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Agile Transformation: how to select the appropriate pilot projects?

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2009/11/19

Even if rare examples of « Big Bang » agile adoption exist, as Salesforce in 2007 (not without a very strong preparation), I am convinced that a successful agile transformation requires two or three (max) pilot projects.


First, the selected pilot project is an opportunity to change and to learn but it must be also  sufficiently representative to be usefull and effective in a transformation approach. Do not experiment what could be agility in real life, do not try agile methods in your own organizational context before a general adoption is a mystery to me. You miss an important source of knowledge, refinement and improvement and also a good opportunity to initiate change management.


This is a recurrent but crucial and challenging question… Mike Cohn answered it recently by proposing 4 attributes to help the choice. His four criteria suit me well:

  • Duration: The ideal pilot project should be neither too short (to be credible, representative and to give a learning opportunity) nor too long (for an effective capitalization and a rapid agile generalization).
    In short : Between 2 and 5 months (max)  with 4 to 7 iterations
  • Size: The ideal pilot project should start with a single, small collocated team. A distributed team or several small teams would add unnecessary complexity during the pilot phase, unless working with distributed teams is the norm within the organization.
    In short: One single, small and collocated team
  • Importance: Unimportant projects will lead to less commitment and won’t be representative and credible… but critical or top priority projects would entail too much pressure for a team in a leaning situation. A good balance must be found for the ideal pilot project.
    In short: Medium importance, not critical but valuable for the organization
  • Business sponsor engagement: The ideal pilot project should have an engaged business sponsor. His commitment is a key to remove any obstacles. He will also be the best ambassador to promote the new methodology.
    In short: One engaged business sponsor

In summary, to launch an agile transformation, the ideal pilot project is both:

1. A real project with a real team

3. A project of a duration of 2 to 5 months (max), for example with 4 to 7 iterations

4. A project with a single, small and collocated team

5. A medium priority and non critical project but valuable for the organization

6. A project with an engaged business sponsor

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