My Learnings: Using Agile Technologies

MEST, Tuesday December 1st 2015

Its been a month since the first ever Agile in Africa Conference, held here in Accra, Ghana.
In this post, I will go straight to narrating my learnings and key highlights from the event.
For non-tech audience (not that the applications of Agile is limited to tech people), Agile is simply some set of methodologies for managing and delivering software projects. It proposes the idea of team rather than functional departments; daily stand-ups and continuous iterative developments.
I was first exposed to the literature of Agile methodology while doing my final year undergraduate project on Business Process Improvement.
Being an Entrepreneur-in-training at MEST, we are privileged to meet and network with top industry people in the global startup space. So we happened to host the organizers of the Agile in Africa conference for a day at the MEST campus.

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I will narrate my key learnings from this and the actual conference held at the Labadi hotel, Accra.

NB: This post is not a short course on Agile or Scrum, it’s rather my learnings from the conference and my thoughts about some things working for me and my start-up. See this for more details on agile/scrum.

Key Learnings

  • Build a strong community around an idea/product before scaling

Ok. This sounds like a no-brainer. But in reality it isn’t. For most part, we jump straight into thinking of how our app would scale to 10,000 users after launching version one (MVP — Minimum Viable Product). For instance, my team are working on disrupting how fashionable ladies dispose their once-used clothing(see alpha site at From the learnings, we have resulted to fully focusing on building a community around this idea. With this we are validating the different business and delivery models and optimizing those we would pick up when we decide to scale. This approach might not lend itself to all types of businesses. Continue reading to find why.

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  • Scrum shortens product development time:

This was demonstrated by a simple role-playing activity. Because scrum is based on breaking task into smaller units and doing each piece in parallel within a paced time in cross-functional team while pushing this incremental changes to user, it tends to cut product delivery cycles to ¼ or better, the same time it would have taken in traditional product development cycles.

  • Agile principles are hinged on people:

Well, the fact is that most product development methods (design thinking , traditional product development, [more]) all hinge on building a product around the user. But Agile adds the people building the products into the whole people-oriented perspective. In the Scrum sprint cycle, there is something called Retrospection. This happens immediately after a sprint. Retrospection aims to gain empathy in the team. In your team, you ask one another about the way you work as a team. Not about the product, but more about your relationships and how this played out during the last sprint. What worked and what should be improved upon. Team members are encouraged to be open about each other and have a heart-to-heart conversation about themselves. Well, this is the biggest part of scrum for me.

  • Agile/Scrum is a mentality not some bunch of how-tos:

The facilitators kept saying “Agile is a mentality”. Imbibing scrum principles means that you have to change the way people have been trained to do things in organizations. So it is important to see the process as a mentality change so that you can be very patient dealing with non-compliance.

  • Agile is not for every type of project:

This is the exciting part. How do you know the type of projects/problems or organizations that is fit for Agile? Well, during the first day of the conference, one of the key speakers, Mr. Addie Obeng (see his Ted talk here on Smart failure for a fast-changing world) who joined in from Qube categorized projects/problems into four categories:

  • Walking in the fog: You don’t know WHAT exactly to do and HOW to do it.

  • Making a movie: You know HOW to do it but not WHAT to actually do.

  • Going on a quest: You know WHAT to do but have no clue on HOW to do it.

  • Painting by numbers: You know WHAT to do and HOW to do it.

Projects that fall within the “Fog” may be “Movie” are typically fitted for agile applications.

Other notable events during the conference was the workshop sessions. I opted for the “outsourcing CTO” session where participants tried to come up with solutions for challenges an existing startup is facing.

So that’s it. My little learnings from the conference. I am really grateful to the organizers for the effort and time put in.

Do leave a comment if you have something to contribute.

Some Useful Links:

Agile Tools:

  • Trello: This is my best tool currently.

  • Taiga: Used this once for a project. Still in Beta.