Can You Dictate that Someone be Agile?

Anthony Mersino
February 27, 2015

I'd like to share some recent client engagements involving vendor development, and hear what you are seeing when companies who are working with vendors for development want to be Agile.  

The common thread of these examples is that there is a client company in the US, and development is being done by a vendor, typically offshore.

Example #1 - In this example, the client company had an offshore, wholly own subsidiary.  Developers from that offshore subsidiary formed scrum teams with local Scrum Masters, and they supported Product Owners in the US.  There were other Scrum teams from the same company onshore, and they frequently pulled from he same product backlog as the offshore teams.  All teams were trained on Scrum.

Example #2 - The client company worked closely with an offshoring vendor for staff augmentation.  Most of the development and testing of the solutions was done by the offshore vendor, while the Product Owners and Scrum Masters were company employees.  Scrum teams were formed that included both onshore and offshore team members, and each team participated in training.  

Example #3 - The client company in the US has contracted with various vendor development organizations to build solutions to their specification.  The company claims to use Scrum, and has a Product Owner in the US.  The Scrum Master may be at the client company or at the vendor.  The company does not want to invest in training the vendor in Scrum.  The development team is at the vendor, and they follow the Scrum ceremonies with the PO and SM participating in those meetings.

Example #4 - The client company in the US contracts with a development organization to configure, customize, and host a SaaS solution.  The client company in the US has a backlog of requirements in the form of user stories, and outstanding defects, that they would like the vendor to develop or fix.  The vendor delivers are like a black box and though they claim to be agile, there is no transparency and they frequently ignore the company’s priorities.  The company would like to implement a more agile approach, but the vendor has not been responsive to their requests.

I believe that the first two situations could be called agile and Scrum, while the second two do not seem to be so agile.  Here are my questions:

1. Do you agree that the first two are agile?
2. Can a company dictate that a vendor be “agile” or even follow Scrum?
3. How are other companies implementing agile when working with vendors?  This seems to be a trend.

I would appreciate your thoughts and experiences.

About Anthony Mersino

Anthony is passionate about helping technology teams THRIVE and organizations TRANSFORM.  He loves partnering with organizations to help teams with Agile thinking and the Scrum Framework.  He teaches Agile and Scrum as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for an organization to gain true business agility. Anthony has  authored numerous articles and two books: Agile Project Management, and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers.

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