Preliminary Assessment of “Ask an Expert”
Just about three months ago we started an “Ask an Expert” service for Agile practitioners in Austin. The service was defined as follows:
The objective of the Ask an Expert program is to provide free consultation by experienced Agile Austin coaches to any Austinite that wrestles with issues related to promoting, planning and executing Agile methods. The program will address the needs of practitioners in companies that produce software, embed software, or use software as an integral part of their business processes. In addition to 1-1 consultation, coaches will gladly hold discussions with entire teams.
Ask an Expert sessions should be primarily regarded as a step toward addressing concrete Agile issues that manifest themselves in a specific environment. Coaches might not be able to complete a comprehensive analysis, but will make certain to suggest what the heart of the problem might be and point out Agile resources that practitioners could use on their own.
To ensure available access to experts, consultative session time will be divided between attendees. Team discussions with any Agilists attending the program will be encouraged to maximize the sharing of experience and draw out the wisdom of crowds. One-on-one sessions are available on request, but will be time-limited based on attendance (15 minutes typical).
The program will strive to balance utility with fun. Utility will primarily be delivered through actionable insights; fun will be had through passionate exploration of Agile topics in a friendly and collaborative manner.
Our experience over the past three months indicates:
- A broad spectrum of question/topics has been brought up. Most of the questions revolve around the “hows” of Agile. Some questions address the “whats” of Agile. Precious few get into the “whys” of Agile. Click here for details.
- Majority of questions apply to the project team level. Only a few address enterprise level issues.
- Many questions (and the discussions that follow) are actually about the software engineering fabric, not about Agile per se.
- The “all singing all dancing” format of the sessions seems to work pretty well. It often leads to uncovering questions/issues we had not thought about before.
- Having said that, we do not really know at this point in time whether some of the participants would have preferred a more traditional 1-1 format.
- Most participants seem to have already been sold on the benefits of Agile. We do not usually get folks who are struggling with “Waterfall v. Agile” questions.
Most gratifying, some early “return on investment” indicators have been noticed. For example, one of the participants was so kind to send the following note:
Thank y’all for your help with my presentation about Agile to my VP. The meeting went well and we are moving forward with Agile. I’m going to work on a mock-up of a release and project, to show what Agile release planning and budgeting would look like. I’ll get buy-in based on this mock-up from the directors, then move on to a pilot project.
This is a huge step for… [company name deleted by IG], one I wouldn’t have predicted 6 months ago. The information and resources available through Agile Austin were essential in making this happen. Thank you for your help!