EFS Consulting
Marion Ibetsberger und Karim Gharbi von EFS Consulting kleben PostIts an eine Glasfront

EFS Scrum Masters and agile coaches accelerate an effective introduction and application of agile practices and support organizational cultural transformation with brain, heart and experience.

External Staffing of Agile Roles: A New Wind for your Agile Transformation

Many companies begin their agile transformation in response to challenges or overwhelming demands. Changing the company’s approach and structures, and overcoming cultural barriers, demands extra resources that can be hard for already overburdened employees to manage. External Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches bring a fresh perspective, share their expertise, and offer active support to facilitate the transformation.

Externe Scrum Master and Agile Coaches

By definition, Scrum Masters support teams and organizations in implementing the Scrum framework as outlined in the Scrum Guide. They serve as servant leaders, facilitators, coaches, managers, mentors, teachers, obstacle removers, and change agents. However, hiring external Scrum Masters can be beneficial as they bring a fresh, unbiased perspective and extensive experience from various industries, introducing best practices and innovative solutions. They offer objective facilitation and dedicated focus, free from internal responsibilities, ensuring consistent support. Additionally, they train and mentor internal staff, fostering sustainable agile practices. As change agents, they drive cultural and procedural transformations effectively, leveraging their external authority. This flexibility allows companies to scale agile coaching as needed based on project requirements and organizational maturity.

The term “Agile Coach” is often used to indicate a role that goes beyond a specific agile framework, encompassing a wider array of responsibilities. As an umbrella term, an Agile Coach’s tasks can vary widely, from developing transformation roadmaps and change strategies to conducting training sessions and coaching teams and individuals in agile methods.

 

When should companies bring them in?

In general, at the start of an agile transformation, it is reassuring to rely on external experts with first-hand experience in similar situations. Their presence provides security and allows internal teams to focus on their tasks, even when workloads are high. However, the choice of framework also significantly impacts this decision.

Adding external coaching resources with experienced professionals can also be crucial in various phases and situations of an agile transformation to ensure the success and efficiency of the process:

Kicking off an agile transformation

  • Expert scrum masters and agile coaches can help teams familiarize themselves with agile practices and work effectively.
  • External coaches can analyse the situation with a fresh perspective, making it easier to transform entrenched patterns.
  • An agile transformation involves temporary additional work that is typically challenging to manage with the existing workforce.

Enabling everybody involved in the transformation

  • Especially for employees who are new to agile roles such as RTE (Release Train Engineer) or Product Owner, external expertise can help to ensure a smooth transition and impart the necessary knowledge.
  • In these situations, external agile coaches offer training, mentoring and coaching to accelerate the learning curve and set the teams on the road to success.
  • If software services are purchased externally and the supplier lacks sufficient resources or experience with agile methods, it can be beneficial to hire an external agile expert to act as a Scrum Master and support the Product Owners. These external Scrum Masters or coaches can ensure that agile principles and practices are successfully applied by the external service providers.

Leveraging External Expertise for Effective Agile Transformation

  • If the implementation of agile teams, agile release trains, Nexus, and similar frameworks does not lead to expected improvements like faster time to market, fewer issues, greater transparency, and more motivated employees, a targeted root cause analysis is essential. Problems cannot be solved with the same methods that caused them.
  • External agile experts can provide an objective perspective and leverage their experience to identify and implement effective solutions.

Further expansion stages in agile scaling

Establishing Agile Release Trains (SAFe)

Companies with established Scrum teams often face challenges in coordinating cross-team dependencies and delivering consistent value. Implementing an Agile Release Train (ART) can provide a solid foundation for aligning priorities and managing dependencies across teams. This process includes defining and training new roles, establishing ceremonies to coordinate the collaboration of over 100 people, and addressing any cultural resistance. EFS Agile Experts can leverage their experience from numerous successful implementations to support your company in this transition.

Building a Large Solution

When individual products become so complex that their development involves more than 120 people, additional structures and measures are necessary. While the SAFe framework and the Spotify model offer guidance, a customized approach is needed to manage this complexity effectively. External expertise can provide valuable support, helping to save time and resources that would otherwise be spent on trial and error.

Lean Portfolio Management

In companies where development and operations are already agile, traditional waterfall strategies and financing processes often pose the next hurdle to achieving greater corporate agility. Infusing agility into these areas significantly enhances the company’s responsiveness. However, implementing new approaches at this level requires more extensive changes than introducing agile development teams. Experienced experts can bolster confidence in the new approach and facilitate this transformation.

 

Key Considerations for Filling Agile Roles Externally

It’s important to note that while you can bring in training, capacity, and expertise, you cannot buy an agile transformation itself. A successful transformation always requires the will and active participation of the company’s managers.

Hiring external agile roles can be compared to supporting a soccer team. For a local U14 village team, a committed neighbour can often serve as a trainer and coach after work. In contrast, a world-class team requires a full-time support staff, including trainers, coaches, physiotherapists, mental trainers, and nutritionists.

The success of a soccer team depends on the skills and talent of the players. However, even the best team cannot reach its full potential without the right support and coaching. Similarly, in an agile transformation, companies that bring in external Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches significantly increase their chances of success.

 

When can external support be reduced again?

Once the willingness and mechanisms for continuous improvement are established within the company, the need for external expertise and capacities decreases. Another positive sign is when employees focus more on their core work rather than discussing agile approaches. The need for external expertise further diminishes as internal employees take on their agile roles and associated responsibilities and tasks.

 

The EFS approach to external staffing of Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches

The process of filling agile roles externally at EFS begins with an analysis of the existing framework conditions and internal resources. The goal is to identify the skills and roles currently available within the company and to promote their targeted development. The focus is on empowering and building internal teams, with external support used only where it is genuinely useful and necessary.

Not every agile project automatically requires an external role to be filled. The role must be clearly defined, and its absence must be noticeable. Hasty external staffing without a real need is not only ineffective but also unnecessarily costly.

 

Conclusion

External Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches can provide valuable support to companies on the path to agile transformation. The EFS approach ensures that external expertise is used in a targeted and efficient manner.

Would you like to strengthen your agile team with experienced specialists without incurring unnecessary costs? Contact us today to learn more about the EFS approach to external staffing of Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches!

People

Bernhard Schreiner, Partner bei EFS Consulting

Bernhard Schreiner

Jürgen Leitner, Partner bei EFS Consulting

Jürgen Leitner

Liliana Simon