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Event Report: Code Lab

Event Report by Pavel Dabrytski

I had an opportunity to attend Code Lab conference which took place 31 July – 1 August at Erinvale Hotel and Spa in Somerset West. And I must say it was great: great people, great topics, great venue…

But let me start from the beginning. This year the SUGSA committee decided to skip Scrum Gathering like last year and organise something little bit geekier. I was sceptical: tickets only became available one month before the event and the program was only finalized around the same time. But within matter of 2-3 weeks all tickets were sold out! How? Well, check out the topics

Most of the sessions were hands on, so a day before the event I prepared: installed necessary tools and packed my computer mouse and charger. But in fact during the event I was able to pair with other guys. Which I personally prefer, as this way I not only learn something new but also meet interesting people.

The biggest nightmare for the organisers was internet connectivity. When more than a hundred people tried to connect their laptops, iPhones, iPads (and whatever other devices people have invented) to the free Wi-Fi at once… well, it failed.

But let us go back to the event. There was mixture of local and international speakers (Jeremy Lightsmith and William Rowden). And there was something you don’t always see during such time of events: all the speakers were honest and open. They were open about their success and failures. These people really inspired the crowd! Have a look at this video for example, starring our international speaker Jeremy Lightsmith .

Attending this event was a good way to stay up to date with new tools and new technologies. There was plenty of time during the coffee breaks to socialize and network. And after the first day many people stayed in the local pub for a drink. It was an opportunity to meet people with experience and who have already done their research, you avoid making the same mistakes in future.

I also came out of this event with a significant list of books I would like to read. This list will probably keep me busy till the next year.

Erinvale Hotel and Spa team was at their best too, making sure everyone has fresh coffee and muffins and delicious lunch.

So if you attended the event with me, I would like to ask you the question:

What will you do differently?

Wisdoms from the Practical Agile Release Planning and Prediction talk

It was great hearing a product manager’s perspective on release planning and prediction. You don’t hear enough talks from product managers and the way they want and do things. Thank you Cliff Hazell for the talk and thanks to Unboxed Consulting for sponsoring the event.


#2 always gets promoted
I guess it depends how you look at this one. Who remembers Charles “Pete” Conrad and Alan Bean, the second guys to land on the moon? Sure I understand that you need to be second to become first. However what should you do when you become the president of earth?

That Steve Jobs quote about passion

Be passionate about your work, daily. If you lose the passion, you will lose yourself. I’ve started living this in the last year or two and it’s amazing. Frikkin love what you do, at work and at home. What’s the use you settle for anything less?


We learned that wordpress > twitter > facebook > linkedin. See some slides section below.

That Einstein quote about solving problems and thinking

This made me think about a quote one of my friends always says: today’s problems are caused by yesterday’s solutions. We need to think and react about things at a deeper level. We have to change our way of thinking to a systems thinking way. The fifth discipline is a good read about this.

The Japanese inspect and moer the hell out of things

Mura Muri Muda – Unevenness, Overburden (over working), Waste (non value added). Running at 100% isn’t great as it leaves no space for anything else. I didn’t get the just of this section as the late comers distracted me :/

Say no by default and force people to sell the value to you


Meeting = Massive waste of time

Implement No-Meeting-Mondays, slim down meetings and make them optional. Timebox it. Schedule meetings to end just before lunch time. I suppose this also depends on the type of meeting. Don’t make the daily scrum optional.

The sooner you get working software out, the better. Release often. Cliff mentioned that his company went from 4 releases per year, down to 4 releases per quarter.

Know where in the process you are at all times. This can be achieved by using processes and tools (because there is value in the items on the right)

Cliff uses Trello to track his product backlog and if I understood this correctly, Trello replaced the scrum or kanban board in his company

You are only able to predict what you know. He is able to predict with certainty what will be released within the next 3 months. He has a broader plan for the next 6 months, and that’s where it stops. Deadlines stays intact for 6 months He uses Liquid Planner to help with the predictions. There was a strong feeling from the audience that it’s a gantt chart. However Cliff has made it work for them. Inspect and adapt I suppose?

