Transitioning a vendor to agile work process
I’m working on a blog post based on a recent meeting that took an interesting turn. Below is an outline of the post, which includes a description of the conversation in said meeting, as well as my ask to ChatGPT for assistance transforming it to a full blog post. What do you think about its editorial effectiveness?
take the following outline and transform it into a coherent blog post about transitioning an offshore vendor work process to agile methodology
Agile with a vendor
Context – coaching a team in their transition to agile, did two workshops on estimating with story points.
Mew Meeting with purpose = how do we use story points to manage capacity of individuals in hours?
20 minutes discussion on how the short answer is, “you don’t” followed by story points being a measure of relative complexity, a drawn out analogy of having household staff to do work around the house and each day learning how much can be accomplished, assigning relative complexity values to each task like “fry an egg” do a load of laundry” change bed sheets” “clean garage” power wash patio” until finally they are are able to predict how much work can reasonably be done in one day (i.e. a sprint), and that an agile team will do that same thing until it completes a few sprints and it settles into a predictable point value or velocity.
US based project manager, employee, wow, ok, that makes sense. It’s a big change for us, but let’s talk about a transition plan. Any questions (directed to offshore PM)?
Yes, the only question I have is how do we trace story points to capacity for our planning purposes?
A vendor motivation isn’t aligned to agile by default, they fixate on showing value by showing that people are fully-allocated for 100% of their work hours. Who knows if they’re doing the right things? The reason they have that motivation is because the people who sponsor the contracts want to know their money is being spent wisely and the easiest way to demonstrate that is to show that for every dollar spent, this much labor was purchased.
So the challenge is to change that mentality from “for every dollar spent, we created this much value” by focusing the team on working on the highest priority items first (typically the ones that have the highest value for the organization, however that is defined — and yes you need to work out a method for calculating that value) and then allowing the team to figure out how to get those items done in the best way possible within a recurring series of discreet time boxes. In other words, the question isn’t “How much time do we need to finish these items?” – which says nothing about value delivery, only activity — it’s “which items from this ranked list of priorities can we finish in X amount of time?” Which says a whole lot about when I can expect value delivered, and how much.
Title: Transitioning an Offshore Vendor Work Process to Agile Methodology
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, organizations seek greater efficiency, adaptability, and value delivery in their projects. Agile methodology has emerged as a powerful approach to achieve these goals, offering flexibility, faster response times, and enhanced collaboration. Transitioning an offshore vendor’s work process to agile can present unique challenges, but with the right approach and mindset shift, it can lead to significant improvements in project management and value creation. In this blog post, we will explore how a team coached through two workshops on estimating with story points embarks on their agile journey, focusing on the conversion of their offshore vendor to this dynamic methodology.
Understanding Story Points and Relative Complexity
During the coaching sessions, the team learns the concept of story points as a measure of relative complexity rather than a direct correlation to hours spent on a task. They engage in a discussion that highlights the importance of adopting this mindset and how it helps to manage capacity better. The analogy of managing household tasks is drawn upon, where each task is assigned a relative complexity value. Over time, the team gains a deeper understanding of their capabilities and learns to predict how much work they can reasonably complete within a defined time frame (sprint). This predictability eventually leads to a stable velocity, which is crucial for effective planning.
Embracing the Transition Plan
With the concept of story points and agile principles firmly grasped, the team initiates the transition plan for the offshore vendor. A US-based project manager, impressed by the reasoning behind story points, acknowledges that the change is significant but seeks guidance on the transition process. The offshore project manager is keen to understand how to trace story points to capacity for better planning purposes.
Changing Vendor Mentality: From Time Allocation to Value Delivery
The biggest challenge in transitioning an offshore vendor to agile lies in realigning their motivations. By default, vendors tend to focus on showcasing value through full allocation of resources’ work hours. This emphasis on activity-based measurement rather than value delivery stems from the need to prove to sponsors that every dollar spent results in tangible labor output.
To overcome this challenge, the team emphasizes shifting the vendor’s mindset from “for every dollar spent, we created this much value” to one that prioritizes working on the highest value items first. This involves defining the highest priority tasks based on the organization’s objectives and calculating their value. The team then collaboratively decides how to complete these tasks efficiently within recurring time boxes (sprints). Rather than asking, “How much time do we need to finish these items?” (which focuses on mere activity), the team inquires, “Which items from this ranked list of priorities can we finish in X amount of time?” This approach ensures a clearer understanding of when value will be delivered and its quantity.
Aligning Vendor Motivation with Agile Principles
By emphasizing the delivery of high-value items and employing iterative sprints, the offshore vendor starts to see the benefits of embracing agile principles. The focus on continuous improvement and adaptability allows them to demonstrate the value of their work in a more meaningful way. Gradually, the vendor understands that the success of their engagement is not solely measured by the number of hours worked but by the impact they create on the organization’s goals.
Enhanced Collaboration and Value Delivery
As the offshore vendor aligns with agile methodology, collaboration between the vendor and the US-based project manager becomes more seamless. The vendor’s ability to predict their capacity through stable velocity enables effective planning and ensures that value is consistently delivered at regular intervals.
Transitioning an offshore vendor work process to agile methodology requires careful consideration and a shift in mindset. By understanding the essence of story points as a measure of relative complexity, the team can effectively manage capacity. Furthermore, redirecting the vendor’s motivation from activity-based metrics to value delivery fosters a stronger alignment with agile principles. This transformation leads to enhanced collaboration, better planning, and a greater focus on consistently delivering high-value outcomes. In the end, both the organization and the offshore vendor reap the rewards of an agile approach, paving the way for continued success in a dynamic business environment.