Consultants – Move up the Value Chain

Inspired by Robert Kiyosaki’s best-selling work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I decided to take a plunge into the entrepreneurial world with Project Management Research Institute. Over a decade old, the venture today enjoys a clientele of several big names in the industry as well as small and medium organizations. In the process, I became a goal-achieving self-employed individual. Through it all, Kiyosaki’s words kept reaching out to me; according to him, true business is something which will work for you even when you sleep. From that perspective, there was a wide gap between being an entrepreneur and an independent consultant.

What next? While consulting is a cash cow, men and women in the field need ‘star’ projects’ that will make them shine and lead in the highly competitive industry. Like every other successful consultant, I too traveled, met and worked with several thousand professionals worldwide. That pool is a great strategic advantage for any successful consultant and coach –  a resource which cannot be replicated easily. For example, consider that most of my clients are extremely agile teams in the small and medium segment who are eager to partner with organizations who can outsource projects to them. Another well-established coach in Agile development in Singapore works with large companies who are on the lookout for outsource partners. In this scenario, we both have an opportunity to add value to our existing client pool. This window exists with almost every independent consultant/coach.

If we can guide our trusted client circles across the globe to connect and work together to meet their individual business goals, that will become a strategic advantage for them to define, design, develop and deploy business solutions faster and cheaper than their competition.  And, we will elevate ourselves from the ‘self-employed’ segment to the ‘entrepreneurial category’.  That is better value generation for all the stakeholders involved, including us. I invite you to associate with Agilectics to reach that goal.      Click here

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Agilectics – Agile Outsourcing steps

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Step#1 Share your high level requirement with us in not exceeding 20 lines.  Click here.

Step#2 We will contact you to understand the requirements more clearly.

Step#3 We will develop the product backlog and prioritize them along with you into must have and nice to have categories. This step will help us to arrive at a budgetary estimate for the project.

Step#4 We will develop the product road map and the release plan along with you.

Step#5 We will submit a detailed proposal for every release to you for your approval.

Step#6 After getting your approval (step#5), we proceed with team selection from the resource pool available with us and get into the sprint planning along with the customer’s representative. In case we do not have the right technical people matching the technologies required for the product, then we scout for these resources outside our pool of resources.

Step#7 Sprinting  – The development team builds the increment of the product

Step#8 Sprint reviews – The development team and the customer reviews the output of the sprint and determines whether the sprint was successful or not.

Step#9 – Sprint retrospectives – The development team and the customer together identifies the areas for improvement for the subsequent sprints.

Step#10 – Release and proposal – Once all the sprints of the release train is successfully completed, the product is released to the customer. At this stage, formal proposal for the subsequent release is submitted for approval.

Steps 6-10 are repeated, till the approved product backlog is fully developed.

Key benefits

  1. The estimate at the product backlog level provides the customer with a budgetary estimate for building the entire product.
  2. Before every release a definitive estimate is provided to the customer. Steps 1 and 2 provides the customer and the development team with better control on the project cost.
  3. Frequent sprint reviews and retrospectives results in better technical and functional risk management.
  4. Based on the theme of sprints, the team composition has to change sprint wise. This is possible because of the larger pool of technical resources available with us.

If you have a requirement, let us connect and start the discussions. Share with us the high level requirements. 

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Agilectics – Retrospective #1

It was a Whatsapp message from Anoop which triggered the whole process.

He introduced himself as a participant of one of my Agile workshops held in Kochi, almost seven years ago. His name didn’t ring a bell instantly but the moment I saw his photograph, I could place him. After his tryst with a few small and large organizations, Anoop had started his own company and presently works with a team of around 40 engineers, with networks in the US, the UK and Africa.

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Anoop and his partners wanted to incorporate the Agile work culture in their team. That sounded great.

Firstly, their team was small and they were yet to form a work culture of their own. They did follow some Scrum practices without truly understanding the intended purpose and benefits. The second aspect was their willingness to listen –  a critical success factor when embarking on an Agile journey. Most of their team was on new development work and the rest on support activities. The first step was to achieve a common Agile awareness. We began with scrum training for all, which covered the Agile manifesto and practices. The development team took up Scrum using Jira. For the support team, we recommended Kanban as it is a continuous flow. These steps swiftly introduced them to immediate benefits, which is important for any startup. Now, they are an impressively self-organized group. We could achieve this goal fast because of the team constitution and their willingness to learn and experiment.

