Tag Archives: Cape Town

Cape Town March 2014: Product Roadmapping 101

Product Roadmapping 101

When: Thursday, 6 March 2014, 18:00 – 20:00

Where: Allan Gray (download map)

Sign up here


In today’s agile world, do we need still need roadmaps? If you had asked me this question a few years back, I would have probably said it is not necessary and a waste of time. However, my opinion is somewhat different now, if you are managing products, a roadmap is essential. It pulls together ideas from those internal and external to an organization. The roadmap is a strategic communication tool and a key delivery in the product planning process. In this session, I will highlight the relevance of roadmaps even in the agile world. We will look at how to build a roadmap that sticks and how to go about getting organizational buy-in.

by Annu Augustine

I am a product manager and love living at the intersection of business and technology. I get very excited when I see simple products because I know there is a great team behind, I believe a product is a true reflection of the team that created it. These days I focus on product strategy and product management in an agile world.

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

Cape Town May Event: Predictability vs Adaptability, who wins?

When:  3 May 2012, 6:00PM.   We are back to our Thursday slot

Who: Mandy Schoeman

Topic: Predictability vs Adaptability, who wins?

Venue: 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.


Sign up



While classic waterfall is based on defined methods and stands for predictability, Agile is empirical and stands for adaptability.  Agile is not just about avoiding the pitfalls of developing the wrong software or product but is used to reduce overheads and keep them as low as possible. Considering both these methods have their own strengths and weaknesses, which one would you use to get the best business value and biggest return on investment (ROI)?

This practical workshop uses a fun game to demonstrate the benefits of choosing Agile over the traditional methods. Each attendee will receive the complete game instructions to enforce the benefits of BEING agile in their approach to software or product development.


A bit about Mandy Schoeman:


Mandy is a passionate people’s person with an enthusiasm for Scrum and Agile. She is a Professional Scrum Trainer with more than twenty years experience in the field of Further Education and Training.

Mandy uses training, coaching, agile games and facilitation techniques to help teams stay inspired focused and motivated, enabling them to reach their goals and achieve successful project delivery.

You can follow Mandy on Twitter (@MandySchoeman), check-out her website or connect with her on LinkedIn

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: http://www.crisp.se/lean/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 🙂

December SUGSA event – Pecha Kucha

First of all, the fact that I am only blogging about last months event, a mere two hours from the start of this months event, is definite grounds for an apology! Better late than never they say?

The first Thursday in December. Four confident looking presenters got themselves geared up. No walk in the park this. Each presenter had only 6 minutes to get their message across. Each slide had to be no longer than 20 seconds. What I didn’t know, until that evening, was that each slide had to automatically be set to transition after 20 seconds. No pressure!

First up was Sheetal Gordhan. Scrum is not for the faint hearted was her topic!

I’m looking at my notes now, and I see the Ken Schwaber quote: “Scrum is hard”. And right next to that I have Sheetal paraphase: “This kak is hard”. I like Sheetal’s version 🙂 I remember us all having a good chuckle, leaned back in our seats and took in a nice big gulp on our drinks. Our evening was set, we were here to have some fun!

Sheetal’s presentation reminded us that only a small percentage of teams are actually successful in Scrum. It’s really not easy and we need to prepare ourselves when we embark on this journey. Even though there are 1,000’s of articles online, it’s still not enough to prepare us for what lies ahead.

I can honestly say that I, in 6 minutes, had learned more about what a newbie organisation to Scrum should expect than I have in any course attended or article read.

My favourite slide of Sheetal’s. Hmmm, this is a tough one, there are so many. I liked the Google statistics of how many results one can expect when searching for Scrum information. But one that really stood out for me was the All Blacks doing the haka. Titled ‘Scrum Rituals’.( Remember, this event was in early December, only a few weeks after the All Blacks were crowned World Champs!). What are your development teams rituals? The usual stand-up and retrospective, or do you have something unique?

Next up was Meloné van Heerden, with her presentation entitled, What makes a great leader. Meloné had recently attended a course on this subject, and used the opportunity to apply her learning’s into the software development, in particular, Scrum, environment. One could see that the learning’s had a big impact of her, as her talk was passionate and energetic.

