Meet Brian BrownJul 06, 2017 | By Gordana Goudie
Agile Training Opens Doors to New Opportunities
Scrum Certification Program Graduate Bolsters Career in Software Development
When Brian Brown and his colleagues took a team building course at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), little did they know it would be a catalyst for change in their company. The Building Effective Teams course marked the beginning of a rewarding relationship between their employer, Concurrent Computer Corp. and GTPE. Soon after this first class, Brown, then director of program management, and several colleagues were back at GTPE – this time to learn about the discipline that would transform their software development processes from Waterfall to Agile: the Scrum certification program.
Having used Waterfall for years, Brown’s employer was ready to invest in changing to Agile. Brown saw Scrum training as an opportunity to prepare himself for the upcoming changes in the business. “I recognized the Scrum program would be of great benefit to my role,” Brown stated. “My primary goal was to understand the fundamentals of Agile software development as we developed strategies to facilitate a transition from Waterfall processes.”
When it came to Scrum training, the Concurrent team had many options, some of them conveniently located close to their offices in Duluth, Georgia. Yet, Brown and his company’s leaders chose midtown-based GTPE citing reputation as a crucial factor. ”The programs offered by GTPE are backed by Georgia Tech, so we knew we could trust them even though Scrum is relatively new,” he said.
Another deciding factor was the team’s comfort levels with their team building instructor at GTPE, Jim Consuegra. He had recommended the Scrum program and introduced Brown and his colleagues to the Scrum instructor, Timothy Korson, whose background turned out to be an ideal match for their aspirations. Prior to becoming an Agile consultant, Korson worked in industry and had experience in Agile transformation and implementation. Brown and his leadership team were confident that Korson would be able to impart the knowledge they needed to implement Agile principles. “Dr. Korson’s practical Agile experience provided additional credibility to the training,” Brown explained. “His ability to translate fundamentals into real-world scenarios was the message that resonated with us.”
Concurrent had previously attempted to transition to Agile but was unsuccessful because the company hadn’t taken measures to ensure that Scrum practices could be maintained. This time, it was different. Lessons learned after the first attempt led them to set up tools and processes to ensure that their newly trained employees would be able to sustain Scrum practices.
As they began to transition to Agile, Brown and his colleagues found that they had misconceptions that the process was fluid and less disciplined than Waterfall. Instead, they discovered that they had to hone in with discipline and structure because of the tighter timeframes. “You must schedule and plan resources all the time,” Brown said. “Because of the shorter deadlines, you have no wiggle room.”
And yet, it’s the shorter timeframes that lead to benefits for the company. “Being Agile means getting immediate feedback from customers in parallel with planning for the next set of deliverables,” Brown stated. By using Scrum principles, his team gets rapid feedback from the sales and marketing teams, which ultimately ends up creating value for the company. By delivering components of products as they are developed rather than only the full product at the end of the production cycle, the company reduces its risks. By getting immediate feedback from their customers as they release parts of a product, they are able to address issues as they come up and minimize the chances of defects at the end of the process. With Scrum, Brown’s team works on a six-week schedule and releases the final product three to four months earlier than they did in the past.
In addition to improved productivity and higher customer satisfaction, the transition to Agile has helped the company win contracts it was unlikely to have won before. “The fact that we use Scrum sends a strong message about cutting-edge practices at the company and being able to do more with less,” Brown said.
From a personal perspective, the Scrum certification program has opened doors for him. As a project manager from a manufacturing background, he was new to software development. Building expertise in Agile has helped him to establish himself in the software environment and advance his career. Three months after completing the program, and a successful adoption of Agile, he was promoted to director of shared development support services.
Brown believes the program has broadened his understanding of schedules and resource planning. While traditional project management assumes that circumstances will remain stable during a project cycle, the general practice is to plan a buffer in case of unexpected changes. Agile, on the other hand, assumes constant change during product development, so the approach is the opposite of project management. The Agile method enables him to plan for four to six weeks while focusing on a two-week delivery schedule. With his team, he delivers projects in smaller increments and works on shorter feedback cycles. His company’s business, he claims, is more responsive to this method. “The work has a higher degree of success and feels more valuable.”
In his current role, he is responsible for process, infrastructure and all deliverables related to software development except code development. His training in Agile enabled him to understand how the different elements of each project work together, leading him to come up with a way to receive immediate feedback. He and his team partnered with executives and senior leadership to establish a continuous delivery lab that tests products and gives feedback within eight hours, which is a significant reduction from the original two to three-week feedback schedule. He credits the Scrum certification program for being able to come up with this innovation. “Agile training gave us insight into how to develop and introduce this asset into our development processes.”
For Brown’s career and for Concurrent, the future looks bright. Next on the horizon for the company is gaining headway to the software defined storage market, for which Agile is essential. With business growing quickly, according to Brown, and Agile practices firmly entrenched in the organization, Concurrent is well positioned to beat its competitors in this new market. For Brown, this means new career advancement opportunities. Thanks to his rigorous Scrum training and real-world experience in Agile, he’s ready for them.