Skip to main content

Guidewire: Waterfall is more expensive - 2

[Need proof that direct verbal communication is more effective than written communication? Stuart's talk Wednesday lasted about 1 1/2 hours. I've spent twice that time writing it down, and I am only half finished, and I am still remembering things I should have put into the first half! ]

Part one: Would you want to work for Guidewire?

Next question: Would you buy from Guidewire?

The fear was great that customers would perceive Guidewire as too chaotic to produce standard software. So how do you convince the customers to buy? A long discussion ensued which led to the conclusion that the sales process is the same, regardless of how you produce the software: Speak the language of the customer. Build trust: Deliver continuously and deliver what you promise. And avoid the customer's controller — he doesn't want to know about the details of IT anyway ;-).

And yet, standard software requires customization, so the customer and Guidewire must work together on projects to realize their solutions. Can Guidewire stay with Scrum or do they have to adapt to the customer the methodology?

The service companies in the room quickly agreed on the answer: you give the customer what he wants, right? Yes, you do. But according to Stuart, if the customer insists on a waterfall like model, Guidewire informs the customer that this will cost more. Stuart did not say how much, but enough to encourage most customers to not only accept Guidewire's using Scrum but also to use it themselves.

As the company approached 300 employees and started thinking about going public (necessary so that employees could cash out), it had the feeling it had reached certain limits to growth.

Can Guidewire go public as a Scrum company? How to explain to Wall Street that the company reorganizes every month and that the COO changes every month? Can it grow further? The company had three choices: Continue with Scrum the way they had been doing it. Modify Scrum in some way, or introduce a layer of management hierarchy for the benefit of Wall Street. What do you do?

We discussed a number of alternatives, and particular discussed the case of Gore-Tex. This company has several thousand employees, but is organized as a holding company with some 30 independent subsidiaries, each one doing some specific application of the Gore-Text technology, but with no more than 150 people.

Interestingly, Guidewire's management did not trust the Scrum process enough to handle discussions of serious change. People were too happy the way they were, and a serious change, even the potential of serious change, could be very demoralizing.. (More on this in a separate blog entry). So the change did come top down, presumably based on input coming from the Scrum teams.

According to Stuart, they seriously considered the last alternative (classical management) and even went to far as to hire a "gray hair" - a senior executive from IBM. But the culture was so different, that he didn't last in the job. And this convinced them to stay the course with Scrum. Continue doing what had made them successful.

One change they did make: they reduced the teams down to so-called "pods". A pod is a group of 3 to 6 developers. Bigger teams were seen as counter productive.

At the end, Stuart Presented us with an interesting study on the relationship between Job Satisfaction under Scrum and pay scales, which I will present in a separate blog entry.

All in all, a very interesting discussion about a very interesting case.

The question which I wish I had asked was about how these "pods" are coordinated. The role of the Product Owner was a bit unclear. The Product Owner are at least somewhat outside of Guidewire's modified Scrum process with it's continuous reorganizations. A Product Owner is responsible for each of the 5 product areas, but there still between 50 and 100 teams. How to organize and coordinate the work between the teams? Time didn't really allow us to get to this question.

Next: Scrum and Job Satisfaction

Stuart, thank you very much for coming!

[Update: JP has published a summary, in german, on his blog, with emphasis on the workings of Guidewire pods. I suppose I'll have to translate this (back) into english....]


jp said…
Hi Peter,
i just want to make an annotation to the point "Build trust" (2nd chapter):

- deliver continuously
- deliver what you promise

Cheers, jp
Peter said…
Hi jp,

Thanks for the tip. You are right and I have updated the text accordingly.



Popular posts from this blog

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Five Simple Questions To Determine If You Have the Agile Mindset

My company has started a top-down transition to Scrum and Kanban. Will that make us an Agile company? About 2 years ago, I attended a conference hosted by the Swiss Association for Quality on the topic of Agility. As a warm-up exercise, the participants were given the 4 values of the Agile Manifesto, then asked to arrange themselves in space. How Agile is your company? How Agile do you think it should be? Very Agile on left, very traditional on the right. There was a cluster of people standing well to the right of center. “Why are you standing on the right?” It turns out that they were all from the railway. “Our job is to run the trains on time.” They were uncertain whether this agility thing was really aligned with their purpose.
Is Agility limited to software? Steve Denning has collected the evidence and laid out the case that Agile is not limited to software, nor is it merely a process, nor is it something you can do with part of your time, nor is it something you can have your …