The subject of an ‘authentic leader’. What is an authentic leader? Or rather, what makes a leader authentic? Mel took us through the 6 step of process of discovering the authentic ‘you’. A necessary self-awareness process. A look at intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

My favourite slide of Meloné’s. I personally liked the way in which she modelled the need to effectively set a leadership example, with well-known figures. Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama featured, with Obama’s family an example of how important it is to build a support network. But my favourite would have to be a slide which represented who we sometimes don’t change. Any guess who features? Have a look at the photo below.

Next up, the good man David Campey. David had an interesting approach. Each of his slides represented a photo he had taken of his agile working environment. We got to meet his team. His manager. His Product Owner.

It told a story of a project. Starting from a photo of his Product Owner, looking very visionary in a room with blue-sky type walls, through to photo’s of his team hard at planning, and ending with his team out on a boat trip 🙂

I’ve always found it fascinating to see how other organisations work. How they approach their Scrum repertoire. Especially local companies.

David’s presentation was recorded, so please have a look for yourself. I’ve already sent this out to my development teams. Motivational stuff!

And finally, Karen Greaves, who needed little introduction off course! Her talk was titled: “Agile Management: How to create a culture to help your team succeed.” It was awesome! Need I say more. Who thought a talk about management could be fun 🙂

Thank you to everyone that attended. And a big thank you to our four brave presenters. You were all superstars!

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

How to make your Dev team exceptional

High quality software that meets the business needs can only come from an exceptional development team. Lets talk about the secret sauce needed to make your team exceptional.

Stand-ups every day? Check.
Impediment-removing Scrum Master? Check.
Product Owner who understands prioritising? Check.
Teams that deliver working code every sprint? Check.
Review every sprint? Check.
Retrospective every sprint? Check.

Does this make your business truly Agile? For me there are a couple of checklist items missing:

Development practices that deliver high quality code?

A team of developers who understand one another and operate as a cohesive unit?

Team productivity doesn’t drop when a particular team member is away?

How would you answer? How would your developers answer?

It’s bring-a-dev-day at SUGSA! In fact bring your whole development team.

About Austin Fagan

I work for Unboxed Consulting.

I started writing software in 1999. I think I’m as bad now as I was then. So I don’t code now, my team keeps me as far from the codebase as they can, they shudder at the thought of me coding. I still can’t help being passionate about development. Weird.

I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to Agile techniques and great development practice since 2006 and I’ve been boring people silly about both since.


Sign up at Event Brite



Cape Town: World Cafe conversations

Join SUGSA Cape Town on 6 October when we have World Cafe conversations.

When: 6 October 2011, 6:00PM

Topic: World Cafe conversations

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.

One of the most effective ways to think beyond the boundaries of one’s own frame of reference is the input of others. World Cafe as a facilitation technique and catalyst for drawing from other people’s experience and opinions is true to our most fundamental form of communication: conversations.

The session will be highly interactive and probably leave you feeling a bit exhausted… But hey, no-one ever said that exhilarating discussion and loads of fun must be easy!

The main outcome of the evening will be that you, as a participant in the World Cafe process, will be able to facilitate a World Cafe at your workplace, in your community or at any gathering of people with a specific issue to resolve.
A secondary outcome will be that we, as the Scrum User Group, will deepen our purpose and direction.

Alwyn van Wyk and a graphic recorder/cartoonist

(ps: The image accompanying this post can be found on Avril Orloff’s web site along with other great examples of graphic recordings of World Cafe conversations.)

Cape Town: Retrospectives: Get better at getting better

Join SUGSA Cape Town on 4 August when Cara Turner discusses Retrospectives.

When: 4 August 2011, 6:00PM

Topic: Retrospectives: Get better at getting better

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 coolest idea across the Agile methodologies is continuous improvement – the real opportunity to get better at whatever we do, built into the work we’re doing. And the coolest tool for driving change and surfacing the potential waiting to be tapped, is the team retrospective.

This mostly interactive session is an exploration of facilitation techniques that stimulate, focus and energize engaged teams, offer fresh ways to look at issues and opportunities, and create the conditions for team ownership, self-organization and excellence.

About Cara Turner
I’m an Agile-passionate Scrum Master, and take the Prime Directive to heart through all the ups and downs of software development. Given the right circumstances, I believe all teams are capable of creating the best software there is – but getting to those right circumstances is the challenge facing most organizations. Facilitation has become a vital tool in my kit for harnessing the knowledge of those closest to the work, to direct their own meaningful change.

Cape Town: Discovering the value of Domain-Driven Design

Join SUGSA Cape Town on 7 July when Herman Lintvelt facilitates a workshop on Domain Driven Design. Read More…