Strip down the product backlog as much as possible. If something is on it longer than 3 months and it hasn’t been started, bin it. If it is important enough, it will come up again. You will spend all your time grooming and too little time developing if you have a massive product backlog

You always need to get buy in from management. If you don’t have it, you are wasting your time. Cliff gets the execs involved in the prioritization part of the process. After this the teams can get going with minimal interruptions

Cliff mentioned that it’s better to do changes when it is cheap and early in the process rather than later in the process where an entire feature needs to be undone to cater for something else. In a way this sounds to me like bad architecture. My opinion is to think things through and build systems as generically as possible. Any change should then be easy.


Some one-liners here:

People is more important than process.

Share metrics with the teams. They need to see what the execs see as well. Show it live if possible

Know your customers and people working for you. Do happiness surveys on staff and customers. I’m reminded of a niko niko calendar here

Happy teams do great work.

If it’s rotten at the bottom, someone screwed up on top

Focus on the long-term rewards. What you do needs to be rewarding.

Book list

Gerald M Weinberg, check out his retro website. Not sure which book Cliff referred to, however on a quick search it looks like these are his more popular works:

  • Understanding the Professional Programmer
  • The Psychology of Computer Programming

People ware — Productive Projects and Teams (ISBN 0-932633-43-9) by Michael Lopp. Cool intro on Michael’s site

Drive – Dan Pink

There was another book he referred to, called meeting creatures I think, I didn’t get the author though. Cliff also mentioned something about churn- the silent killer. Could you please give some clarity on this?

Rework – 37signals

The Fifth Discipline – Peter Senge

Tools list


for kanban / scrum board

Liquid planner

Very gantt charty, however they’ve adapted it to help predict release dates and it’s been working well over the last 6 weeks.

Value graph

Some slides graphics

The pendulum process

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

These are my opinions and observations only and not necessarily correct.

Peace and love and happiness

CPT Event Report – Scrum in the Pub

Continuing with our ‘events with a difference’ theme for this year, we decided to give the lecture hall a break this month and head down to the pub!

It was a beautiul Winters evening in Cape Town and Ferryman’s in the Waterfront played host to the first SUGSA Pub Quiz.

Four teams competed for a range of prizes and Sam, Karen and Austin did a fine job of playing Quiz Masters on the evening.

We played five rounds where each team had around 2 minutes to answer 5 Agile and Scrum related questions.

The founding fathers of the Agile Manifesto, the commonality between Jeff Sutherland and Tom Cruise and deciphering some pretty hectic acronyms all featured.

The ‘Killer Real Scrum Masters’ were the evenutual winners and each team member received a R200 voucher compliments of Kalahari.

Close in second position, with only 4 points behind, was ‘The Wall Flowers’.

All-in-all, a really fun evening where good times were had, good food and drink, and a lot learnt.

We have had some trouble with our video recorder, but with a bit of luck, we’ll be able to publish the full video online soon. In the meantime, have a look at our photo’s from the evening below.


Event Report: Collaboration and Communication

I had the pleasure of attending the session from Brent on his experience working at KRS, his (and the companies’) agile journey. But more than just an experience report, the session had gems of real life experiments, experiences and things that worked for them around distributed teams and how important communication and collaboration was.

Brent took us back to the Agile principles highlighting 2 that are the cornerstone of the implementation around practices for improving communication during their Agile journey.

1)      Business people and developers must work together throughout the project

2)      The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

One thing that stood out for me was that experimentation was needed in always improving ways to collaborate and communicate. For distributed teams the knee jerk reaction is always to find a tool to facilitate interactions. “Let’s give it a go”, should be used by all Scrum teams, if the experiment did not work at least you know and hopefully you have learned something. There are no silver bullets in Agile for distributed teams, to say something will work for you does not mean it will work for me, thus try something! And give it a go.

