The move to effective Agile development is among the most pervasive changes your organization will ever experience. If the move isn’t successful, your teams might not be happy to try it again. Getting expert help can significantly reduce the risk; here are some parameters to consider when choosing your Agile transition provider:
It’s all about people. Agile establishes a clear order: people, then product, then process. (That’s why we’re “3P”). Anyone can teach Agile planning; fewer people can instill simplicity; and fewer yet truly guide team behaviour and communication toward high performance. The coach’s style — hands off, hands on, directive, leading, etc. — should fit your expectations and the teams’ needs.
Expertise. The Agile principles and practices may look pretty sensible and easy, but somehow they’re very hard to get right. Savvy Agile coaches must understand human behaviour and psychology, and be very flexible. They must have a broad technical basis and be able to teach people effectively. Lastly, although Agile’s roots go back decades, complete Agile methodologies are fairly new and rapidly evolving; make sure your provider stays current.
Credentials. Your organization is ultimately responsible for its methodology no matter the quality of your Agile provider. For a sustained change, a great Agile coach would work with various roleplayers across the organization at the level of values and motivation. Since only results matter, ask your provider about the results they’ve achieved. If they tout certifications, ask how they earned them; you might be surprised at the requirements for some certifications.
The roadmap. Rather than parrot the book version of Scrum or XP, an experienced Agile guide should maximize the value of your investment by starting the work with the most comprehensive set of practices that suits your goals, needs, culture and tolerance for change. Be advised that a project management framework alone isn’t enough for creating lasting products. The parameters of technical excellence are well-known nowadays and should be considered early on.
Scale. Make sure your coach has done work on your scale: number and size of teams, legacy vs. green field development, home-grown vs. integrated technology, etc.
Self-sufficiency. Excellent coaches make themselves quickly redundant. How long will you need to keep your coach around? What will the coach do to eliminate the teams’ dependence on him/her?