Selling Agile to the CFO: A Guide for Development Teams - Slide 3

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In addition to preparing information to educate the CFO about agile, learn effective ways to introduce new ideas. The book Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas [Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising, Addison-Wesley, 2005] is one way to improve your chances for success. According to Manns and Rising, it pays to begin building a relationship with a higher-level manager. “While he may never become an enthusiastic supporter, at least he is less likely to block your efforts.” Crispin’s own experience has been much more positive, and she’s spoken with many teams whose executives offered strong long-term backing for their transition to agile.

Manns and Rising describe two patterns that work on decision makers and key influencers like your CFO. One is Corridor Politics, in which you informally approach the decision maker, explaining the issue, listening to and addressing their concerns. Use this pattern to create one-on-one communication with your CFO outside of formal meetings. The Whisper in the General’s Ear pattern guides a one-on-one meeting with an influential manager to explain how agile will impact them. Manns and Rising advise, “Be ready to address the costs and benefits of your idea but don’t overwhelm [the executive] with data.”

Your programming team is on board with agile and the notion of iterative design and development, but the financial executives prefer to think in terms of “Just tell me when it’ll be ready and how much it’ll cost.” If you can sell the CFO on the agile methodology, you’ll have an ally in the board room.

Agile adoption requires a big investment by your company, not just by the development and QA staff. Your team needs time to master agile values, principles, and practices, and to apply them to your unique situation. A culture of learning, time to experiment, and tolerance for mistakes are essential to successfully improving software quality and responding to changing business requirements. How can you get the resources and long-term support you need from the business?

Here’s a good strategy: Get your chief financial officer (CFO) on board. Telling the CFO, “We want to do this” probably won’t work. After speaking with both financial and software experts, including her own company’s CFO, Lisa Crispin, an agile testing practitioner and coach, is confident that you can make agile an easy sell.

Here are seven tips from Lisa Crispin, highlighted in her post on the Software Quality Connection, to help you sell agile to your CFO.

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