SEACON 2019 Event Review

November is normally a time when you start preparing for Christmas. All of the shops and adverts turn to the festive season, Oxford Street turn on their Christmas lights and everyone seems a bit cheerier. You might even get in a little early Christmas shopping. Well, SEACON was an early Christmas present for me, with an agenda jammed packed with wall to wall insights from the industry’s leading experts.

 

What is SEACON?

SEACON is an annual event where industry leaders, evangelist and specialists come together to share knowledge. In the event’s own words “SEACON is the Enterprise Agility conference that brings business and technology together” – which is amazing. SEACON itself stands for the Study of Enterprise Agility Conference and it really lives up to that name. Providing a safe, welcoming space where people can come to either share their knowledge and experiences on the latest industry trends or gain valuable insight from those who have been there and done it.

The organizer Barry Chandler has been running these events for some time. He started off with organizing DevOps Days and then moved on to start SEAM meetups and then SEACON. In his own words:

“I founded my meetup and conference having realized that Agile and DevOps in isolation are no guarantees of success, enterprises need to foster a multitude of capabilities in the context of customer value in order to be truly adaptive and grow.”

There were so many highlights from the day to choose and it was difficult to dwindle them down to a few but here are some of the talks I really enjoyed and learnt a lot from.

Highlights from the SEACON 2019:

 

Mik Kersten – From Project to Product

Mik Kersten – the Founder & CEO of Tasktop, and Author of Project to Product – had one of the highlights of the day with his talk on Project to Product: Catalyze Your Journey with the Flow Framework. This presentation focused around topics which are also in his book with the same name.

It was insightful to understand that within most organizations, it’s important to understand the bottlenecks and identify how to remove them. Giving the example of Nokia, who in the 90s and early 2000s, had a market valuation of $300bn. Their downfall came when they were unable to get new hardware and software features, to compete with Apples pending iPhone, out to market quick enough to compete with emerging companies. The main challenge they had was around extending the screen to button ratio on the front of the phone which ultimately was their downfall. Nokia knew their bottleneck but could do little to change this.

Mik went on to explain about Lean Principles. A good example of a lean principle is the way in which BMW construct cars in their German assembly plant in Leipzig. They have mastered just in time ordering, reduction of waste and by using the iSeries cars as an experiment to gather information to make their production process even better. He explained that BMW use flow frameworks to measure value streams and map this to business results.

He outlined the key themes of lean principles below.

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Mik Kersten going through his presentation on Lean Principles and Project to Product

Simon Wardley – The Wardley Map

Simon Wardley took the time to talk to us about maps and their misuse in the business world. Simon has done everything from running a business, to becoming a worldwide speaker and researcher – making him an interesting individual to learn from.

In the most simple but eye-opening way, Simon broke down how maps without context mean little to anyone, and that regardless of how complex a task is, it can be solved with investigation. Put into context, organizations have processes which can be mapped out from visible to value chain to invisible. An example of which can be seen below:

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Simon built upon the above by showing how we can decide which items, in the same process, can be built in-house, and which will need to be custom built using tools externally.

Simon finally explained that splitting this up into teams depended on where each item sat on the map.

It was amazing to see how such a simple framework can be used to help create and produce items of varying complexity. This methodology is also not constrained IT, and can be used in any type of work where a process needs to be mapped out.

Gousto and Dealing with Hypergrowth

Amanda Colpoys – Business Agility Coach and Consultant. Gousto – spoke to us about the hyper-growth Gusto is undergoing, the challenges they’ve faced and what tools and techniques they are using to get around them.

One of the primary challenges Gusto faced was managing rapid growth – a direct result of their success. Other challenges include:

  • Company growing pains
  • Communication
  • Challenges of scaling out as a customer
  • Problems around planning as it was about focused delivery with fixed timelines

These are typical topics which any organisation who is going through growth will experience, but the interesting thing was how they tackled these issues. Firstly, they aligned the organisation into their respective function and stack ranked six- monthly company OKRs which were divided into the different areas.

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This would allow them to review their OKRs quarterly and make sure that they were still aligned to their overall business objectives.

The next step was to arrange teams into tribes who would focus on different aspects based on the priority of the company OKRs.

 

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The final step was to have regular check-ins with the leadership team to better understand:

  • What and why they were working on,
  • What they have been assigned,
  • Who would be split into these tribes,
  • How they coordinated with the leadership team

By doing regular check-ins, Gusto ensured communication kept flowing, and teams working on the individual tasks stayed informed and up to date. It also empowered each team and gave them a platform to be able to ask questions regarding direction, route, company objectives and overall goals, and targets the company had in mind for the next 6–12 months.

The main takeaway from Amanda’s talk was to organise your company into smaller units and maintain communication between tribes and leadership.

OVO Case Study — Just 3 things

Kim Atherton – CEO and founder from Just3things – and Ed Conolly – CTO at OVO Energy – also discussed how they are dealing with company growth and how they dealt with it.

Taking a different approach to Gusto, Kim and Ed moved from a single business to multiple different business units which were focused on customer outcomes. Despite this focus, they experienced challenges surrounding employee satisfaction with their job.

In response to this challenge, Kim and Ed spawned off Just3things, a platform where organisations can align their business goals and manage OKRs. It’s a platform where team which have been assembled can have a clear view as to what they are working towards by setting their top three OKRs.

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One of the main benefits around this approach is the visibility throughout the entire organisation. Anyone within the company can not only see what is important and what the team is working on, but updates to progress can also be done by anyone in the team and be monitored to see how progress is coming along.

The main take away from this talk was that these 3 prioritised OKRs need to relate back to the organisation’s overall goals. The benefit of this is that everyone within the team can see how their work is contributing to the overall business goal, empowering employees and keeping them informed.

This is a powerful tool which I can see being used in many organisations in the future.

Other Highlights

Shonubi
Martina Srdoc and Ben Shonubi met Patrick Debois, the man who coined the term DevOps

 

Ben Shonubi
Ben Shonubi met Matthew Skelton – the co-author of Team Topologies and founder of Conflux Consulting

 

Final Thoughts

What I really liked about this event is the fact it’s a safe place to be able to share thoughts, ideas and experiences and gain invaluable knowledge from others. Not many conferences give you that experience and what the team at SEACON are doing is standing out from the crowd. SEACON is a place where you can gain actionable insights across a broad range of topics: from team and organisational structure to people development, industry secretes to how to solve the most common problems which you may feel are unique to your situation. It really was an amazing space to learn and I can’t wait until 2020 to see what the SEACON team have in store.

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You can find other insights by following the author – Ben Shonubi –  on twitter!

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