Event 37 - British Arab Chamber of commerce





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Discussion topic

The topic for the 37th meeting of CITI's centres of excellence club (CofEe) was 'Making Learning Work': exploring how to develop peoples' capability and make them more effective in today's knowledge-based economy, making the most of our human capital.

The day began with an introduction from our host Ian Santry, Head of programme management, best practice and capability at the Home Office. This was followed by some questions from Nick Dobson to stimulate thinking and discussion around whether Agile has real merit in project, programme or portfolio management.

Venue details

The 37th Meeting of CITI's centres of excellence club was hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce at 43 Upper Grosvenor St, London W1K 2NJ on the 19th November 2016.

Established 6 February 1975, is an international trade organization located in the prestigious Mayfair area of London, beside the Grosvenor Square. The Chamber has been encouraging, promoting and facilitating Arab-British trade and economic cooperation since 1975.


Our first presentation was delivered by Derek Homer, Agile Delivery Manager from Bookatable.Com. Derek has drawn from his extensive experience in Agile product development at Workshare, Nokia and BBC. The main message from Derek's presentation was that we should not confuse Agile with a project management methodology; it is rather a product development methodology. Whereas Agile provides a mindset that may be suitable for delivering products in some contexts, it does not work well as an approach for managing a project.

The second presentation was from Natalie Jones, Head of Projects at the Home Office. Natalie outlined how Agile was used successfully as a new methodology for software development within the Immigration Platform Technologies Programme. Natalie highlighted the particular challenges of changing the mindsets not only of management but equally of the product managers and software developers. Natalie concluded that although Agile does not come free of challenges, she sees no turning back to other methodologies for product development.

The third presentation was from Phil Bradbury from Transport for London (TfL). Phil outlined how Agile is used within the project management environment at TfL. An important message that emerged from Phil's experience with agile is that governance in the product development environment should mirror the philosophy underpinning Agile. Phil also emphasised the critical need for changing the mindsets of people working in Agile environments.


Members then were invited to participate in a workshop where they discussed one of four themes:

  1. Agile experiences in the workplace
  2. When is it appropriate to use Agile in a project?
  3. What are the costs and risks of Agile?
  4. Guidelines for running Agile projects within portfolios and programmes.

During lunch, members were also invited to participate in two surveys. The results of these surveys together with all presentation slides and workshop out puts are available to members at the usual web-site.

Please note: membership of the club is only gained once you have attended a meeting.

Thank you to our guest speakers, all members and a special thank you to our host Ian Santry who helped ensure the day was a great success.

Survey one - Measuring progress

Survey one attempted to establish the differences in reporting metrics between Agile and conventional projects. Members were invited to identify which metrics they used to monitor progress in both Agile and non-Agile project environments. The response was equivocal; both types of project make a practically identical use of metrics. The only exception was where metrics were specific to, and could therefore only be used in, an Agile environment (e.g. 'business value assigned to stories' and 'sprint backlog completion rates').

This seems to imply that there is little differentiation of reporting of progress between different techniques and traditional metrics can be applied to Agile product development.

Survey two - How have organisational frameworks been adapted to accommodate Agile?

This survey was aimed at assessing what proportion of change delivery projects were being run through Agile and, as the same time, the extent to which the governance and structuring mechanisms were altered to accommodate Agile approaches.

A minority of all the projects represented were delivered with the application of Agile approaches and in the majority of instances where projects were being delivered through Agile approaches no changes had been made in project governance structures or monitoring to accommodate this. This is somewhat interesting in that it could either suggest low-levels of maturity in the thinking about the roles of governance structures and monitoring in project delivery; alternatively it could point out an implicit recognition that we don't need to change project governance structures to accommodate the subordinate Agile product development lifecycles.

Richard Bateman

Richard Bateman

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