next talk done then it’s the marketing.

Putting in a plug for InfusionSoft here. We actually have InfusionSoft. It’s an application that manages ‑‑ it’s really made around lead management ‑‑ but that application, we have a web form up that collects people that are interested. They give us their name and address, goes right into the database, and then they’re automatically sent the updates, every month, about who’s talking and what the topic is.

For me to manage that is just incredibly…it’s like an hour a month now. Once that was setup, the form on the website to capture name and email, goes right into the database, and the emails go out automatically.

Then we also advertise, we have Yahoo! Groups, and LinkedIn. We do some other postings as well.

In terms of the actual amount of work during the month, if we all get together, then that’s an hour or so of generally pretty fun discussion about what to do, and we always get on some sort of Agile topic talking also.

Then there’s the meeting, which is, we run them six to about eight, once a month.

Finding Content For Meetings

Chris: When a lot of people are trying to get user groups up and running, one of the questions that comes up a lot of times is content. How are you going to get speakers? How are you going to get somebody to get up in front and present? Are there any tips or tricks that you have for maybe four or five guys who are getting together and trying to start a group?

Perry: Yeah. First of all, usually those four or five guys are good for one or two talks each. Get one to kick things off. What we were actually able to do…and if you are a new group starting out, you’ll probably have a good chance at doing this. We actually were lucky enough to get Ken Schwaber to come and give, I shouldn’t say come, he gave the first talk.

That was actually a challenging talk. He did it remotely and in the end, for that one, we ended up holding a cell phone to a microphone to handle the audio. So, I don’t recommend doing a remote talk.

Derek: A very tight inspect and adapt loop.


Perry: Yes. That’s exactly what it was. It’s great. If you can do that, and kick it off with a big name like that, that’s great. We had 80 or 100 people at our first meeting. That really helps get the word out and then market it.

Our email list now, because we have that web form, I get five people every month that just sign up. That’s been going on for over a year. Plus, we started with a bunch. I think our list is 5‑600 people now that get the emails that say, “Somebody’s come, here’s the talk.”

Special Guests

Derek: Another thing that we’ve started to do that helps a little bit too is ‑‑ we’ve tried to make relationships with the CSTs that are teaching in the area. Whereby we help them promote their upcoming classes in exchange, at their classes, they let their students know that there is a community here. After they’re done with training that they can plug in to go look deeper is to participate in a group, helps quite a bit.

Perry: Yeah, that’s really a good point Derek. It’s one of the things they love to come, give their talk…You’re looking at 20, 40 new people potentially and it’s also easy to get them relatively easy to get them to cough up a free CSM Certification as a giveaway and that’s always nice to have to.

Restrospecting As a Group

Roy: Something else that helps to, that I’ve seen, you guys have known for the last few meetings is having retrospect at the end of each one. So that the people who attend this Scrum user group actually get a say in how it’s going to continue and what pieces to keep and what pieces to throw out. So it’s not you guys guessing what we as attendees want, but actually listen to our feedback.

Perry: I agree. That’s something we’ve incorporated actually relatively recently and it’s really working out well. Everybody likes it.

What Are The Down Sides To Running A Group

Chris: Speaking about the user group, is there any downfalls that you’ve had over the last year plus and anything that you would recommend?

Perry: No, No. There is really no downfalls, the only challenge is that every once in a while you end up where you have a month like when you don’t have somebody scheduled and that always feel like, “Oh, we got to do something, we got to do something.”

But like I said, if you start with that core set of guys, and as you start branching out, and if you let people know that you’re looking for speakers…We always have somebody who wants to speak and there’re so many topics out there, on fun stuff, on games, on just all the topics available. We always end up getting it.

It’s not always a big name or a CST, but we always get it. It’s funny because a lot of those turn out to be really good ones, because you end up talking about something that local people want to hear and it’s not a canned talk from a CST. It’s real.

Derek: Yeah, I would say, two of the best scrum groups I’ve have been to wherein the presenter was more of a facilitator in letting questions coming from the audience and then letting the audience talk about the questions and you’ve got some real scenario‑based takeaways and people got really engaged.

I really encourage, even if you don’t have a speaker, just get another practitioners together and talking in a format is extremely beneficial.

Perry: You’re absolutely right. Any meeting you can get, however many people, five people and say let’s build the backlog of 5 or 10 things to talk about and prioritize the backlog and pick the first one and start talking about it.

You’re right. We’ve done that probably three or four times over the last year or so and those turned out to be really good talks.

Derek: Any final thoughts or questions?

Chris: Not from me.

Open Spaces & Regional Conferences

Roy: You’d mentioned earlier a little about Open Spaces and I think you’re talking about the [inaudible 13:42] one, and there’s few other Open Spaces.

If you can find one that’s in your area and attend that ‑‑ that is really a great way, where you’re almost forced into meeting a whole bunch of people that are active.

That’s where you’re going to find out where all the best user groups are and you’re going to meet a whole bunch of friends where maybe you’ll find out that there isn’t one in the area and you must get a group of friends at it to start one, if that’s what you decided to do. So, that’s really a great way to get started.

Derek: There’s definitely one in Southern California](, one in Northern California, and there’s one in the Pacific Northwest that alternates between Portland and Seattle, every winter, every February. All of them are really great opportunities.

Perry: And I was going to add to that also, just get out there, all those user groups, go to conferences, go to open spaces, other users groups that are related that aren’t even necessarily agile user groups.

If you go to those groups, you’ll meet people and you’ll be surprised because there’re lots of people going to non‑agile, non‑scrum user groups that are actually really interested in agile, and scrum and those technologies.

Derek: One of the things that you think Scrum user group is doing in accordance with the scrumcast is we’re publishing interviews after every one of our meetings and they’re available on iTunes, as part of this podcast.

It gives you the idea of who attends user groups and the stuff that is important to them and makes them tick and we’d love for you to share what your Scrum user group is doing, if you got one as well.

Thanks very much for joining us then, we’ll see you next time.

Perry: Thanks.

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