Making Cornwall Agile

Grow Cornwall provides business support for high growth business as part of the regional aid and Objective-1 funding for Cornwall. Between 2010 and 2012 Grown Cornwall offered Agile adoption support to companies in the county.

While open to all high growth companies in Cornwall the Agile programme worked mainly with the Cornish technology sector. In total this touched some 17 companies.

Allan Kelly acted as the primary Agile coach for the programme and enrolled companies. This involved spending at least one week a month in Cornwall providing coaching, consulting and occasional training.

One of these companies, SCSL makes medical decision support software. Allan advised the SCSL on Agile adoption and practices at both the development team and management level. He continues to give occasional advice to the managing director on products, teams and strategy.

Another companies, Research Instruments, is a world leader in manufacturing IVF equipment. Allan initial trained the RI development team in Agile and continued coaching for 18 months. The team now claim to be able to deliver software projects “to the day” and Agile has been expanded into the hardware engineering and marketing areas.

Another of the initial companies was a small e-commerce solutions provider. In the years during and since it has trebled its revenue and created a subsidiary to provided dedicated staff working in an Agile style to large corporates. This company alone has created 30 jobs in the county.

The Agile programme worked on a four dimensional model:

  1. Strategy coaching to senior managers.
  2. Coaching and training to managers and developers in Agile processes and product management.
  3. Technical coaching to developers and other technical staff
  4. Time: it was recognised that overnight transformation was not realistic, in time managers and teams were helped to advance, adopt more practices and explore their own solutions to their specific problems.

This approach meant using different coaches with the groups of stakeholders within companies. A few companies were helped in all four dimensions, most were helped one or two of the first three dimensions.

Allan Kelly focused on the process and products dimension but as the primary coach also spent time at the strategic level and with the technical teams. As well as helping the companies directly he was key in deciding which companies could be helped and how.

The initial Agile programme has left behind three key legacies:

  1. Most of the companies who were helped can clearly show they are now better at doing software development, continue to get better and are demonstrating successful overall growth. According to an independent report in late 2012 over 50 jobs were created as a result of the programme. Some of the companies now pay themselves to receive specialist Agile coaching.
  2. Oxford Innovation – who run Grow Cornwall – have launch successor initiatives under the “Agile Innovation” brand.
  3. The Agile on the Beach conference is now an annual international event running in Falmouth which attracts speakers and attendees from as far afield as the USA and Israeli. Established by several of those involved with the original Agile programme – including Allan Kelly – the conference is now entering its fourth year and is expanding in 2014 with more space, more speakers and paying attendees.
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