Agile investment - where to start?

I have noticed an increasing trend that software development teams, venturing into agile world, do their first investment in Scrum training. Is it a wise investment? Does it provide a good rate of return?

Absolutely NOT!

Scrum does not make teams agile. It teaches how to get the best results from an agile team. Agile and Scrum are related but these are not synonyms. Agile is foundation and scrum is structure. A wise person invests first in a solid foundation.

If I have limited budget then I will invest money in the following order:

0.  Agile Coach: If someone decides to go to a new destination. There are two options:

  • Adventure: Explore, learn, and keep going (inspect and adapt).
  • Guided tour: Someone knowledgeable can make your journey easy and enjoyable
Both techniques have advantage and disadvantages.  Investing in an agile coach can make agile journey easier and teams can start yielding returns very quickly. Inspect and adapt can work very well for smaller teams. I highly recommend large teams to invest in a agile coach to avoid chaos and dissatisfaction. Agile coaches architect a solid foundation.

1.0 Unit testing: No extra investment is needed. Just need an attitude change and engineering discipline.

1.1 Continuous integration: I will hire/develop an expert release engineer or configuration manager who can automate build and deployment process with the objective of daily integration build deployed for daily testing.

1.2 Infrastructure: It is critical to have enough hardware to support continuous integration environments. In real world one environment is not enough to meet all our needs (user acceptance testing, performance testing etc.).

2. QA Automation: It is important to understand how teams will make use of daily deployments. If testing is manual than cost of testing will shoot up very quickly as teams have lot more to test now. It is critical to invest in QA automation to take advantage of frequent deployments so that defects can be caught quickly.

3. Process Training (e.g. Scrum): If a team can't not meet the above mentioned prerequisites then Scrum or any other process can't make much difference. Hence, why should I bother about training team for Scrum. A solid structure based on a week foundation falls apart sooner or later. Also, cost of fixing weak foundation, after a structure is built on it, is much higher. On a positive note, teams atleast realize that their foundation is weak after going on a Scrum path. For some people, failure is the way to learn. Hence, it is fine to start on Scrum path just to learn the importance of solid engineering foundation.

How will you invest your money if you limited budget?

Suggested Agile Reading:


  1. What about investing in a leader to change the culture? Infrastructure and tools and to some extent not even training will not change the value of the team and make them agile.

  2. That's a good point Ion. This article is based on the assumption that change leader is making the investment. Choosing a right change agent/leader is a must. I talked to lot of folks and there is a lot of drive to make a change towards agile path. Leaders are made responsible for driving this change. However, these leaders need mentors to help them explore new journey.