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Event Report: Release Planning

For SUGSA’s first event of 2012, Patrick Vine shared his ‘just do it’ attitude to planning agile releases.

With an emphasis on simplicity & transparency, he starts with high-level release planning using magic estimation at a feature level to generate a gut feel release date, develops detail in backlog grooming, and uses a comprehensive set of spreadsheets for reporting. These and the talk slides are all available on Patrick’s blog.

The overall message was an emphasis on communication throughout the release.

Communicate that:

  • The first guess is just that – ultimately just an input into a “go / no-go” decision on the project,
  • Change will happen – make sure everyone understands that
  • Communicate all changes as more detail becomes known, and
  • Communicate alternate options so that decision makers are informed

I liked the point “the numbers rarely lie… but you may have forgotten something” – followed by a useful list of things we frequently forget to accommodate.

Discussion points:

  • How to handle large unknowns (epics and themes) – suggestion: use estimates as constraints when fleshing out the stories
  • Who should estimate, when (sometimes the PO’s gut feel can help clarify expectations)
  • In groups: how we handle release planning in our teams – lots of good sharing here

Coaching Circle Roundup

It’s 2012, everyone is back in the groove after December holidays, so it’s time to get the circles going again. We will be kicking off on Monday 13 February, atLots are people are asking me about coaching circles. How was the retro, when are they starting up again, can they join, etc. I though it might be time for a post.


Last year ended with a great retrospective on the final round of coaching circles, facilitated by Cara Turner. This was the first round of circles where we split into 3 types: mentoring, coaching and dojo. It seems the end result was very positive. People loved the new circle types! See the photo’s below for the outcomes of the retro.




First we made some posters about the sessions.







Then we talked about things we didn’t like (burnt toast), things we loved (ice cream) and things we’d like to try (experiments)









In the end we had some suggestions and next steps actions


Onwards and upwards

It’s 2012, everyone is back in the groove after December holidays, so it’s time to get the circles going again. We will be kicking off on Monday 13 February, at 6pm. Please signup if you will attend. If you are keen to join a circle or even just find out more about them to decide if they are right for you, then make sure you get yourself to the kickoff. As always those who can’t attend the kickoff may still join circles by adding their details to the coaching circles google doc. However please note, those at the kickoff get first preference for circles of their choosing. Also for newbie, it’s highly recommended you come to the kick off to get an idea of what’s involved and how it works. Remember we will need hosts who can offer venues, signup in the google doc if you can offer one.

Signup for the kickoff here!


And the winners are…


Last month we ran a “nominate for Neuland” competition for people to nominate the most influential agilists in their environments. I’m please to annouce our winners who each get a pack with a SUGSA moleskin notebook and 4 Neuland markers. A big thanks also to the community for appreciating those around you. See below for the inspiring text we received for the nominations.

  • Aslam Khan
  • Samantha Laing
  • Melone Van Heerden
  • Claude Botes
  • Sharna Sammy
  • Gerald Stober
  • Kevin Trethewey
  • Maritza Van Den Heuvel
  • Rian Van Der Merwe
  • Andre Venter

Aslam Khan received two nominations

I nominate Aslam Khan. Why?  For being involved in the world community and for share his learning with all of us that software development is hard but it is possible to learn how to make less of a mess some of the time.  He is inspiring with his positive, humble, patient attitude to helping people understand simple design and agile software development.  There needs to be more developers in the South African agile community like Aslam.

I nominate Aslam Khan. Though he doesn’t like stationary at all. Aslam has inspired and motivated me to do thing I never thought possible in the last year. He remains calm and thinks out of the box. He usually pokes at me to look at situations from all angles and then encourages (and pushes?) me off a ledge I am scared of.Thanks to Aslam I have become more, believe more and behave less 🙂

Samantha Laing received two nominations

I would like to nominate Sam Laing as she is always willing to help, introduced the coaching dojos concept to the community and is shamelessly addicted to the acquisition of neuland markers.

Sam Laing for two reasons:

1: Agile Games! Fun! Awesome! With great learning comes great laughter 😉

2: Sam is a source of wisdom and strength in our company’s agile transition. She is always focused on how to move forward from a situation, not only offering insight but helping each of us to find the path of action we are most committed to taking for ourselves, which makes her an excellent coach. And in all our challenges and successes, Sam exercises greater diplomacy than anyone I think I’ve ever worked with – deep respect.

