How To Choose Quality Candidates/Consultants for Your Large Company Agile Initiative

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Summary:

We created this set of questions to help corporate managers select Agile-experienced consultants and candidate employees for project work. Assembling a team of qualified Agile people is one thing, but the fact that some Agile practices and principles mean different things to different people makes it even harder to succeed in staffing your initiatives.

 

A consultant or potential employee who has great Agile experience in small product companies may be exactly the wrong type of person to help you inside a large corporation. An Agile evangelist from a small product company may actually be horrified by some of the compromises that are absolutely necessary in your large company environment. We developed this questionnaire to make those distinctions.

When we're talking about the "large company environment" we mean a Fortune 1000 company that has an internal IT shop with lots of development projects going on, most of which are non-Agile. Large projects and projects-within-programs are very common in this environment.

A big reason we're providing this information is because we've seen too many situations where an "Agile expert" is brought into a big company and falls flat on their face because they have an expectation that the large company will be able to switch over all at once to the Agile mindset. While it's true that Agile can be very compelling, we've seen these attempts to be futile time after time. It makes much more sense to move to an iterative/incremental project lifecycle iteratively and incrementally.

Depending on the role you are interviewing for, you may want to leave certain questions out or perhaps add some of your own. Certainly there will be questions you want to ask about things like the person's outlook towards businesspeople and technical people working closely together, which is important no matter whether the project is waterfall or Agile.

  1. How long were the iterations (or sprints) on the projects you worked on? 

Agile project methodology moves at a fast pace and you should already have a good idea of the length of the iterations for the pending project. Answers of between 1-week to 3-weeks are ideal. If your candidate has worked on Agile projects which had long iterations (4 weeks or longer), or wildly variable-length iterations, it will make sense to determine if this person is comfortable with the iterations as defined for your project. A steady set of fixed-length iterations that are fairly short is best. The theory that big companies need longer iterations is not based in fact. We've done many big company projects in the 1 to 2 week iteration range.

 2. Are you a Certified Scrum Master (CSM)? If so, how do you view the way Scrum projects need to be organized? 

Often we use certifications as a golden way to qualify candidates. But be somewhat careful with people who have gone through the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training. CSM training can sometimes have an anti-project management bent to it, depending on the class instructor. Quiz your candidate to find out if they feel that the idea of project management is "antiquated" or "out-of-date." Ask them if they feel that "every leader of a team should also be a coder." The candidate may use terms like "self-organizing team" which should signal you to ask more questions. This is not to say that CSM training or even the concept of a self-organizing team is bad or unworkable, but we are hoping to help you, the corporate manager, to identify people who will be able to work within the limitations of your group. If you want to move towards an environment without project managers, that's fine. But if you cannot do that in the short term, be sure to find out if your candidates fit what you require.

3. Did you use automated test tools on your projects? Explain how that worked.  

Agile project team members should have experience (or at the very least, the desire) to use

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