CHOW #41– Buying / Selling Agile Coaching Services

You are a free-lance Agile coach based in Bangalore. You have been approached by a product development  organisation (comprising around 100 engineers in Bangalore and 20 in Pune) dealing with hardware + software for home security / smart home solutions using Internet of Things (IoT). The CEO of the organisation himself got in touch with you and queried whether you can coach starting with one or two teams in Bangalore and scaling up to five or six teams across Bangalore and Pune. The teams in both locations have already been trained on Agile & Scrum basics by a large training organisation who are also in the running for the coaching part. The CEO has asked you for a ballpark effort / cost (not an hourly rate!) and timeline for engaging you as the coach covering all eight teams (6 in Bangalore and 2 in Pune).

What would be your proposed approach and ballpark estimates? Assume you have access to the CEO and the Head of Engineering for brief conversations at this stage and no access to the actual teams which require coaching.  You also need to get back to the CEO within a day or two. Are there any items that you would exclude from the scope of your coaching services?

Suggested solution:

A. Broad approach

1. Utilise the time that the CEO and the Engineering Head have set aside for you to gather key information about their Agile transformation journey and the state of practice in the eight teams (team performance, achievements, challenges etc.); study the documents that the customer may be willing to share
2. Apply your own past experience with comparable organisations and teams based on 1 above
3. Leverage other resources including experiences of your own network of Agile coaches and rules of thumb (like in this suggested solution!)
4. Develop high level scope, scope exclusions, road map for coaching, the proposal (effort & timelines) and underlying assumptions

B. What to cover in your conversations with the CEO and the Engineering Head?
Conversation with the CEO:
– Overall business drivers for Agile adoption (time to market, improved customer value, product quality…). Other internal needs that may be expected to be met such as better collaboration, catching defects earlier, team morale and so on
– Product portfolio, competition, trends, product directions
– Organisational structure (business, product management, engineering, test/qa etc.)
– Overall alignment of the various organisational functions / groups for Agile adoption
– High level success criteria for the Agile transformation
– Any other relevant documents that the customer can share with you at this stage

Conversation with the Engineering Head:
– Key engineering & other challenges relating to the drivers as identified at the organisation level
– Overview of the work of the eight teams in question: product overview, past performance of the team and expectations going forward
– Current state of collaboration between the business, product management and engineering teams, team work within engineering teams (hardware, software development, test, UX, QA, certification etc.)
– Work profile of the eight teams: sprint duration? release cycle? dev? dev + support?
– Engineering practices including test automation, engineering tools, Agile tools etc.
– Multi-location (Pune and Bangalore) challenges
– Any other relevant documents that the Engg Head can share with you at this stage

The above does seem like a whole lot to cover. So, based on some initial questions, you may need to prioritise and focus – some of the topics above may not be applicable and in others, you may need to dive deep a bit. Keep in mind the need to keep the number and nature of your questions at an optimal level tuned to the objective of developing a ballpark estimate.

C. High Level Scope
– Three levels of coach engagement: Leadership (as needed), Middle Management and Teams
– Team level coaching
o Adoption of Scrum practices
o Mindset and behaviour of teams for self organising / high performance
o Enablement of improvements in engineering practices and automation
o Training sessions as needed
– Enablement of Agile adoption sustenance in the team (as needed beyond six months from the start of coaching engagement)

D. Scope exclusions
– Assistance in technology, product domain areas and technical aspects of engineering
– Tool selection and adoption

E. Road map for coaching
– Select 3-4 teams out of the eight which are more “ready” depending on their current status, work cadence and other considerations
– Work with the above teams for two releases over, say, six months (average of three person days of coaching per week)
– Work with the remaining teams as above (average of three person days of coaching per week)
– Assess progress of each team after one release (all eight teams would typically stabilise in adoption of Agile practices over two releases / the first six months)
– Coaching effort beyond the first six months would be more advisory in nature and need-based

F. Proposal
– Coaching effort: about 70 person days for the first six months covering eight teams; for the next six months, about 30 person days; overall approximately 100 person days over one year for eight teams
– The Agile coach would be available for 3 person days per week on an average at customer premises either at Bangalore or Pune in the first six months; beyond that up to 2 person days per week is proposed to be consumed as needed
– Besides the above, other assistance would be provided over phone & email as needed by the teams with prior scheduling as far as possible
– All effort would be billed on actual effort spent by the coach on a Time & Material basis, the basic unit of billing being one work day
– The above effort and timeline estimates are ballpark only; actual effort and duration could vary by 25-30% in the case of individual teams

G. Assumptions
– Sprints are assumed to be every two weeks and releases once in three months (these can be validated with the Engg Head upfront)
– Access to project information would be provided to the Agile coach as needed
– Office facilities & infrastructure would be provided for the Agile coach as needed at Bangalore and Pune
– Travel and related expenses for the Agile coach would be borne by the customer on actuals

Well, that is it! The question may come up as to whether one coach would be sufficient to handle all eight teams across two locations. It depends on whether all eight teams are ready to go right at the start. This is usually unlikely and only 3-4 teams may be ready for the coach to start engaging with the Agile coach. If so, one coach would suffice. This can be checked out and agreed up front by the Agile coach and an additional coach may be an option to consider, if needed.

What do you think?

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