Richard Collings

Agile Business (L) 2018
Agile Business (L)
Thursday 16:15 - 17:00

Session type: Lecture
Session level: Suitable for all

The final frontier: how to effectively engage business users in your agile development work

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In your organisation, even if everybody is fully behind your mission it can be incredibly difficult to get full, effective and enthusiastic engagement from your business managers and users If so, you are not alone. The 2017 Version One State of Agile Report identifies ‘Company philosophy or culture at odds with core agile values’ as the #1 challenge experienced by organisations adopting and scaling agile.

Over the years, Richard has worked with this problem across a wide range of different organisations and in each case has succeeded in building an enthusiastic and engaged community of users with a high degree of ownership of the new system and its associated new ways of working In this session, he will be sharing his hard won tips and tricks on what really works in that tricky situation of building systems that are going to bring about change in organisations where the technology is a means to an end , rather than an end in itself Typically in these sorts of organisations, there are multiple stakeholders with different requirements that are often poorly understood, decision making can be slow and politics can often take over.

In many of these organisations, working practices are deeply embedded and there is a reluctance to change. At the same time, managers are pre-occupied with costs and want firm commitments on timetable. And staff are not necessarily very tech savvy and are often heavily committed to their day job which makes effective participation in an agile design and development process very difficult Richard will share stories from the front line describing his successes (and his failures) in tackling these issues.

He will also describe how he has taken the ideas and theories from a wide range of agile thinkers (Dave Snowden, Jeff Patton, Tom Gilb, the Poppendiecks, amongst others) and applied them practically to these challenging real world situation.  Most of Richard’s recent projects have been in the not for profit sector which has organisations of many different types Some use a traditional ‘command and control’ approach to managing the business. Others have adopted structures which pre-figure the approach envisaged by leading writers on agile organisational design: networks of semi-autonomous groups with a high degree of local autonomy working collaboratively towards a shared goal So this session will be of interest to product owners, business analysts, scrum masters, project managers and others working in (or for) commercial, government and not for profit organisations, typically delivering complex services, who are looking for some new and different ideas for building effective and enthusiastic engagement of the ‘the business’ with their tech development work


Richard has been working in IT for over 40 years. For the last 25 years he has been working as an independent consultant with charities and government agencies on technology projects involving organisational change, helping them design and implement systems to improve efficiency and service delivery whilst the same time building evidence bases to support their campaigning and advocacy work.

He has typically worked on these projects from their inception right through to go live and active use. This has given him an rare perspective across the whole project life cycle. His focus has always been on engaging all levels of the business in the implementation process. – looking at both how the system is going to work and also at the way in which it can be used to change and improve working practices. Through this process of engagement, he has delivered a high level of user ownership of the new system and which in turn has generated high levels of enthusiasm for the new system and the new ways of working To this end, he has had a long standing interest in ways of designing and delivering software that facilitate this user engagement and so was an early adopter of Tom Gilb’s Evo techniques in the late 1980s and then more recently the ideas around xP, Scrum. and the other agile techniques.

Never keen on one particular methodology and always curious , he mixes and matches techniques from a wide variety of sources (including traditional BA techniques) to tackle the specific needs and context of each project. His current favourite thinkers include Dave Snowden, Jeff Patton, Tom Gilb, the Poppendiecks, Neils Phaeging and Frederick Laloux. Prior to starting as an independent, he worked as software engineer for Logica, started the first software development collective in 1979 and then worked for a software consultancy on projects for financial sector and media companies.


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