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A conference
for the
leaders of
business agility

September 29, 2021
Atlanta, Georgia

A new perspective on business agility

Elevate Agile is a one-day event that’s dedicated to elevating the topics of Agile Transformation and Business Agility beyond the realm of practices and bringing together the Leaders of Business Agility who have been charged with navigating the complexity of enterprise Transformation.

September 29, 2021 at the Coca Cola Roxy
  • The Unpleasant Truth

    Agile has become a commodity and the community’s solutions are stale. Training, tools, and frameworks—they’re insufficient. And a culture-first Transformation isn’t the answer either.

  • Agile is Being Marginalized

    Organizations, especially large enterprises, are seeing diminishing returns on Agile and are less willing to invest in it because they don’t see it as a solution to their key business drivers.

  • Is This the End of Agile?

    It doesn’t have to be. For Agile to maintain its relevancy, the conversation has to be elevated beyond team-level activities and applied within the context of the entire enterprise.

  • Ushering in a New Era

    It’s time to take back the reins and thrust Agile back into the limelight as a first-tier solution to the business problems that large, complex organizations are facing.

Meet Your
2021 Speakers

Mike Cottmeyer

Dennis Stevens

Chris Beale

Brian Sondergaard

What’s on
the Agenda

Session 1

Agile... The Past 20 Years

Mike Cottmeyer CEO of LeadingAgile

This year the Agile Manifesto celebrates its 20th anniversary. As a document, it’s difficult to find an approach or philosophy or way of thinking that has more deeply captured the imagination of the world of software development. The Manifesto articulated four values and twelve principles that empowered small teams of engineers, working side-by-side with their customers, to deliver products early and often so we could get maximum feedback, maximum value, and strong attention to software craftsmanship and technical excellence.

As Agile grew in popularity, it similarly captured the imaginations of Project Managers, Directors of Development, and even Senior Executives. The promise of cost efficient, lightweight teams working with minimal bureaucracy and overhead, delivering working tested products on regular intervals, maximizing speed and return on investment, seemed almost too good to be true. Looking back over the past twenty years… it might be a good time to ask if it actually was too good to be true? Did Agile deliver the value it promised?

In his opening keynote… Mike Cottmeyer will explore what we’ve learned over the past twenty years about adopting agile practices and transforming agile organizations. We will take a look what the signers of the Manifesto got right, but why it’s incomplete as a model for scaling to larger enterprises. Mike will make the case for how we must elevate the conversation around agile, or risk Agile being relegated to that thing teams do which has nothing to do with running a business.

Now is the time to close the gap and elevate the conversation around Agile.

Measurable progress and quantifiable business results

  • System of Delivery
  • System of Transformation
  • System of Continuous Improvement
Session 2

Agile Transformation and Delivery Systems at Scale

The early days of Agile were dominated by small teams, often colocated, often working side-by-side with onsite customers… with autonomy over their technology stack… and the ability to do push button changes into production at a moments notice. The core organizing principle was that we had dedicated teams, working off a clearly articulated backlog of requirements, able to produce an increment of working-tested software on regular intervals.

As Agile got more popular, it got codified into methodologies like Scrum and SAFe. While these approaches are aware of the necessary pre-conditions to make themselves work, they didn’t meet teams where they were and provide guidance to help practitioners untangle their organizational designs and technology architectures. The net effect was often poorly formed teams, insufficiently clear backlogs, and the utter inability to produce a working tested increment of product at the end of the sprint.

Solving these problems requires that we look at the System of Delivery holistically and articulate a strategy for how we must form teams, feed those teams strategically aligned backlogs, and integrate and measure the output of multiple teams working in tandem, to deliver more complex, and larger scale deliverables. Cross team coordination and dependency management become an essential factor in making Agile work, especially in an early stage transformation.

  • Systems and Processes around Customers and Markets
  • Trustworthy System You Can Delegate Into
  • Theory of Transformation
  • It’s a problem of organizational alignment
Session 3

Establishing a Reliable System You Can Delegate Into

For years, the agile community has taken the approach that an Agile Transformation was about teaching people the principles, practices, and mindset of an Agile organization. While principles, practices, and mindset are incredibly important; they are insufficient for successfully orchestrating a transformation at scale. Everything about agile assumes that you have complete cross-functional teams, clearly articulated and strategically aligned backlogs, and the ability to produce a working, tested increment of software at the end of every sprint. This begs the question… what do you do if you don’t?

Over the past 10 years of helping orchestrate some of the largest agile transformation in the world, we’ve come to learn that the real work of an agile transformation is about creating the conditions for agile principles, practices, and mindset to take hold. In the small, it’s about how you form teams, how you build backlogs, and how you produce working tested software. In the large, it’s about creating a team based organizational structure, and agile governance framework, and metrics which support, enable, and reward delivering with agility. It’s about having a plan for what to do with dependencies, and more importantly, how are we going to break them.

Creating the conditions for agile to thrive, is as much about refactoring the organizational architecture as it is about refactoring the technical architecture. What compensating controls do we put in place while we are dealing with dependencies, and how to dismantle those controls once the dependencies are broken. It’s about having a clearly articulate end-state and a tightly orchestrated and funded plan for how you are going to get there. It’s about enlisting key stakeholders, aligning the enterprise, defining and end-state vision, a roadmap, and a credible plan that will move the organization forward with a high degree of certainty.

