Outsourcing and Scrum
As an employee wanting to become a Scrum Consultant, I knew Scrum, but didn’t have any customers. There was no established market for Scrum coaches nor were there any big companies doing Scrum projects. I couldn’t sell Scrum in the traditional sense, so I needed to help potential customers discover Scrum and make sure that they would find me when they got serious about doing Scrum. My solution was to build a Scrum community and this is how I did it.
If you are wondering how to become an independent Scrum coach, I would suggest starting or joining a local Scrum community. You can help make the market more interested in your chosen field and therefore in you. You can find other people who share your vision. You can become a magnet for requests for information. You can create an environment where you can meet new customers. You can do all this without a marketing department.
Inspiration from Open Source
Back in 2000, I joined the board of the Swiss Open System User Group (“/ch/open”), an established but at the time “dusty” user group, whose members were drifting away from the organization. At the same time, the Linux User Group Switzerland was an energetic and dynamic club, thanks largely to their biweekly “LUGS-Meets”: an interesting talk and quality community time. At /ch/open, we adapted that concept for our members, and the
Open Business Lunch was born. And yes, it helped revitalize the organization.
The consultant-evangelist’s challenge: finding customers
Scroll forward to 2007 and I am facing a similar problem. If the company is not already convinced to use Scrum, the sales cycle is too long. A man does not live on marketing alone, so I had to find companies that had already decided they wanted to do Scrum, or better yet, these companies had to find me.
What would it mean if there was an active Scrum community in my area? For one, potential customers and partners could find me (and other Scrum Gurus) easily. Other evangelists and early adopters could help carry the message to their companies. And a regular event would be a pressure-free opportunity to network with potential customers and partners.
How I started the community
I started out blogging to establish a relationship between myself and the community. My goal was to write frequently about interesting, Scrum related topics. If they can’t find you in Google, you don’t exist. If you write often, Google will make it easy for people to find you. The blog is where customers will find you when they are researching a topic. Even offline, you can refer customers to your blog (and demonstrate your expertise) when they are confronted with a problem.
A regular event is an opportunity for a conversation.
Then I started to hold a regular event, the Scrum Breakfast for potential members and customers.
“The Scrum Breakfast is monthly exchange of information around Scrum. The breakfast offers discussion, information and hands-on experience to CIO’s, executive and operational project managers. The program starts with a short presentation about an interesting topic around Scrum. A moderated discussion among the participants follows the talk to encourage an exchange of know-how and experience.”
The time slot competition at breakfast was the lowest, so that determined the time of the event. I was able to publicize the event in existing user forums (like
deutschescrum), which would not have been true of a commercially oriented event. I gave the first talks myself, but after a few events, people started responding to the call for participation.
Reach out to other organizations
At the same time, I reached out to other organizations, like /ch/open, Jugs, Reto Hartinger’s Internet Briefing, offered to give talks (for free, or course) about Scrum. And at the end of each meeting, I invited people to join us at the next Scrum Breakfast.
I sent out a monthly newsletter to anybody who was interested in the event. This announced the coming event and was also an opportunity to highlight recent blog articles or announce upcoming courses. I did have to strike a balance between Scrum Breakfast and “private” announcements. The SPAM filter is only a button away.
Expanding the community
After a few Breakfasts, a colleague from the SwissICT, Switzerland’s largest IT association, suggested that a more formal Scrum user group would be the logical next step. Anchoring Scrum into the broader IT community would help market acceptance. He put me in touch with Reto Maduz, a Business Unit Manager at a leading Swiss engineering company which had also started publicizing Scrum and Agile Methods, and together we founded the Lean Agile Scrum Group of the SwissICT. The Scrum Breakfast became an official event of the L-A-S-Group.
My colleague was right. The impact of associating the Scrum Breakfast with a larger organization has been dramatic. The latest Breakfast filled up two weeks before the registration deadline. A core group of 10 people is now working on everything from a website to organizing events and writing articles for the press. We have received our first requests from other organizations for speakers and articles. And customers have reacted positively knowing that their suppliers are active in the group.
How long did it take?
In October, 2007, I held the first Scrum Breakfast. Shortly thereafter, it was clear that my destiny was to become an independent consultant. At that point, I started writing my own blog. In April, I was independent with my first customer (but not one I found through the community). In June, my work starting bearing fruit – Artem’s inquiry if I would write for ASD was one of the first requests coming out of my blogging. By October, I had found my first project through the community.
As I write this in January 2009, I think I have found a marketing partner for my Scrum courses. At least one person is considering a job offer he found through the community and two independent consultants are starting to reach out to potential customers through the community. So 18 months later, the community is working for me and for its members.