Movement from work allocation to work volunteering is the biggest challenge I have faced in many other organizations. Here, I was lucky to get a Scrum master with a strong conviction and he was committed to having the right method implemented, with the support of his team. Post the second sprint, their productivity is on upward track, their customer is happier and the team has a better work-life balance. We are currently focusing on the design and deployment of an Agile performance appraisal system which is in line with the agile principles and values. As a first step towards this, we have delivered a framework for personal goal setting, prioritization and time management. Will blog about this in detail after the roll-out.

Some of the key aspects of this particular team:

  • Highly technical
  • Good implementation of Agile using Scrum
  • Jira tool provides excellent transparency to all stakeholders
  • They are honest about what they can do and where they need improvement
  • Young, enthusiastic minds with a willingness to listen, experiment and learn.

For more about this team Contact us 

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Agilectics – Retrospective#0

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In order to have an overall understanding of scrum framework, it takes only a couple of hours of reading of scrum guide. As per the founders of scrum, it is a framework which is easy to understand but difficult to implement. The reason being, it is a value based system than a rules driven system. Several discussions are going on in the social media about ‘what is agile?’. I like those self introspection by agilists , because all of us can easily and conveniently forget the fact that improving agility is a continuous process. It can happen only in a work environment based on;

  • Commitment (to the work)
  • Focus (Focused work)
  • Openness (Work environment where people can share their views without fear)
  • Trust
  • Respect (Self respect and mutual respect)
  • Courage (Courage and confidence for decision making)

Many sponsors of agile initiatives do not focus on these aspects, or by the time they realize that these are important,  their organization would have already developed a culture of it’s own with it’s roots on command and control systems. This happens  because by that time they would have hired senior people with command and control backgrounds. In such environments, the idea of self organizing teams take a beating. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to re-engineer culture, once it is set.

As an entrepreneur, if you really want to develop a culture conducive for agile and self organizing teams;

  1. Start early, when the organization is still small.
  2. Define your value system (what type of a work environment you want to create)
  3. Recruit the right people who can align with the value system.
  4. Allow the processes to evolve based on the team retrospectives
  5. Do not stick to any one agile framework. Scrum can be a good starting point, then start looking at all other frameworks for good practices.
  6. Implement a reward and recognition system which support the value system

Things to avoid

  • Do not recruit managers/leads who do not have conviction on agile. Many large organizations push their managers to agile certifications just to boast about the number of certified agile masters they have. Certifications does not mean that they are good in agile. Certified scrum masters with conviction on scrum is a very rare breed. If you spot one, recruit, else wait.
  • Avoid recruiting managers who are not willing to unlearn and re-learn.
  • Avoid recruiting testers with lot of experience in independent manual testing. teams. Start looking for testers who are good at test automation and good functional knowledge.
  • Do not have the wrong notion that excellence is linked to experience. Many highly experienced people can become a liability in the agile world.
  • Agile will not solve any of your problems just by implementing a agile framework. Agile will start exposing the weak areas where you need improvement, and these inputs can be easily mistaken as problems of agile, when they are actually the problems of the organization/team. Agile will expose the problem areas very fast and it is up to you to address them. Because you are failing fast, you get more time to recover and improve. That is the real benefit of agile over waterfall. In waterfall models projects make good progress during the initial phases, and then they slow down because of technical and functional issues. Contrary to that, agile projects makes slow progress during the initial phases and picks up momentum as the projects progresses.

How many of you can really appreciate the airline staff, when the flight is delayed because they detected a technical snatch before take off?.  As a sponsor of agile initiative, if you have that kind of a mindset, please embrace agile. You must be willing to celebrate a failed early sprint and throw a party for the team for their honesty.  When you go to the gym, what you get first is body pain. If you continue it despite the initial pains, then you develop muscles, and you can lift more.