BONUS: Mirko Kleiner on Agile Procurement a new approach to buying software development

When organizations start with Agile, they typically focus on the work that needs to be done at the team level. In many organizations we have “water-scrum-fall”, a little bit of Scrum squeezed inside two big buns of a plain waterfall.

The reason for that is that organizations don’t change as a whole. Typically Agile adoption starts in Engineering/R&D and slowly spreads throughout the organization. At some point, it bumps against the slow moving, but very powerful finance department. Where are all the financial decisions are made, including how to fund projects, and where Procurement has a key role. How do we change Procurement (buying software development) to fit Agile organizations?

That’s the topic we explore with Mirko Kleiner, a pioneer in the Lean-Agile Procurement movement.

How Lean-Agile Procurement got started

Read on for the detailed show notes and all the links.

The story of Lean-Agile Procurement starts with a challenging project. Where an organization wanted to start selling projects in an Agile manner. Without the long, drawn-out process of bidding and negotiation at the start of the project.

This was Mirko’s organization. And their idea to solve the “Procurement Problem” was simple: a 1-day contract inception with the customer. No middle-men, no long sales process. How would that work in practice?

Mirko and the team started working with that premise, and what came out was the start of Lean-Agile Procurement. Listen to the story to know about the details and challenges they had to face before they arrived at a solution.

The Lean-Agile Procurement Canvas: simplifying negotiations

As Mirko’s company started to use the approach they discovered, they bumped into the same questions over and over again. As a Swiss company, the natural solution was to borrow from the Business Model Canvas and create their own Lean-Agile Procurement Canvas, which they now use to help define the collaboration with the customers they work with.

It’s not only the software development vendors that have problems with the old approaches. Lean-Agile Procurement solves real problems for the people who need to purchase software development to meet their own business targets. Business development professionals don’t like the 100-page long spec documents any better than software vendors. And the LAP Canvas is a practical approach that helps you get started before you know all of the details, yet is fully transparent and drives accountability. Mirko explains how.

A multi-vendor project kick-off that actually works

Starting a software project with a vendor is hard enough, but how do you get multiple vendors to work together instead of attack each other as a defensive tactic? Mirko tells us the story of how he and his team were able to get multiple vendors together to start a project. The kicker: there was no spec and no contract when they entered the room. What happened?

Mirko shares the story of 3 vendors delivering a working prototype in less than 3 days and jumpstarting the collaboration they needed to get the project started, and delivered successfully. An inspiring story for those that have to deal with multi-vendor environments.

How Lean-Agile Procurement works, and improves on traditional procurement

What is the secret sauce that makes LAP work? Mirko shares with us the 4 critical ingredients that make LAP work:

  1. Remove or minimize the handovers (also in the procurement process)
  2. Include the people who will do the work from the very start
  3. Foster collaboration with all your techniques and approaches
  4. Bring all into one room for a Sprint-like start of the project

De-scaling Agile: how to succeed with a small team, where a large team failed

Finally, in this value-bomb-filled episode, we talk about why we need to scale. Previously in the week, we interviewed Scaling Framework authors. In this episode, we take a different perspective and share stories of how small teams can sometimes be successful where large teams were not able to deliver.

Mirko shares a story of a project that had 100 people, responsible for changing over 20 systems. The problem was that this large group of people was not able to deliver. Mirko was brought in with a small team. They asked a simple question: “what expertise do we really need?” And from that came up with a small team (6 people). In the spirit of Scrum, they started developing an MVP in 2 weeks (1 Sprint), and they went live with that MVP. Within just another Sprint (4 weeks in total) they were done/done and ready to go live with a project that a much larger group was not able to deliver.

Mirko asks: what’s the Minimum Viable Bureaucracy (MVB) that we can live with? Let’s start with that and add only what is strictly necessary.

More on Lean-Agile Procurement

For more information on Lean-Agile Procurement, check out their website and get in touch with Mirko whose contact information is below.

This episode leaves an implicit challenge in the air: what is the part of your process that you think cannot be made Agile? What can you learn from LAP that will help you move also that process towards the ultimate goal of building more Business Agility?

About Mirko Kleiner

Mirko is a founding member of Flowdays, and pioneer of lean-agile procurement. He works as an independent agile coach and interim manager. He has been an avid agileist (Agile Evangelist) for years, but also flexible when it comes adopting the right method.
Mirko is currently working on topics such as: De-Scaled Agile, participative agile transformation and the question “what comes before the agile contract?”

You can link with Mirko Kleiner on LinkedIn and connect with Mirko Kleiner on Twitter.

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