This talk will explore several models for how to think about defining your organizational end-state, how to break big organizations into smaller groupings of teams, and how to put together a credible and accountable plan for stewarding the organizational as it moves ever closer to greater business agility.

  • Four quadrants
  • Expeditions
  • Basecamps
  • Journeys
Session 4

Understanding the Whole... Why Changing the System of Delivery is Insufficient

Dennis Stevens Chief Methodologist at LeadingAgile

Most organizations view Agile as a way the delivery teams produce working software. Even when we get agile working well at the team or workgroup level, we often fail to consider how the rest of the organization will need to change to exploit this new delivery capability. Once we have a trustworthy system we can delegate into… one that that does what it says it will do, when it says it will do it… what has to change company wide for true business agility.

We will never get true business agility unless we are able to impact how product marketing and strategy works, how we do strategy articulation and delegation, budgeting and funding, technology and architecture, compliance and controls, talent and culture, and of course leadership and management style. It’s unfair to ask the organization to change how it governs until the new system is installed and predictable. But what has to change once it is?

  • Operating Model
  • Product Management
  • Strategy Delegation
  • Budgeting and Funding
  • Technology and Architecture
  • Compliance and Controls
  • Talent and Culture
  • Leadership
Session 5

Engaging the Enterprise at Scale... How To Get Everyone Else to Change

Chris Beale CTO of LeadingAgile

One of the challenges introducing agile into an organizational ecosystem, is that the principles, practices, and mindsets… the organizational structure, governance, and metrics… are orthogonal to how most corporations do business. Agile gets installed in the small, and is instantly at odds with the current operating model. It is incongruent with how work is funded and approved and to how the organization handles compliance and corporate governance. To even have a chance, agile is granted exceptions to these control frameworks, but in the end, these frameworks will limit our ability to make progress and achieve true business agility.

The goal of an early stage transformation is to organize our systems and structures around markets and customers. It is to use agile to create a reliable system of delivery, a system of delivery that executives can reliably delegate into to achieve their goals. Once we have teams, workgroups, and departments that can reliably, predictably, and economically solve problems for their clients, a world of options opens up for refactoring the organizational operating system to bring it into alignment with the delivery organization, and to make it an enabler of agility rather than an impediment to agility. Once the system is trustworthy, how do we begin to trust?

This talk will explore how to deal with annual cycle planning and move it to a more frequent exercise. We will deal with issues of batch size at enterprise scale. How to pivot the organization from project or business capability based funding to funding value streams. Finally how to move closer to continuous planning and continuous delivery and closer to an organization that is inspecting and adapting in real-time so that it can sense and disrupt and ultimately dominate it’s marketplace.

  • Trustworthy Systems
  • Better Bets
  • Align to Value Streams
  • Drive Continuous Feedback
  • Sense and Disrupt
Session 6

Calling Your Shots... Creating Safety, Accountability and Orchestrating Change at Scale

Brian Sondergaard Chief Innovation Officer of LeadingAgile

Change doesn’t happen by accident. Change must be planned, orchestrated, and held accountable. Many organizations have a Project Management Office that is responsible for setting standards, providing resources, managing work, and making sure the work of the organization is visible. We need to discover a similar mechanism for orchestrating an Agile Transformation. An Agile Transformation Office if you will. If such an office were to exist, what might it look like? What might it be responsible for? How would that office ensure the transformation was on track? And, what would it do once the transformation was over?

This talk will explore some of the more common elements of an Agile Transformation Office. How you create one. What services it offers. And it’s overarching responsibility to responsibly lead change. We will look at how it selects and supports pilots and develops transformation roadmaps. We will explore the role of agile playbooks, agile tooling, metrics and assessments. We will explore how training and coaching fits it and what you do with the rest of the organization that is excited to go, but isn’t on the near term roadmap. Finally, we will explore the relationship between the Agile Transformation Office and the Office of the CIO and what it looks like once the transformation is complete.

  • Transformation Orchestration (ATO)
  • Navigator
  • Playbook
  • Tooling
  • Assessments
  • Metrics
  • Reporting
  • Coaching
  • Expedition Readiness
  • Expedition Onboarding
  • Training
  • Safety
  • Office of the CIO (Dup)
Session 7

Agile... The Next 20 Years

Mike Cottmeyer CEO of LeadingAgile

Our industry is famous for hunting silver bullets. The one process, the one methodology, the one tool that will solve all our problems. For the past 20 years, agile in some form or fashion, has been that silver bullet. Like all silver bullets, they only stay shiny and new for so long, before we decide they didn’t work and we go hunting for something new. Will agile given way to scaled agile? Or business agility? What about Digital Transformation? What about the Product Driven Organization or Projects to Products? Are these new ways of thinking, new ways of working, or just a repackaging of the same old ideas, under the guise of new words and new product offerings from consultants and tool vendors?

In our closing Keynote, Mike Cottmeyer will explain how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mike will make the case that we are all hunting for the same solution, from different angles, using different approaches, through different lenses to evaluate what is most important. The reality is that it’s all important, and it all must be addressed, but it’s all related. It’s integral. The future will include agile, and scaled agile, and business agility… it will include digital transformation and devops, product driven organization and products to products… but it will have to integrate them if we are to succeed. Our hope for the next 20 years is that we distill an integrated organizational operating model that bring coherence to the entire delivery system.

This closing Keynote will take a look at just what that might look like.