What is Consultancy Scrum?

Scrum is an agile project management methodology for building products within a single organization. Using scrum, a team develops its product in small pieces, with each piece building upon its predecessors. Organizations originally created Scrum and other agile methodologies to manage and develop their own products using their own resources. As a result, they're inward-facing with budgets and resources often managed by a single entity. This can lead to difficulties and misunderstandings when working for an external client.

Consultancy Scrum was created to address the shortcomings of Scrum in a consulting environment. In Consultancy Scrum, the inward-facing nature of Scrum is turned inside-out, making it outward-facing and allowing multiple organizations to collaborate.

Five Tenets of Consultancy Scrum

  1. You're working on a project, not building a product.
  2. The client should provide an empowered Project Owner. If this isn't possible, assign a PO from the consultancy.
  3. Always assume the budget is inflexible. Flexibility should come from timeline and functionality.
  4. Clients have needs and concerns that should be addressed by someone outside of the project team.
  5. Consultancy Scrum itself should be adaptable.

Benefits of Consultancy Scrum

Projects, not products

Traditional Scrum is great at managing products. However, consultancies are usually hired to work on projects. Products are feature- and deadline-driven, whereas projects are goal-driven and powered by collaboration between people and teams.

The difference is subtle, but thinking in terms of projects is key to Consultancy Scrum. This is why we refer to the PO as the Project Owner.

Client as Project Owners

In Consultancy Scrum, the Product Owner is someone on the client side. Clients who are new to the Product Owner role will need to learn how to write user stories, how to prioritize them, what to look for in stories, and why accepting stories is important.

Most importantly, clients need to understand how something can be “done” when it’s only one piece of the puzzle. It may take some training on the part of the vendor, but an integrated, invested client can be the development team’s greatest resource.

Pick two

Encourage the Product Owner and stakeholders to pick their two highest priorities: Budget, Timeline, or Features. The backlog should always be fine-tuned to meet the most important of the two, allowing the third to be flexible.

Note: Budget is always one of the two, even if the client says it isn’t. When working for an outside stakeholder, budget is a driver and should be reviewed with the client and team on a consistent basis. This minimizes the risk of surprises. No one wants to run out of money before the project is complete.

Client management

When the client is integrated into development, it’s easy to think of them as another member of the team. Remember that they’re still the client and have business and emotional needs that need to be met beyond the scope of the project.

Appoint an account manager-like point of contact who isn’t purely project focused. This person can have frank discussions with the client to make sure all of their needs are being met without any of the day-to-day project concerns getting in the way.

Be adaptable

Scrum is all about being agile, allowing for change, and "failing fast." Your project management methology should be agile, too.

Every client, project, and person is different. What works for one project may not work for another. Consultancy Scrum embraces this and allows you to adapt to your client's unique culture.

Download the ebook!

Here's a handy-dandy ebook detailing our approach to scrum for consultancies, agencies, firms, or other services vendors.