What to look for in an Agile delivery team


Today I want to go through with you the five signs of a really good Agile delivery team. One that will really help you to achieve your business objectives. So, whether you’re talking to an internal IT department who claim to have great Agile credentials in terms of delivery, or you’re outsourcing to an Agile consultancy firm to help you achieve your business goals, these are the five signs that you should be looking for—if they’re really who they claim they are, this is what you should be expecting from them, to help you to achieve your business objectives.

1. Fight for Business Collaboration

The first sign that you should look for in a good Agile delivery team is their willingness to fight for business collaboration.  To meet your business objectives, the business must work closely with the team.

It’s like any tailor-made suit.  you can’t have a tailor-made suit without getting involved in the process. You must make time with your tailor to work out the details of the suit.  No matter what time of day—whether it’s winter/ cold, or it’s a little bit warmer, the suit needs to fit you like a glove. You can’t do it by sending your cousin. You must get involved.

A great Agile team understands that, and they’ll look to win you over in terms of getting your involvement as part of their development process. And that’s ensuring you have someone there full time to assist with leadership and close collaboration.

A great Agile team understands that your time is precious. So, they won’t write technical Stories that you don’t understand but ask you to collaborate on value-driven Stories that give you confidence in their understanding of your needs.

That’s a very important sign to look for. They will fight to win you over, to help you to collaborate on your project, to help you better manage your time in a way that’s productive.

2. Your Business Objectives

The second sign to look for in a great Agile team is that they should understand your business objectives.  What are you trying to achieve? They will look to help you define that down to the Story level. When they are clear about your business objectives, they can help you work within your budget or time constraints.

If they don’t do that with you, they’re only following Agile in name only. But within, they are still following the waterfall process where you’re giving them the requirement and solution, and they’re just going to implement them in the fastest manner possible. There’s nothing Agile about that.

So, the second sign is that they should really work with you in finding out what the business objectives are; they should truly understand what you intend to do. And by doing that, they can help you get better business outcomes.

3. Pivot on your business direction

The third sign of a great Agile team is they will give you the ability to pivot on your business direction or change your course with very little fuss. It shouldn’t be a humungous process for you to change direction, if necessary. If you discover something new, you should be able to change direction rapidly and a good Agile team should allow you to do that.

However, there is a caveat. They should always communicate what is the consequence of doing that. You cannot change your pivot for free because there is going to be a cost whenever you pivot in your business requirements. Having said that, pivoting in Agile should cost much less because of high Technical Agility provided by Agile teams (e.g. Continuous Delivery, TDD).

A great Agile delivery company or team should always help you understand what the consequences are to change direction or change your mind. So you can weigh out whether this is really what you wanted, and be able to coordinate your expectations and your goals.

So, that is an important feature. Even last-minute changes should be of little fuss. But you have a good understanding of what the consequences are, and can make reasonable business decisions based on the information that they give you on risks and costs of change.

4. Transparency and Predictability

The fourth sign you should look for in a great Agile delivery team or Agile company is that they should offer you excellent transparency. Transparency is important. You should be able to see good levels of transparency; how things are going; whether there are risks or issues, etc.

You should get that throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. It shouldn’t only be visible just before the delivery date.

Another part of this is that Agile teams can provide good predictability based on empirical measurements. So, in Agile we talk about the Cone of Uncertainty reduces project error. If they’re doing Agile properly, they should give you ever-improving predictability on how much longer the project will take to finish.

Over time, a great Agile team will also give you good predictability of future capacity to take on new work, no more wild-ass guesses.

5. Value deliverables

The last thing I want to mention of a great Agile team is that you should get value early and frequently. If they do all the first four things right, i.e. fight for business collaboration, they understand your business objectives, they help you pivot on your business, and they offer you transparency & predictability, it means that they should be able to deliver you value early and frequently.

Each Story should give you value that you understand. And that is a sign of a great Agile team. So, whether you’re engaging an external company or whether it’s your internal IT department, these are the stuff that you should be asking them to provide for you.

If it’s an internal team and they’re not doing this, it’s not a bad thing. Ask them to provide you with this. Help them to come up with this… If it’s an external company, make sure that they are giving you this because without these five essential items they cannot deliver effective Agile projects.

I hope this article has been useful to you. And if you do have any questions or comments or even if you disagree with me on these points, please let me know in the Comments box below.  I love to hear from you and I learn from your responses.

Take care.