Aug 18

12 Take Aways from Agile Africa 2014

Last week a few of our developers attended the popular Agile Africa 2014 conference held in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The two-day event was jam packed with interesting and thought-provoking topics and discussions.

Here is our list of 12 things that really stood out for us at the conference:

  1. Large organisations are turning to Agile methodologies in order to become more responsive.
    Agile has historically been the methodology of choice for start-ups and small companies. Larger, mature organisations have picked up on these successes and are implementing similar processes in an attempt to become more responsive to market and client needs. Slow production cycles and reactive planning just don’t cut it in today’s fast paced world.
  1. Reduce rather than add
    There are some key Agile processes that give the methodology structure and should largely be adhered to. The rest of the change process should be about removing processes that are holding up development. Frameworks and processes are there to help, not hinder progress.
  1. Being Agile, means being agile
    Finding your organisations Agile “sweet spot” is an iterative process that involves tweaking until you stumble upon something that works. What works for one organisation might not work for others. The entire team has to be open to change and adapt quickly during the process.
  1. It all comes down to the team
    Simon Stewart from CodeSkills brought up some interesting points in his talk: “We’re learning the wrong things”. Agile might help a good team become great, but it won’t help a bad team become good. At the end of the day, a product will only be as good as the team who built it. A few weak links will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of an otherwise great team. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Agile is the saviour for a weak team.
  1. It’s important to be able to measure results
    When adopting Agile, it’s important to set KPIs that are measurable. Bram Meyerson from QuantiMetrics mentioned some techniques that his company use to measure the success of a project. Whether it’s measuring velocity, the number of software defects, or some other unit of measurement, it’s important to always measure your team’s success. This helps organisations determine if current processes and money spent on change are worth it.
  1. Plan more
    Although organisations have processes in place, very little actual planning usually happens. Instead of spending a disproportionate amount of time on process admin, rather spend it on planning the project. Developers should plan code before they write it. Teams should plan with clients to make sure that the right features are delivered at the right time.
  1. Agile methodologies can also be applied to multi-client and non-software environments
    Mispah Carelsen and Lebo Moerane from Infoware Studios did an excellent presentation on their experiences using Agile in a marketing environment. They found that some processes are too restrictive, but after much trial and error, managed to put processes in place that work for them. Agile can be applied to almost any industry – it’s about tweaking until you get something that works.
  1. Agile can be used by virtual or remote teams
    Robert MacLean discussed some of the lessons learnt by the Microsoft ALM Rangers team. The greatest challenge that the team faced was that none of them are in the same country. By figuring out what the priorities were, creating detailed documentation, and video recording meetings, Robert’s team is able to work effectively. We really liked the idea of video recording meetings so that team members who aren’t present can catch up in their own time.
  1. Deliver the minimum viable product (MVP)
    Simplifying is one of the common themes of Agile. It’s important to remember this when speccing out features and writing user-stories. Product development is an iterative process. A key to success in product development is to develop a product that does something really well, not something that can do everything (especially at launch).
  1. Don’t forget testing and prototyping
    Renee Orser from ThoughtWorks delivered a fantastic presentation entitled: “Folding Usability Research into Agile development”. It was really interesting to hear how her team used paper prototypes throughout the development process and how it helped them speed up development and break the boundaries of technology deprival.
  1. There is no silver bullet
    Another common theme at the conference was that there is no silver bullet. There is no single methodology that is going to work for every organisation. There have been many very successful comapnies that have used the waterfall model and many have been successful with Agile. On the flip side, many have failed using both methodologies. Pabol Henriques mentioned that Agile is a set of processes that a team of people agree on. It is up to the team to make them work.
  1. Braamfontein is fast becoming a tech hub
    It was really nice to see that there is so much happening within Braamfontein. We are definitely keen to checkout Fakugesi, a digital festival happening in the Braamfontein area. It is really refreshing to see people getting excited about industry and technology in Johannesburg.

Thank you to Barry Dwolatzky and the rest of the conference organisers for putting on a top show. The food, venue, and speakers were all excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s conference and we hope to be back again next year.