The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

Allocating Your Agile $$

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“50-50” is the rule of a thumb many audiophiles use for configuring a good stereo system. 50% of the budget goes toward the speakers; the other 50% toward everything else in the stereo system. The reason is quite simple: stereo systems succeed or fail on the merits of the speakers.

Whatever your Agile budget might be, a good starting point is to spend about 50% of the budget on training, consulting and coaching during the first year of Agile rollout. This figure will probably go down to about 25% during the second year;  precious little thereafter. Such budget allocation was used at BMC Software in its Agile rollout and operation between 2004 and 2008: about 50% of the total Agile budget in 2005; 25% in 2006; single digit percentages in 2007 and 2008.

First Year Agile Budget

Starting with 50% for consulting, training and coaching during the first year is rooted in the software engineer being a craftsman. A craftsman learns and develops through apprenticeship. He learns from the masters. The popular Program With the Stars sessions  in various software development conferences recognize the power of the apprecnticeship paradigm. A good review of the power of such a session in the Agile 2008 conference can be found in the Working Together… with Technology post by Andrew Shafer.

If you accept the premise of the software engineer as a craftsman, you need to invest  in consulting and coaching more than in training. A two or three day Scrum Training class for numerous product managers, developers and testers in your company is, of course,  a good start. However, it is the day-in day-out consulting and coaching that will make the training applicable. There is no substitute to a competent Agile coach saying in the middle of a stand-up meeting “Folks, what happened to our collaboration? We are not getting the benefits of the wisdom of teams.”

In addition to the coaching needs of the teams, you as an Agile executive will probably need some coaching by a sure-footed Agile executive coach. Topics should include the following:

  • Your role in the Agile roll-out
  • Deliverable you own in the Agile roll-out
  • Behaviors that are supportive of Agile
  • Identification of promising indicators for Agile roll-out
  • Identification of early warning sign for Agile roll-out going the wrong way
  • Synchronizing release trains across multiple software development methods
  • Impact of Agile on downstream functions

Don’t think about these coaching items as luxury you can’t afford. Rather, it is money well spent. It is the cost you as an executive need to pay for being on the Agile train. The train might leave the station without you if you do not invest in your Agile education.

Second and Third Year Agile Budgets

The rationale for reducing the investment in consulting, training and coaching in the second and third year is simple. Various Agilists in your company would become experts themselves. Needless to say you will continue to invest in their skills by sending them to a conference such as Agile 2009. Much of the consulting and coaching, however, should over time be done by your home-grown Agilists.

Consider it an early warning sign if the assimilation of expertise in your company has not generated Agile experts in your teams within a couple of years. You could, of course, allocate your Agile $$ in the second and third year on the 50-50 basis recommended above for the first year. But, chances are something is not working well with your Agile roll-out.  The norm in successful Agile roll-outs is to harvest a whole bunch of quotes like the following quip made in 2006 by a QA Director with BMC Software:

 There had never been a thought towards returning to Waterfall. We only think about how to be more Agile, how to do this better. No one wants to go back!

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Written by israelgat

January 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

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