MENA's Agile community is on the rise

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When it comes to building a movement organically, a sense of community often plays an instrumental role.

Think of the startup scene in Jordan, which plays host to a free event called Amman Tech Tuesdays (#AmmanTT) on the first Tuesday of every month, since 2010. It was created by Cashbasha cofounder Fouad Jeryes and now has a Twitter following of over 11,000 people.

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Andreas Hägglund, left, and Wajih Aslam, right,
are Dubai-based Agile community leaders.
(Images via Ufuk Timuroglu)

In the GCC, a series of free educational events for UAE startups called Dubai Digital & Tech, launched a few years ago by Astrolabs has made waves. The community that announces these events now boasts over 6,000 members.

Much the same can be said of the MENA region's Agile community, which has been growing thanks to IT professionals in hubs like Dubai, Riyadh, and Cairo.

Agile, a collection of software development methodologies, is underlain by several general principles that boil down to an effort to make IT operations both more nimble and collaborative.

The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001 by a group of tech professionals intent on “uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.”   

The method has gained a following within the MENA region’s tech community, including its latest unicorn, the transportation company Careem.

"Agile takes the chaos that comes with being a fast-growing startup and puts it in a structure that gives us focus and helps us deliver a better product faster,” said Andreas Hägglund, chief “post-it writer” for Careem, at the recent Lean and Agile Middle East Summit (Agile ME) in Dubai. “It also gives us the tools to adjust our plans, our product, and our organization on...short notice so that we can accommodate any shifts in the markets.”

Beyond the IT sector

Dubai’s startup ecosystem is not the only sector where Agile is catching on. Even academia has begun to take an interest. Dr. Maged Youssef, a professor at Heriot-Watt University School of Textiles & Design (Dubai branch), says that Agile can enhance the productivity of several industries, including fashion.

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An Agile ME session on the fashion industry led by
Dr. Maged Youssef, a professor at Heriot-Watt University. 

Youssef, who teaches courses on topics such as Islamic fashion, spoke about Agile’s impact at Agile ME. His comments during the panel discussion focused on how to utilize a sustainable lean supply chain and make the best use of digital prototyping for the circular economy.

“We have applied the principles of Lean management in the sustainable fashion supply chain,” Youssef said. “A new conceptual framework has been developed to reduce the time and cost invested in the fashion prototyping process by using state-of-the art 3D technology.”

Across the Gulf

The organizing committee of the Agile ME included a few IT professionals based in Riyadh. Among them is Mirza Asfaar Baig, a digital project engineer.

Baig noted that product ownership has been a hot topic of late. This was why he decided to home in on it when he helped organize the 2017 summit’s agenda.

“One of the sessions was about product ownership,” Baig said. The two speakers who tackled the subject outlined several of its many facets, including product nature, product maturity, Agile maturity of the team/organization, and size of the organization. And the upshot of the two speakers’ presentations, according to Baig? “Product ownership is a function led by ‘product owners’ with the help of the team; it is a shared sport.”

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Mirza Asfaar Baig, an Agile specialist based in Riyadh, spoke about Product Ownership at the 2017 Agile Middle East Summit in Dubai.

Forging ahead

With 125 attendees at its third edition and a mix of regional and international speakers (the keynote address was delivered by UK-based Scottish IT expert Dave Snowden – see his video below), the 2017 summit was a stride forward for the MENA Agile community.

Those who missed out and want to participate in the future need not fret, the Agile community in the UAE will continue organizing events throughout the year.“Anyone who wants to learn more about Agile,” said Wajih Aslam, one of the lead organizers of meetups in Dubai hosted by Lean and Agile Middle East, “can join our upcoming meetups and explore the slides shared by the speakers at the 2017 summit [on] our Slideshare page.”

Dubai will also be hosting an Agile summit in March 2018.

Feature image, Agile poject management, via Flickr.

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