In May 2019 a small revolution took place at Godel. The company’s project managers – the people who provide software delivery leadership for over 60 client engagements – became “Agile Delivery Co-ordinators’ – a change initiated by Elena Ogneva, Godel’s Head of Agile Delivery.
Elena has worked at Godel for nine years and comes from a business analyst and project management background before taking up the role as head of Godel’s project management division prior to changes. We asked her about the birth of agile delivery co-ordinator role and what brought about the changes.
Why did the company decide to rename the project manager position, and when did it happen?
We made the change after a conversation with a prospective client. During the meeting, I had to describe the style of our work, and when I began to tell them about our project managers, I noticed the client was surprised. He asked, “Can we name this role something else?” So, we said, “Yes, of course, we are agile.”
Agile and flexible methodologies are very current topics, but the “pure” project management roles seem less up to date. Clients are talking about agile and how they want flexible approaches – rather than rigidly defined projects. The term has become somewhat outdated and conveyed the wrong message to prospects and clients of what we actually do.
I went to management and explained the idea of changing the name of the position and the department and I was supported in my assertions. We started thinking of options and made a list of potential titles and in the end, we narrowed the choice to either “Agile Delivery Co-ordinator” or “Agile Delivery Manager”.
I chose the Agile Delivery Co-ordinator title because what we do is the co-ordination of delivery. Our clients are companies with their own IT departments, who know what they are developing and where they want to go. We work with the client to understand its business and objectives, set up interaction and communication and create a framework that will allow us to work together on product development and process efficiency in accordance with the needs of the team, client and product.
Was it difficult to convince employees of the usefulness of such changes?
I wrote an email and sent it to everyone at Godel. I explained that you shouldn’t be afraid – we will continue to work as before, but there will be more responsibility because we’re very clear that we know and practice agile.
The Agile Delivery Co-Ordinator role is broader than the Scrum Master role, which is to facilitate teamwork and eliminate blockers. I explained to the team that the way we react to the needs of our clients is more up to date and in line with their thinking. I received lots of enthusiastic comments from many of our Agile Delivery Co-ordinators who updated their LinkedIn profiles and received greetings from the community. People took it as a boost. Customers also perceived the change as a step forward. One customer even renamed these positions in their own organisation- a real affirmation that we’d done the right thing.
How does the work of an Agile Delivery Co-ordinator differ from the “classic” Project Manager?
The classic Project Manager function is about timelines, resources, scope and budget- with a directive management style. The Agile Delivery Co-ordinator role focuses more on people: facilitation and communication, team development and team building.
We create these working conditions so that each team member understands the essence and purpose of the tasks assigned to them. Moreover, the team (both Godel and client-side) decides what to do and how to do it. The idea is to create the most comfortable conditions for the work of both teams to create an atmosphere of trust so that they’re not afraid to criticise each other and offer the most advantageous solutions.
This isn’t the work of a Scrum Master in its pure form because it is impossible to direct and facilitate the team if you don’t understand the development process and don’t see the overall picture of where product development is going. The Co-ordinator must find a reasonable balance between the client, the team and management.
And what are your requirements for a candidate for the Agile Delivery Co-ordinator position?
The most important thing for a co-ordinator to do is to focus on people, not his/her own ambitions. The team should come first as it’s impossible to write code and deliver a working application without people. Good communication and facilitation skills to translate ideas to the team are imperative, and a mindset based on the working product and an understanding of why it’s being created.
Soft skills are also necessary- understanding of how the process of developing a software product is arranged, and experience in related areas – business analysis, QA, and development- helps a lot in this. In addition, the candidate should not only be aware of flexible methodologies but also share the core values of agile.
The topic of agile is still surrounded by a mass of disputes and speculations. How much does the agile approach work today?
It all depends on the direction of the business. If we are talking about a business where the environment doesn’t implement quick responses to users, to the needs of the product and the market, then traditional approaches can work quite effectively. For example, in the banking sector, where everything is tightly regulated and scheduled for the year ahead, the agile approach may be less necessary. They need strict reporting and structured processes.
Agile is suitable for fields with a volatile market and high competition where you need to quickly show results and interact closely with users to understand the reaction to the product. We have situations when it’s necessary to develop a new feature for a client in a week, allowing the client to spend the minimum of time and money to check the market response, and invest in longer-term development and architecture once tested.
I like agile because in this methodology each team member is responsible for the result. We are building a team that understands the goals of product development and can influence, if not the choice of technology, then the choice of one or another tool within the technology. Agile allows you to involve each team member in all stages of product creation.
Over time we’ve worked with clients who are truly agile – they spend a minimum amount of time on development and don’t engage in the deep strategic planning of each feature. It demonstrated that the agile approach works, and we better understood how to apply technical practices without which agile is impossible: serious automation, pair programming, code review, CI/CD practices that allow us to make the development process constant and as a predictable as possible. Historically we used scrum.org to train in the role of “Professional Scrum Developer”. Now we regularly conduct internal training based on our accumulated experience in the field of agile.
This interview was conducted by Dev.by.