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We have prepared something special for you this week! Lately we had a pleasure to talk with Christopher Cooke - Product Marketing & Business Lead, Clearvision from UK. He shared his thoughts with us regarding agile project management, outsourcing and business in general.

Let's dive into our interview together!

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Weronika Nowak: What is your opinion about Outsourcing in general? Is it something positive or negative in your opinion?

Christopher Cooke: In general, I think it gets a bad reputation, and for good reasons. It’s definitely worth being careful about who you partner with. For example in my experience telemarketing outsourcing services are much better at selling their own services than they are at anyone else’s. However, that’s only one example and with the right partner, outsourcing represents a wonderful opportunity for an organization to focus their time and energy on their strengths. Far too often, companies think they can do everything in-house. If your staff are already working full-time within their areas of competency, then keep them there! Outsourcing can represent a great opportunity to hire a resource part time and for you to work alongside and learn and from dedicated and experienced professionals. If someone is outsourcing a resource regularly, and the demand is growing, then it may be time to consider starting a department in house, but even then, people must consider the hidden costs. Does your recruitment team know enough on the subject to hire the right person for the job? Does your management have enough experience in this area to give strategic guidance? What training, onboarding and direction can you provide for staff in an area you have no experience in? Many see outsourcing as costly, but neglect the hidden costs of starting a new department in house.

WN: In the view of work with an Agile outsourcing company, can we call it a partnership?

CC: It has to be a partnership. If an Agile outsourcing company doesn’t fully understand how their clients work and what their goals are, they’d offer no value. If the client didn’t share their problems and failures, and didn’t listen, then the whole exercise would be pointless. Like any collaboration, it has to be started with clear communication and co-operation to function. Agile teams more than any other are used to embracing a new challenge and new ways of getting things done. The fact that they place people and performance above strict processes means they’re much more able to work with another team with a different process.

WN: Is Agile our future? How long could it be a major methodology in software delivery?

CC: It’s definitely proven itself to be one of the most important paradigm shifts in business. Some people say that Agile doesn’t scale up for large enterprises. Maybe that says more about the failings of large corporations than the failings of the Agile methodology. Agile still has a long way to go before it defines how senior management at the largest institutions think, and for me, that shows the scale of the opportunity. For me, Agile won’t have reached its full potential until it grows beyond technical teams, and starts changing how sales, marketing, operations and senior management teams work. Only when that happens will it be time for someone to create another zeitgeist and the whole process will start again!

WN: Would you be able to describe agile project management? What are the keys to succeed and deliver fully successful project?

CC: In the marketing department, everytime we make a mistake we shrug and say we’re being Agile. Haha. Seriously, as a non-technical team member, I’ve loved learning some of the key takeaways that help software development scrum teams work so effectively. For me, aiming for a quick output, and putting ego aside at the retrospective meeting is the ultimate way to continuously improve and continuously deploy. Stand up meetings and Kanban boards mean everyone has a sense of pulling as a team, and means we share in each others’ successes. As a Psychologist, it’s very clear how these tools motivate people to collaborate better, and how self-organizing teams empower people. Everyone wants to succeed at what they’re working on, and Agile project management has given them the tools to do so, or at least hold up a mirror to where there’s room for improvement.

WN: Why do you think Polish people are leading the Agile revolution? Could you tell a little bit more about your experience/Poles from IT branch you know?

CC: I guess you read my blog post on this very subject? I’m probably not the first person to notice how well the Polish people have embraced Agile. I’ve loved collaborating with Polish colleagues, partners and clients. They have a very dry sense of humour, they’re smart and ambitious but humble. I guess that’s why they’re comfortable sharing and learning from their mistakes at retro meetings. I also believe their past has taught them to be skeptical of authority and processes. Senior management can get frustrated with the strong-headedness, but a team that is responsible for their own organization and output is a powerful thing. My favourite part of working with Polish people is that if they say they can deliver something, they will. Unlike India (another large outsourcing market), working in Poland has given me many examples where people have given me an honest and accurate assessment for how long a job will take, and then delivered it, ahead of time and above expectations.

WN: Do you recognize at least 3 tech companies (startups) developed in Poland?

CC: I had fantastic meetings with many more than 3! Software Plant, Stepwise and TestArmy are the three I’ve been in touch with recently. All three are super smart, hard working and put product before spin (development above marketing). I love their enthusiasm as I met them to discuss strategic partnerships and by the end of the meeting, I believed in their success and wanted to join their teams! When people have such technical skill and the ability to communicate persuasively in a second language, you know they believe in what they’re doing and they’re going to make it a massive success.

WN: Would you like to give some advice for growing startups?

CC: Too many technical people see sales the dirty side of business. It’s the engine for growth. Too many people aim for perfection and won’t launch until they’ve reached an unobtainable goal. Try, fail, try again, and get advice from successful mentors.

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