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CollabNet Agile Assessment: Interview with VP David Parker

Earlier this month, CollabNet announced Agile Assessment, a new consulting service that helps IT organizations assess the status of existing Agile practices and develop strategies to extend the benefits of Agile-based methodologies across the enterprise.

I had the opportunity to speak with David Parker, Vice President of CollabNet’s Scrum Business Line Unit about the announcement.

SSQ: Can you tell us more about the Agile Assessment? Is it a series of questions like a survey, or does a team come in and observe? Does an organization get scored, and then are there recommendations about how the team could incorporate more Agile practices?

David Parker: CollabNet’s Agile Assessment is one of the most critical steps an organization can take to become more Agile. First, it clearly defines the goals you are seeking to accomplish while weighing the business context in which you operate. Second, it delivers a snapshot of your organization, helping you to determine the extent that you have embraced Agile. And finally, it delivers a crisp, prioritized plan that defines the practical steps you should take to become more Agile.

The process by which we build this assessment includes a detailed questionnaire, on-site observation of the development teams and free-form discussions with management stakeholders.

SSQ: The announcement says the service includes: “strategies to extend the benefits of Agile-based methodologies across the enterprise.” What type of “Agile-based methodologies” are we talking about? Scrum? XP? or things like “collaboration,” and “transparency”?

Parker: Although CollabNet has a long history of involvement with Scrum, we do recognize that 1) most organizations adopt a hybrid Agile approach that incorporates aspects of Agile and Waterfall and 2) new methodologies like Lean/Kanban are emerging. As such, our assessment is methodology-agnostic. As mentioned above, a critical part of the assessment is the prioritized action plan that helps companies determine the steps they need to take to become more Agile. From our perspective, it does not matter what flavor of Agile the company is adopting. Our goal is to simply help the organization become more Agile.

SSQ: Agile practices promote face-to-face communication and collaboration. Is the team makeup (co-located or distributed) part of the assessment? What are your thoughts on co-location vs. distributed teams?

Parker: Geographically distributed teams are a reality today. It is the rare enterprise who has not, to some degree, embraced a distributed development model. As such, part of scaling Agile to the enterprise necessitates the use of Agile in a distributed context. Having worked with hundreds of clients with distributed development models, we fully appreciate the challenges it brings. But the benefits of access to deep talent pools and of reduced cost (to a lessening extent) make the net result a positive one for the enterprise. We have proven that Agile can add great value to distributed development organizations.

CollabNet’s Agile assessment examines the interaction of distributed teams. We look at release planning, sprint planning, backlog management, and organizational context. In this way, the assessment helps organizations understand where things are working well and where there is room for improvement, and provides a plan for better integrated distributed teams.

SSQ: Once again, on the question of “extending across the enterprise,” can you elaborate? Are we talking about using Agile practices for sales? Marketing? Governance? Operations?

Parker: Although CollabNet’s Agile Assessment focuses on the software development organization, we recognize that the development organizations do not work in a vacuum. The truly Agile enterprise brings multiple stakeholders into the development process, and into IT as a whole. When we think of extending Agile across the enterprise, we are looking at ways to better engage with stakeholders in other parts of the organization.
SSQ: Do the services include an evaluation of the organization’s ALM toolset and/or recommendation for tools?

Parker: Although tools can play an important role in a broad-scale Agile adoption, CollabNet’s Agile Assessment is tools-agnostic. Evaluation of specific tools is not part of this assessment.

SSQ: Are “best practices” for Agile ALM available?
Parker: With hundreds (thousands?) of large-scale ALM and Agile customer engagements, CollabNet has built up a huge repository of expertise in Agile practice, Agile Process and ALM. We believe that we are one of the few vendors that can really combine these three for enterprise adoption. Each and every engagement we enter into leverages this vast experience. CollabNet case studies provide real-world examples of our implementations.

SSQ: Are these Agile development coaching services? If so, is a particular methodology such as Scrum recommended?

Parker: The CollabNet Agile Assessment is not a coaching engagement. Rather, it is designed to provide a snapshot of an organization’s adoption of Agile techniques and a prioritized set of recommendations for helping improve agility. We seek to be tools-agnostic, and we do not favor one flavor of Agile over another. That said, CollabNet does have deep expertise in Scrum. We’ve trained more ScrumMasters than any other vendor, and have on staff an impressive set of Certified Scrum Trainers and Coaches. If Scrum is the best fit for an organization, we are certainly well-equipped to help them adopt it.

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