Next we had a guided discussion around 3 scenarios (3 teams), we had to highlight possible concerns and then to actually think about ways of addressing them.

1)      Remote Product Owner

2)      Multiple Vendors

3)      Large Projects (integration between teams)

Apparently beer was a solution to a lot of the concerns…. Seriously, getting to know the people you are working with towards a common goal will do wonders for the success on how they collaborate.

Brent closed the evening by giving some practical tools they have used on projects to address some of the scenarios and which created some thought provoking ideas to see if we could have a check in and see how the community implemented some of the tools or ideas presented.


  • Team Viewer
  • CI (Jenkins)
  • Campfire
  • Scrumy
  • Design Boards
  • Google apps & Project Wiki
  • Etc.

Thank you once again to Brent and our sponsor KRS for a great evening.



Event Report: Root Cause Analysis and A3 thinking

The session started with an explanation of the 5 Whys, which Carlo likened to an annoying toddler. I had never thought of it that way – but it is very accurate!

In our groups we picked between 2 techniques: 5 whys and cause & effect diagrams, and applied them to an exercise – 3mile island. Reading about 3 mile island – you couldn’t help but be shocked and amused at the number of things that had to go wrong for disaster to occur – and how quickly they had happened.

During the exercise the parts that stuck out the most for me were:

  • Break the problem down to the human level, if you’re still at a machine level – dig deeper.
  • Each step can have action items, but you should expend most of your energy at the root level.
  • How you phrase your question is important, try various questions and see where their path leads you.
  • Try not to find THE root cause. There are usually many. Don’t worry if you don’t have clear 5 steps, most of us had tree’s.

Think of 5 whys and Cause & Effect diagrams as training wheels. Use them to practice the skill and discipline of asking questions and delving deeper into the problem. Another technique is a fishbone diagram – but I have no idea how that works.

We then looked at the A3 template: This is a techniques to force you to do more than just analyze the problem. Each A3 has both an owner and a mentor.

You look at the current condition, and explain the background – why is this important?

Root Cause analysis is one part of an A3 and should be done with the group closest to the problem – those involved.

Carlo mentioned some books to read for those interested:

Thank you to our sponsor, Alacrity for the snacks and drinks 🙂

Event Report: Building self-organising teams with Information Radiators

The self-organising team. The stuff of dreams, the dreams of team members and “management”. How do we throw off the shackles of accidental oppression and liberate teams to do their best work? David will share some of his insights from his experiences building and re-building teams. Key to great teams is communication, both internally and externally.

Information radiators are the things we stick on our walls and plaster on our development environments. We see them every day, they radiate information. The art of crafting an effective radiator is something that David has been trying his hand at for a while, and he’ll introduce his take on the core library and some friends.

Particularly interesting is how radiators can hurt or improve a team’s autonomy, innovation and quality. The tension that binds radiators and self organisation is expressed by Peter Drucker: “What gets measured, gets managed.” Let’s explore how we measure, who does it, and what do we really want?

David will be presenting on this topic at Agile Africa in May. This SUGSA sneak-peek will be the first time this talk has been presented, so please bring your critical thinking caps and add to the conversation.
Say something about information refrigerators and making it easy for the team to do it and hence wanting to do it.  Lofi around accuracy – don’t imply accuracy.   I think there was a YAGNI comment in there.


Hmmm… can’t remember much else.  Other than Aslam digging into multiple views of the data is good but make the data DRY.

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

Cape Town: Release Planning with Scrum: Controlling the Chaos

Join SUGSA Cape Town on 2 February when we have Release Planning with Scrum: Controlling the Chaos.

When: 2 February 2012, 6:00PM

Topic: Release Planning with Scrum: Controlling the Chaos                    

Sign up: Please sign up here in order to help us with catering.

Allan Gray Portswood office in the Presentation Room on the third floor. You can download a map here. Everyone parking in the Portswood parking area will have to pay for their own parking tickets. There is also parking available in Beach Road.

