Agile Conference Pakistan 2016 – Takeaways

One of the sources of knowledge is to know the sources of knowledge. Each society has sub-societies in it and if you are not there, you’d think that this never happens in our city. This exactly is the case for me but I was lucky to become part of Pakistan Agile Development Society last year through the 2nd edition of Agile Conference Pakistan. That allowed me to learn more throughout the year and the best part came in the last weekend when along with a wonderful team of organizers, speakers, sponsors, volunteers and audience I enjoyed the Agile Conference Pakistan 2016  which was attended by ~250 Agile practitioners.

Below is a very very short summary on what happened there and more will be shared on Society’s facebook page and website. The first set of photos is out and soon the slides and recordings will also be shared.

Society’s chairman Suhail Iqbal said in opening note that it is a very happy trend where more and more people are joining the Agile conference. He also mentioned that though Agile movement arrived a little late in the Pakistan IT industry but we can work together to make it happen in a great way.


The first talk was “Agile Transformation vs. Agile Adaption” by Syed Ahmed who is CEO of DPL-IT and ex-chairman of P@SHA.  Syed started the talk with difference between Process-centric companies and People-centric companies and rejected the notion that one process can change the world rather it is the human potential that changes the world. With some examples he explained that the yardstick of whether a company is process or people-centric is the answer to this question: “Do you allow people to make mistakes?” His view was that Agile Adoption is like doing the rituals whereas a Transformation will come when you really have belief in something. After establishing these facts, he presented the case study of his own company DPL-IT where they have gone through an Agile Transformation. He shared details on how they are promoting a “Rebel ethos” culture and how they have a “Sir-carr” which fines you for a certain money if you call people as “Sir” rather than with their names. He also suggested a flipped hierarchy as below (this is drawn by me and not the actual slide):


In the last few slides, he had some lessons learned which included a “Let Go” thinking in top management’s mind, making things transparent and having a belief that the results will start coming though there will be some rough patches.

The next talk was about some suggested recommendations on Managing Agile Transformation by Javad Ahmed who is COO of a US based company Oracular (Smart-IS in Pakistan). Javad gave his viewpoint on what Agile is, why we need it, and how he has implemented it in his own scope. Given his consultancy background, through various examples he shared the practical implications of doing an organization wide Agile transformation. He had lot of good advice to offer for bringing in the “business perspective” in making all decisions and below are some quotes that I noted:

  • Nothing can be done without Top management’s commitment and they’ll only buy-in if they see business value.
  • Agile is focused on “Right Results” and an “On-target” outcome.
  • Agile is an ideology.
  • Agile facilitates prioritization.
  • Do not short-change staffing e.g. asking a Scrum Master to play as Product Owner too.
  • Counselling and Coaching is very important in the Agile journey.
  • Too many times the documentation is like a solved Pakistan Studies papers that happen in our education system where marks are given based on how lengthy and colorful is the answer.

Then Afif Zaid and Mujeeb Zahoor shared the story of Agile success at S&P Global’s Pakistan office. Mujeeb walked through a brief history of the overall organization and the stuff that happens in Islamabad. Afif then provided inside scoop of how they worked through this Agile Transformation phase and how they reached to the milestone of having 57 successful SCRUM teams across the globe. His tips for others to do the same were passing on the vision, help team on setting the priorities and making teams self-organized and empowered. One of the many experiments they are doing is playing a “Shark Tank” to allow everyone to throw ideas. Mujeeb then concluded the talk by sharing the business success that Agility has brought to them.

OPEN Islamabad’s President and CEO of Sybrid, Ather Imran was the first speaker after lunch to talk about “Agile Culture and Knowledge Organizations in Pakistan. Ather referred to Peter Drucker’s work on what a Knowledge Worker is and what is a Knowledge Organization. Then after briefly going through the Agile principles, he concluded that:

Knowledge Organization  = Agile

He then brought in some interesting thoughts on the Power Psychology and how we tend to be followers by default. Through examples including the South Korean Airline experience from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outlier, Ather made it clear that our culture is where people defer to the Power and want to be obedient to the authority. He then shared a few tips to break that with consistent efforts which included 10 Rules that he explained one by one. For example he wants to “Delegate to the level of Anarchy” because if you are delegating and are comfortable with that, there is still control in your hands. So getting uncomfortable with delegation is the key.

The next talk was by the leadership training maestro Mohsin Lodhi who talked about “Leadership in the Digital World”. Mohsin started the talk with establishing the fact that how technology is eating many jobs and many industries are now squeezed to hand held devices. Through his typical style of backing statements with numbers, he shared many new researches that enforces the reality that we are living in a fast paced and non-linear changing world. He connected the dots that Results are very important but one should never forget that the results come through processes and processes are due to a culture and creating a culture is the job of the leader. (The below is my notes and not actual slide)


He then through some moving and dancing slides, shared the lessons from the famous social experiment done with 5 monkeys  and suggested not to react to the shower of culture around us by saying that “that’s how it has always been”. At the end he also explained the Change Equation and how leaders should work on the buy-in and show through their actions if they are serious about bringing any change.

An Agile Coach at VizTek and an Agile lover Nabeel Ansar then talked about “Avoiding common mistakes in Agile Transformations”. Nabeel started the talk with when and how Agile fails and emphasized on the conditions in which you apply Agile to be more responsible for the failure. He gave an interesting example of driving a Ferrari on the IJP road and then blaming the road for the poor performance of the car. Through his personal experience of Agile Transformation in few organizations, he recommended to first “show something by doing it” and then ask for others to help. He also shared 8 Agile Transformation Patterns which included the likes of “Start small” and “Seed and Grow”. The point that I most liked in the talk was Nabeel’s insistence on improving the Engineering practices because a fast delivery is only possible if you have the automation, testing and other build processes geared towards such delivery.

A short closing note was delivered by Farid Zafar, Associate Professor at Bahria University Islamabad thanking the audience for sparing their precious weekend day for the love of Agile.

Believe me my notepad had much more than the above and I’m sure that was the case with all the participants. Let’s keep this journey towards excellence together and I hope to share some after thoughts soon on some of the subjects listed here!


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4 responses to “Agile Conference Pakistan 2016 – Takeaways”

  1. SQA says :

    It was pleasuring having you Majd on this conference. Really it was really a good platform to learn and share experiences in agile transformation.


  2. FARHAN SHAFIQ says :

    It seems a big event.but unfortunately I was not able to attend because of my job. Thank you sir for sharing all the information through your blog.


  3. Mustafa says :

    Nice summary of the event. Well done.


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