The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

Preliminary Assessment of “Ask an Expert”

with 3 comments

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!

Written by israelgat

July 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the assessment so far Israel,

    In response to the question of “we do not really know at this point in time whether some of the participants would have preferred a more traditional 1-1 format”:

    I was at the July 2 meeting, hosted by Jeff… it seemed to me that the open format seemed to work really well there. I attended more out of community involvement rather than because I had a specific question, but I felt as though everyone was engaged in the discussion and had the opportunity to inject their own questions/experiences.

    Jeremy Jenkins

    July 13, 2009 at 1:24 pm

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Jeremy. I am indeed hoping to get various replies that will direct us as to how to tweak the “Ask an Expert” service.

    I believe folks learn from their colleagues as much as they learn from the coach in session. Having said that, I always wonder whether some questions have not been brough up due to privacy considerations, etc.

    Thanks again!


    Israel Gat

    July 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm

  3. My schedule has not allowed me to attend more than several of the sessions so far. I consider it my loss, for the times I have attended have been stimulating with more than one expert to banter ideas with.

    Still I am a bit puzzled that in a community of this size with the passion expressed at our meetings (packed house, standing in the halls) we don’t have a larger, more diverse group attending. I know the issues and problems are out there. I know people pay hundreds of dollars an hour to have these problems solved by agile consultants. Several of those same consultants are our experts. So what gives?

    Perhaps we haven’t properly presented the value proposition. Perhaps, like me, people often have other obligations on Thursdays evenings. Or perhaps we are not solving the right problem. Perhaps one-on-one will unlock the floodgates. Or perhaps we need a signup sheet to focus attention in advance.

    I truly believe the need is there. I also believe some people have benefited already as evidenced by Israel’s letter. I also agree with Israel, that at this point, we should evaluate and accept direction from the community we serve.

    – Scott Killen
    President, Agile Austin

    Scott Killen

    July 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm

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