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Why should be an external consultant managing the Agile Transformation? - Once you go Agile

Why should be an external consultant managing the Agile Transformation?

Some time ago, I discussed with a colleague about who should lead the Agile Transformation in an Organization: an internal colleague or an external expert consultant? He defended that it should be an external expert, empowered by the executives, who should lead his own suggested measures and supervise their execution in the field. I thought immediately, it should be known in the entire organization, the time for the execution and the transitory nature of this role. Once his mission is accomplished, he or she leaves the organization. But why it should be like that?During our discussion, I had in my mind the question “Why an external? Someone who doesn’t know the company challenges, weaknesses, business opportunities, team skills, personalities, potential … why it should be someone who arrives, creates the revolution and will not stay longer than the Transformation period? Why shouldn’t he stay to see the success and benefits for the organization in 5 years, for example? Why it shouldn’t be him to mitigate risk deviation?”

Pros and Cons: Agile Transformation managed by an external consultant

Pros: Having a consulting company, experienced with Agile Transformation processes, with references among different industries, can be very helpful since the planning phase until the the execution supervision of an Agile Transformation process. This type of companies, if empowered by the executives, will support them to make a real assessment if they have in place:

  • The right processes, if not redesign them. Highlighting inefficiencies and proposing corrective measures.
  • The right tool chain, if not which tool chain fits in their particular DevOps needs and specific business requirements. At this point, it will be required the engagement of internal experts to provide  “business specific” technical requirements (for example: do we need to have releases? Or should we aim for continuous deployment? Maybe our business is not ready to have deployments of new releases, with functional changes, without any communication to end users or customer support. Maybe in our business this doesn’t make sense, and we can have continuous deployment only for non-functional requirements, changes not affecting the end user directly in the user experience).
  • The right support model and correspondent integration with the DevOps Model – How are we designing our support model? And how are we answering to the flow of tickets from the first support level to the second and third levels of support? What is our capacity to answer based on the severity and frequency of each issue? How is the DevOps team integrating and deploying fixes per type and severity of issue?
  • The right resources on place in the required roles. I’m referring to the technical skills perspective but, so important as that, in the soft skills perspective too.

An external consultancy company brings with the previous experiences, the lessons learned in different industries. This will allow them to make comparisons, adapt success proven solutions, develop creative approaches to new problems.
Another advantage in hiring an external consultancy company to do the transformation is that they will have a certain period of time to plan, execute and present results. The risk of delays should be protected by contract. If the executives really want to do it why should we have delays? Assuming that we agreed with the presented plan, convicted that transform the company structure, processes, culture into Agile practice and values is the way to go, each delayed day costs money and opportunities.

Pros and Cons: Agile Transformation managed by and internal leader

If all this work to plan and execute the Agile Transformation is done internally, there are also some pros and cons. but, in my opinion, the list is longer in the cons side.
Pro: An internal knows the business, the company, the processes, the competitive advantages.
Con: However, he can have a more conservative approach to solve the problems, less creative, maybe he can’t see optimization opportunities, or maybe it can be harder to recognize weaknesses. Also he can miss the experience from other companies, barely will be comparing the status quo with other experienced cases in other industries or bringing alternative approaches adapted from their reality.
Pro: An internal knows the structure, the colleagues, their skills and personalities.
Con: Maybe he can be influenced by experiences from the past, personal preferences, emotions. Maybe he will assign new roles not based on skills but based on personal opinions, values and prejudices. All other colleagues out of his network maybe will have less opportunities to be considered to the new roles, to have training to new technologies and to be updated about the new Agile opportunities.
Pro: Probably an internal will stay in the company after the Agile Transformation. An this can be positive also because, he will be creating corrective measures to the initial ones in order to stabilize some deviation from the Agile working method initially planned and agreed.
Con: An internal resource managing the Agile Transformation will have a hard task and in the most part of the cases, it will be almost impossible to avoid the conflict with the colleagues and superiors who are not in favor of this transformation. The agile transformer may have a hard time during and after the Agile Transformation, considering his peers. A way to outline this difficulty is through the implementation of some actions like:

  • Create a Community of Practice for Scrum Masters and try to share pain points, discuss in the group strategies to solve common issues in the teams.
  • Identify Agile champions or pioneers to spread in the teams the Agile working model, processes and tools.
  • Get the explicit and regular support from the executives to the agreed plan implementation.
  • Organize regular meetings with all Agile Masters and executives to share with them KPIs with the benefits accomplished with the Agile Transformation.
  • Share and celebrate those results across the organization.

Common conditions for both options

  • Executives must provide entire support to the Agile Transformer independently of be an external or internal resource.
  • A group of champions or pioneers must be available to start the Agile practice in real projects/products;
  • KPI to measure the Agile Transformation execution and benefits are fundamental, they should be defined since the beginning. What KPIs and with which frequently we will be collecting and analyzing them, sharing results with the organization and defining corrective measures.

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