3. (Yes, of course there’s a third). Sam’s appreciation for Stationary is beyond measure. She deserves Neulands! And they will definitely be going to an awesome home 😉

Melone Van Heerden received two nominations

We would like to nominate Melone van Heerden from Allan Gray.  Two and a half years ago, she was the first dedicated Scrum master in the retail IT development space at Allan Gray. It was her responsibility to prove that dedicated scrum masters can be justified in our organisation. With relatively little experience and no role models for support, she worked exceptionally hard at making it a success.

Based on her impact in the teams she managed, our company decided to recognise scrum masters as a first class citizen in the development space and we employed an additional 2 dedicated scrum masters for retail IT – a ‘luxury’ which many agile environments don’t have.

We believe that Melone was instrumental in making this luxury a reality for all our scrum teams. This year she took Scrum to our Institutional business. Our institutional business has replaced their core system and recognised the success of Agile in the retail business unit.  The institutional development team had a fairly different culture and she had to show that Agile could add value in their environment.  At the same time she had to continue to run her scrum teams on the Retail side.

As a learning organisation Allan Gray tested its assumptions with regards to Agile in retail IT. We considered structural reporting changes and the implementation of the scrum master role in two teams. The teams having experienced both dedicated and part time scrum masters accepted only the structural changes, supporting the scrum master role as it has evolved in the past three years. The success of Melone and the other scrum masters has convinced our organisation of their importance in a variety of ways.

We have yet to meet somebody who is as passionate about what they believe in as Melone – she eats, sleeps, breathes and believes in agile – its thanks to Mel that Allan Gray can consider themselves part of the South African agile thought leadership!

I’d like to nominate Melone Van Heerden. She is a regular attendee at the monthly SUGSA meetings, and although she is not a committee member she has been instrumental in securing the Allan Gray venue for the monthly SUGSA meetings. She works behind the scenes for every event to make sure we have the room setup we need, the slides preloaded, and the signin sheet at reception. What impresses me most about Mel is her humility and willingness to learn from others. She never thinks of herself as an expert, even though she is probably one of the few (many only) people I know who have held a ScrumMaster position at a single organisation for 2 and a half years.

Claude Botes

Claude Botes age 23, he is a colleague of mine. I started working at a software developement house recently, KRS (Khanyisa Real Systems). Our developement team is one of 3 working for the same client, each team works on a different part of the system (with regard to business value). We currently have a scrum master, who is very efficient at her job. But what about my colleague Claude? Well, Claude has been a developer for at least 5 years now and understands the project and all its dependencies extremely well from a technical perspective. It is this combined with what I have to say next, that puts Claude on an extremely good footing toward an agile management role. Over the last while, Claude has upped his game dramatically. He has started ensuring the team understands the project from a business perspective, and at the same time makes sure they understand its importance, that they invest in the project / system and ultimately fall in love with it.

Claude has opened my eyes to the agile movement. He has made me realise that agile is not one method, but a consumption of many that make up an agile approach. He has taken the time to comprehensively study material and now sends out a weekly letter on attaining an agile approach. Claudes key feature is that he hits the developer with the language and the desires a developer has. He speaks to the people who make the system, and who are therefore the ones who need to be invested in, from the same platform. His desire to build relationships and coach the people who need it, not only make me want to see agile in my developement style, but life in general.

Although our company is aiding Claudes objectives generously, personally, I think Claude deserves more investment and opportunity than he can get from any single software developement house. From the time I’ve known him, he’s proven himself not only to be a man of his word, but one of solidarity. We’ve spoken about many things and what strikes me about his way of life, is how he is where he is because of his own sweat and toil. He works for what he gets, in and out of the workplace. This, is evident in his approach to agile coaching. This is evident to not only myself, but others too. Unfortunately, I am not able to convey to you just how he shapes our team, coaches individuals and pushes for agile objectives, because I simply do not have the experience in project oversight and guidance to do so. So although I have said some things here, be sure I have missed many key points. So whether you’s consider Claude as a nominee or not, I’d just like to assert that he has definitely made a difference in the way I see software developement. Thanks bro…

Sharna Sammy

I’d like to nominate Sharna Sammy. Although she is new to the agile community, she heard about agile through her husband who works at Web Africa, she immediately understood it to be something great she could use. She jumped straight in and gave it a try. She also gave a lightning talk at this year’s Scrum Gathering, and is now a member of a mentoring circle. What inspires me most is her enthusiam to learn as much as she can, and her undying energy for trying new things.