The Agile Manifesto tells us that we should be responding to change over following a plan.  This encourages us to plan into the future at the last responsible moment.  But we still may need a plan.  A plan can help inform our customers what may be in the next release or by when their favourite feature may appear.  They can help inform stakeholders on the cost of the current focus and hence whether the investment makes sense at this time.  These are Good Things for a business.  The essence of agile planning is to understand that the plan may change.  The plan must be reassessed for validity every time new data comes into the system – usually at the end of a sprint. Plans often allow us to appear more certain than we may actually be.  The hardest part with planning in Scrum is ensuring that everyone understands that things change and we will respond as soon as they do.  Effective agile planning allows us to more reliably respond to the changing business and market needs as early as possible.

In this talk I will discuss some of the techniques that I have used over the last couple of years to do release planning.  I’ll touch on of some of the things that have worked for me and some that haven’t.  The ideas will range from some simple maths, to reporting release progress through a release burnup and overviews, to the how to deal with change and ensuring that people understand what it means.  I hope by the end of the talk I will have shared some ideas and generated some conversation around controlling the chaos that can surround a software development release.

About Patrick Vine:
Patrick VineI started my career more than a decade ago at Microsoft in Redmond. Since then I’ve moved through different companies as developer, architect and manager in diverse technologies and industries.  I first started to dabble in Scrum a couple of years back while working at Yellowtail Software where I helped the roll out of Scrum. While there I gained an appreciation for how well you can manage software using Scrum.  I’ve worked on Fixed Price, Fixed Team, Fixed Budget projects. I am passionate about working with Scrum, learning more about software development and helping teams get better on a daily basis.


Sponsored by

Growing Agile

Event Report: World Cafe conversations

The coffee shop or cafe scene was set with mood-lighting and flowers on the tables; the only missing element was coffee, but the crowd made do with other assorted drinks.
We had a practical session using the World Cafe technique to discuss a light-hearted question – “How can SUGSA be more?”. It turned out that the question was important enough to the extent that we spent two 20-minute sessions on it. A number of extremely useful suggestions and pertinent points of view emerged regarding the Scrum User Group of SA! The findings can certainly be carried forward as action points for the SUGSA committee. All of the ideas and thoughts were recorded on tablecloths by the groups of four at a coffee table.
The graphic recorder was Warren Maroon from the Ruth Prowse School of Art – many thanks Warren!
Click on the web album below to view pictures of the evening; the tablecloths, discussion groups and the graphic recording, cartoon-style.
Post a comment if you remember that one important thing you still wanted to say… or if you just want to give us your impressions of the event.

SUGSA – World Cafe

Event Report: Retrospectives – Get Better at Getting Better.

It was a cold and wet night, but many people still made it out to participate.  Many thanks to Cara for facilitating this discussion into retrospectives and for sharing her knowledge and learning from her experiences.

The flow of the sessions was standard retrospective style.   The agenda was laid out and we got down to the business of group discussion.

We broke into 6 groups to focus on the 6 parts of the retro.   But first – the whole group brainstormed the outcomes and the key factors for a successful retrospective.

We then brainstormed in our six groups – each on a board focusing on one of the stages of the retrospective.

After gathering the data, we each had 1 minute per board to read the boards – and then to dot vote the board of most interest / issue to you.  Each person had 2 dots.  We dug into the actions board and then started a more general Q&A which dug into some of the other boards.

So what we generated for the stages of the retrospective are below:

Everyone learnt something new and many learnt a lot new.  Many thanks again to Cara for sharing her experiences and facilitating the discussions. 

We closed with a quick raffle for a ticket to the Cape Town gathering.  Congratulations again to Tania who won the ticket.  We followed this with the usual drinks and snacks for more discussions around retrospectives and other things Scrum.  We look forward to seeing everyone at the Gathering next month!

Agile Retrospectives by Esther Darby and Diana Larson @
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink @
RSA Animate overview on Drive is @