Wrapping Up TDWI – Agile? You Bet. And You Should.

I’ve posted twice about TDWI’s San Diego event, and I still haven’t exhausted the thoughts I wanted to share. That’s a measure of just how important and successful I think the show was. Three things jumped out at me:

  • The audience is back, and it’s ready to spend. The event was buzzing; I was told by organizers that the numbers significantly exceeded expectations. That was easy to see; speeches, booths, and hallways were packed. Vendors told me booth traffic was great, and that visitors (although typically not budget holders) were in or preparing for projects and product acquisitions.
  • The hunger for content continues. In my session and in others, I saw show-of-hands responses to questions like “how many of you have been here before?” “How many of you have built this kind of system?” “How many of you have been trained on [pick a DW-related topic]?”  The responses made it clear that like other TDWI events I’ve been to, this one was packed with people who were new or intermediate users with training in mind. TDWI’s basic training mission has never been healthier.
  • Agile matters. A lot. My first post on the event was put up rather quickly and as the event progressed, I heard the theme flesh out well, with real stories from users who applied the techniques to their projects. My initial impression that we might be looking at another buzzword poorly applied was wrong. Agile’s real, and TDWI’s coverage and guidance is rich and well worth investigating. The vendors? Well, they’re doing what they always do. Caveat emptor. I repeat: it’s not an adjective.  Learn what it means and apply it. You can’t buy it.

The last point above drives a few more thoughts about Wayne Eckerson’s keynote and my comments on it. Wayne had little time to work with, and left the nuance and details of Agile to the agenda speakers who followed. As chairperson, he made the right decision, an unselfish one. Having chaired conferences of my own in my Giga and Forrester days, I applaud his willingness to cut his own time to literally less than a half hour to let his speakers shine.  I was hasty in my comments about his choices – he was clear on the topics he would have covered if he had more time, and subsequent diligence on my part (and his gentle prodding and pointers to prior work TDWI had done on the topic) reveals more detailed examination and training of Agile than I knew was in place.

As I said earlier, the speech itself was a good one, well delivered. And I withdraw my content-based “unsatisfied” comment, Wayne built a conference to tell the Agile story, and didn’t attempt to cram it into too little time in his own speech. Instead he delivered some tips to a crowd that hopefully understood how surprisingly radical some of them were. As I’ve said elsewhere, we who live in the future sometimes forget what’s going on in the present – TDWI’s strong connection to current user data keeps it grounded, and Wayne’s tips captured what leading organizations are doing today – some of which are different in surprising ways from past practice.

TDWI gave Agile credit, and covered it well. BI developers should learn what it can do for them and use if as a bridge to their colleagues in other programming groups – it has the potential to be a shared set of assumptions, processes and practices that bridge what often are separate organizations.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

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