Gerald Stober

My nomination is for Gerald Stober.  He has been inspired my agile journey this year by being instrumental as a mentor. We have had healthy debates, sessions of knowledge sharing and experiences. He opened my eyes to see the benefits of scrum when you internalise and see the potential it has (I previously came from a PM background) We have been doing Scrum in our  teams for just under 2 years and it was time to take our team a level up in the process. I myself had to be certain that my level of knowledge and role as SM could unleash what the team was about to experience.

He encouraged me to attend the SUGSA events, the Scrum Safari and Agile circles (which we currently host at our office). Through this I was able to mingle and converse with like minded agile enthusiast. My hunger for being more versed in Agile practices increased and so did my passion within my role, I wanted everyone to feel the excitement.   Through engagements, watching video’s by different Agile practitioners, daily emails, reading and  pushing me into situations that made me “bring my role” as SM to the team,  Gerald influenced how I thought about things, approaches to use  and to gain the confidence to be able to nurture, facilitate and help my team to grow and mature within the process.

Kevin Trethewey

My vote goes for a scrum passionate member of that first JHB coaching circle: Kevin from

Maritza Van Den Heuvel

I’d like to nominate Maritza van den Heuvel for the inspirational agilist thingy. She is ferociously  passionate product owner, she runs two (count em two) blogs including one on doing Kanban with her kids. She was instrumental in bringing David Anderson to South Africa and effectively kickstarting the interest in South Africa as a result. She ran an awesome session on Product Ownership at the Gathering. If only SUGSA meetings weren’t in the evenings we’d see more of her, but her voracious twitterings are a remarkably close substitute, and of course I can’t wait to see what her contribution to the upcoming “Scrumban” new edition is likely to be.

Rian Van Der Merwe

My nomination is Rian van der Merwe, Head of Product and User Experience Design at As a Product Owner, I consider Rian an inspiration and role model. Through his talks and blog I have picked up lots of good  ideas to further the agile product management cause in my own environment. When I needed some specific advice about getting User-Centred Design going at my previous company, I was also able to bounce ideas off him over e-mail. Despite his success, he remains approachable and willing to share. That’s what being agile is all about!

Andre Venter

I would like to nominate Andre Venter. I have been a systems analyst for many years and I’ve always gone the “go live in one go” route.  Andre is quite an evangelist on the scrum issue and for my current project I’ve tried to use the principles of scrum that he has painstakingly explained to me J.  I was dubious to begin with and although I’m not going the ‘pure’ scrum route, I’ve split the project into functions and am working on taking them live one at a time.  It’s working very well and both my boss and users are happy since they are able to see something that is working without waiting so long that they’ve forgotten what they asked for 😉


Nominate for Neuland

As you may know if you attended this year’s Scrum Gathering, here at SUGSA we LOVE Neuland markers. We happen to have a few left over from the goodie bags, so we thought about running a competition: Nominate for Neuland:

Nominate  the people who have been most influential in your agile journey this year. They don’t need to be a member of SUGSA, but they need to be living in South Africa. Write up a short paragraph on why they have inspired you, and send it to info <at> scrum <dot> org <dot> za, before 21 November.

We will  post a list of nominees with their stories, and ask the community to vote for the 10 most deserving agilists. Each winner will receive an awesome gift pack including a SUGSA moleskin journal and 4 Neuland Big One markers.

Get nominating!

Oh and the small print… Any SUGSA committee members are excluded from winning, since you know we love those markers so much we might just rig the votes to get them 🙂

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Cape Town: Coaching Circles Kickoff

Passionate about Agile? Keen to grow your Scrum skills? Want to meet others who have the same challenges you do? Join a coaching circle.

Coaching circles are groups of people interested in Scrum and Agile who meet one a fortnight for 90 minutes and discuss a topic the are all interested in. Read about some of the things people have said in the past about coaching circles here.

