Agile project management applies flexible, iterative project strategy to software development, and for many organizations, it’s a major shift away from their traditional project management styles. Teams that want to switch to an Agile methodology may have the technical expertise in-house, but they frequently need a dedicated person to focus on coaching teams through initial implementation and change management. This is where an Agile coach can come in and make a difference to future project success.
Start with basic Agile knowledge from Project-Management.com: Agile vs. Waterfall: Differences in Software Development Methodologies
What do Agile coaches do?
Agile coaches sometimes work with teams over an extended period of time, but many of them work for a contracted period. They are usually brought in to set up Agile teams effectively in their earliest stages of development. Coaches are trained to help with many different aspects of the initial launch of an Agile strategy, but most coaches specialize in technical or procedural change management.
Depending on the team and what kind of support they need, coaches manage these core responsibilities:
- Train on Agile methodologies: Teach teams and team members about the Agile methodology and get them started with their own project management strategy.
- Identify roadblocks: Identify a company’s starting Agile knowledge and then identify roadblocks at each stage of implementation.
- Design a plan: Partner with a team lead to design an Agile plan that works for the business and its projects.
- Research tools and resources: Research and provide appropriate Agile tools and resources to the new team.
- Offer change management support: Frequently consult and apply change management best practices throughout the implementation process, ensuring Agile becomes a cultural part of how teams create and think about projects.
- Strategize software setup: Assist with the strategy for project management tool and dashboard setups.
- Scale to new teams: Assist with scaling Agile practices to multiple teams and projects as a company grows.
- Document key processes: Work with the team on documentation and best practices to sustain, especially if the coach is on a temporary contract.
Get more support from the Best Change Management Tools.
How to select an Agile coach for your team
To better frame your search and selection process for an Agile coach, ask yourself and a prospective coach the following questions:
Length of coaching period
How long will you need this coach to work with your team? Will one month of simple implementation strategy be enough, or do you need to contract with someone for a longer period of time and sustained help?
Does this coach understand your industry? Have they worked with any other clients in a similar business model? Industry knowledge might be especially important for teams that work in niche and highly complex industries. In some cases, companies encourage one of their own team members to pursue a coaching certification so they can lead the process internally.
Existing team knowledge
Will your coach need to start with the basics, or are they helping you with a more complex problem further into the Agile implementation process?
Does your coach have any relevant Agile or project management training? Have they earned a widely recognized certificate of degree in the field?
How do the coach’s personality and approach fit with your current and future goals for company culture? How do you expect their personality will mesh with the most important stakeholders on your development team?
Learn more about different types of coaches: Agile Methodology Coaches: Types, Roles, and Responsibilities
How to find an Agile coach for your business
When an organization decides they want to work with an Agile coach, the hardest next step is finding the right coach. You can find coaches on LinkedIn and Dice, but a potentially better option is to look at certification sites and their pools of certified coaching candidates.
The Scrum Alliance offers two of the most common Agile coaching certifications. Because of its large pool of certified professionals, the organization is able to provide a filtered search to find coaches based on fluent languages, delivery methods, availability, and location.
How to become an Agile coach
If you’re interested in becoming a coach yourself, it’s important to complete the right kinds of training. The following steps illustrate a typical path toward an Agile coaching career:
- Do your own Agile learning: Learn the basics of Scrum, Kanban, and other Agile methodologies. Find online courses and articles on the subject that interest you.
- Pursue a relevant certification: Some of the top certifications in Agile coaching are Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach, Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and SAFe Program Consultant (SPC).
- Connect with experienced coaches: Find other coaches, either through LinkedIn or through your certification’s network, to learn more about what they do.
- Find a starting coaching opportunity: Start with a smaller-scale contract project to test your knowledge and develop new skills on the job.
Learn more: What is SAFe in Agile Development?
Benefits of working with an Agile coach
Coaches give teams a mixture of procedural knowledge and enthusiasm for managed change that makes a big difference to the success of an Agile transition. Among other support that they might be able to provide to an emerging Agile team, coaches offer the following benefits to an organization:
Improved project standards and accuracy
Because Agile coaches establish standardized processes and procedures and also assist with process documentation, teams are armed with concrete knowledge of how a successful Agile project runs. This makes it possible to repeat past project steps and lessen the chance for user errors over time.
Support for project management platform selection
Agile coaches often have experience deploying and working with a variety of project management platforms. Working with an Agile coach assures that your team will have expert assistance with finding project management tools and resources that work for what you need.
Applied strategies for change management
Change management can be difficult to execute, especially when it is coming from an internal leader who is also new to the methodology. Trained coaches are experienced change management professionals who use different strategies to ensure change sticks at all levels and in all departments.
Clearer goals for employees
Agile coaches not only help with the initial rollout and training for an Agile methodology but also assist with goal-setting for team projects. Following a clearly delineated Agile plan gives teams more defined goals to follow on how, when, and what they need to manage during different phases of projects.
Read next: Best Agile Project Management Tools