Pitching Agile – Some Lessons Learned

Pitching Agile – Some Lessons Learned

[From the Archive: Originally posted at Amplify.com Jul 16, 2009]

Background

One of the afternoon sessions at the recent BCS miniSPA event in London was entitled “Pitching Agile”. I went along hoping to learn a few tips on this topic, only to find a wicked role-playing session in prospect.

The Session

We were grouped into four teams, each with a balance of Agile experience, from self-appointed guru through to novice. Each team had some 4-5 people in total. The brief: to prepare a pitch to the four CXO’s of a 5000+ developer Global Financial organisation looking to “go Agile”. We would have 10 minutes to prepare a pitch to each CXO in turn, each such pitch taking no more that 2 minutes. In the end we had time for three pitches (rather than the proposed 4). The excruciatingly short time scales proved both a curse and a blessing.

The Confusion

Through inattention or omission our team fell to the assumption that we were pitching as a team of external consultants. We were summarily and cruelly disabused of this flawed assumption as early as the first pitch.

The Pitch

We quickly decided to pitch using the Three Box Monty (flipchart) format as described in Paul DiModica’s “Value Forward Selling” (top book BTW), and got down to constructing the pitch.

  1. Box 1 presents issues faced generally in the industry in question (Financial Organisations, in this case).
  2. Box 2 (ideally, to be completed during the pitch by the CXO being pitched-to) describes the special problems of the particular prospective purchaser.
  3. Box 3 describe how Agile (and our team) will fix the prospect’s business issues (i.e. as listed in box 2)

Lessons Learned

  • Box 2 of the Three Box Monty didn’t really work out in the first pitch, and so in preparing for the second pitch we decided to ditch it in favour of a “future state – the agile enterprise” box. This seemed to be much better received in subsequent pitches.
  • Hard numbers seemed to be received well (again, a lesson carried forward from the first pitch): Organisational budget for 5000 devs = circa £400M annually; assumed savings from Agile transformation of circa 50% (doubling of effectiveness) = £200M annually; 10% budget for transformation effort = investment of £20M.
  • We fell short (in every pitch) in describing the actions necessary to achieve the transformation (despite being explicitly pre-warned, and putting some effort into addressing this topic).
  • Anticipate as many objections as possible, and have rejoinders ready- we were prepared for these.
  • Only ever have one person (the Salesman) presenting the pitch. (When stuck, he can direct one of the other team members to answer the question).

Outcome

Despite feeling overwhelmed by the task and the lack of time both for preparation and presentation, we discovered to our delight that we had been adjudged “the best of a bad lot” and received a small but welcome prize recognising our achievement (a box of choccies).

Postscript

My thanks also to the hard-nosed bastards playing the roles of the CXOs, as well as to David Harvey for presenting the session.

– Bob

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