If you are interested in joining, or in finding out more, make sure you attend the next kickoff session.

When: Monday 18 July 2011, 6pm

Venue: DVT, Annexe A, Long Kloof Studios, Darters Road, Gardens. See a map here.

Signup: Please signup here.

Willing to host: We need people to volunteer as hosts for this round of circles. Hosts are people who provide the venue for a coaching circle. You don’t need to facilitate the session, just be able to provide a venue where 6 people can meet in the evening. We are looking for venues all over Cape Town. The venue can be a meeting room at your office, or your lounge at home. If you are able to host a venue, please add your details to the following spreadsheet.

Coaching Circles Retrospective

Another round of coaching circles has drawn to a close. We held a retrospective on Monday at 6pm. Here are some of the things we discovered in the retrospective.

We started with a quick checkin, here are some of the words people used to describe the coaching circles:

So what did we learn?

Most people agree that we are doing some things right and should keep doing them.

  • Meeting once every 2 weeks
  • Keeping groups to 5-6 people
  • Timeboxing to 90 minutes
  • Rotating facilitators
  • Having a range of venues including some in the northern suburbs
  • Communicating our learnings via the agile anonymous google group

We also agreed on a few changes.

  • We should try only send emails about whether we can make the circle or not to our direct circle members, not the whole AA group
  • Facilitators should do a SUGSA blog post on the topic after each circle
  • We should extend the circles so that we have 4 sessions in a particular round
  • All circles should have snacks, we are all jealous of the Tiramisu group!
  • We should write up a ‘tips for facilitators’ document to help first time facilitators know what to do
  • We should try be a bit more organized in how we assign people to circles at the kickoff
  • People hosting a venue should be at the kickoff to meet people from their circles, especially newbies

The actions we agreed.

  • Karen to do a blog post on the retro (and here it is).
  • Karen to send out a mailer to the SUGSA list about the next kickoff on 18 July (watch for that soon)
  • Karen to announce the next round of circles at Thursday’s SUGSA meeting (let’s hope I remember)
  • Emil to setup a google spreadsheet for upcoming circles so that people can offer venues and put their names against circles before the kickoff
  • Neil will start a document on tips for facilitators and will share it with the AA group

That’s it. Watch out for a mailer soon on the next circle kickoff session, it will be on 18 July at 6pm, still confirming the venue…

Hope to see some new faces joining our circles soon, and for those of you in Jhb, I’ve also been running a skype circle with some folks in Jhb to show them the ropes, once that wraps up next week, I’m sure the Jhb SUGSA folks will kickoff some circles there too.

Call for speakers

Submissions are now open to speakers for the South African Scrum Gathering. We are looking for local and international speakers. We will even pay you cash for your time, and give you free entry to the event if your proposal gets us excited. Check out more information, and the submission form here.

For everyone else, make sure you reserve the dates in your diaries. 9 September in Jhb and 13,14 September in Cape Town. It’s coming, and it’s going to be Scrumalicious

ScrumMaster Job available

SUGSA was approached by some members who wanted to let other members know about Scrum positions available at their company. We decided to ask the community what we should do. The majority voted that they would like to hear about these jobs. Previously we had a page for this, but with the website redesign we’ve decided to change this to blog posts on our community page. SUGSA does not profit financially from this, and does not vet either the jobs or the candidates involved.

If you are interested in applying for one of the jobs please follow the instructions below for the job you are interested in.

If you are interested in posting a job at your company, please email sugsa-com [at] googlegroups [dot] com, and we will do a blog post on your behalf.

Date Posted: 12 April 2011
Position: ScrumMaster
Company: Allan Gray
Contact Person: Michael Groenewald
Job Specification: Allan Gray ScrumMaster Job Spec
How to apply: If you are interested and believe you will be able to excel in this role , please send your CV to Michael Groenewald (michael [dot] groenewald [at] allangray [dot] co [dot] za) for consideration.

Scrum Gathering 2011

We are thrilled to announce we will be having another Scrum Gathering in South Africa this year. Events will take place in Cape Town and Johannesburg. For more information check out the Gathering page. We will be adding more information regularly as we finalise details. Check back soon.