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I'm hoping that this is the right place to ask this question, but my company has recently started a process to look at how we build software, from the tools we use to the methodology. As you can imagine we have the kind of endless meetings where we sit around a table and split hairs.

In an effort to actually get something done I've suggested we hire in a professional to take a look at how we do what we do and maybe guide us into a more agile approach to delivering software.

My problem is that I'm not sure how to find a consultant we could bring in and get us started?

I was thinking of approaching someone like ThoughtWorks, but I think finding someone who isn't going to push an agenda or product on us would be better.

In the meantime I've picked up a few books and will do a bit of reading on the beach over the holiday vacation.

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Are you looking for recommendations of specific people or suggestions on how to evaluate people you consider? The latter would be more on-topic while the former is likely to get closed as not constructive since it'd just be building a list of people's favourite coaches and that's not really what we're here for. – Adam Lear Dec 22 '11 at 2:03
Not looking for specific people, but to give me an idiot on where to look and how to evaluate the people we do find. – jonnii Dec 23 '11 at 23:13

guide us into a more agile approach to delivering software.

finding someone who isn't going to push an agenda ... would be better.

Um. Which do you want? Change? Or no change?

If you want to change, then someone has to "push an agenda" on you.

Indeed, you can only change when someone "pushes an agenda" on you.

You should relax your requirements and find someone with a strong agenda who will push you in a new direction.

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By pushing an agenda, I mean not pushing a methodology just to sell their own companies products. – jonnii Dec 23 '11 at 23:13
@jonnii: "By pushing an agenda, I mean"... Please update the question. It appears that you're now saying "isn't going to push [an agenda] a product or product on us". That seems silly. – S.Lott Dec 24 '11 at 13:01
this whole answer should be a comment to the question – ZJR Jan 20 '12 at 2:02

I would look at hiring a professional. If you were able to get Thoughtworks I would jump at it. Yes they have their own products, but if you read one of their books the mention their product but don't push it. And those guys seem to be the best in the field.

But from anecdotal information in Wellington, New Zealand where I work. There are a lot of Agile consultants who can come in and recite the mantra of the project management side of Agile, get good wall boards and feature planning sessions running. But we are missing skilled people who can provide details on the technical side of agile.

Things like:

  • how to improve continuous integration to get more value,
  • how to enable continuous delivery, how do we work when we have to work with legacy code (or develop more),
  • how to re-tool to remove the barriers between testing and development.

And just from stories I've heard acceptance and implementation of Agile would be going better if both the project management and technical sides were covered off better.

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Where are you now?

Find someone who offers a fixed-price "agile readiness assessment" with the option to purchase additional coaching / consulting in "agile transformation". Ask for case studies or talk to past clients that they helped to achieve more a agile culture and practices.

With an assessment, you may learn that there are institutional barriers that you'll want to remove before you can even hope to succeed with agile.

Join a user group to find a coach or consultant

If you are having difficulty finding coaches/consultants, join an agile user group in your area and start attending. Meetings usually start or end with a networking session. Introduce yourself to lots of attendees and tell them what you are looking for.

Wait on the big tools

Generally it's the big firms that want to sell you agile process management software with their consulting. Such tools work great when needed, but I agree you don't want to start there.

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