Monday, 2 May 2011

Moving from Fix price to Agile Contracts

One of the major roadblocks in an agile transition is the fact thatcontract when adopting an agile approach fixed price, fixed content contract does not make much sense anymore.

sure, some organizations are succeeding in doing agile under such contracts but one of the promises of Scrum is to be able to easily cope with changing requirements, and change the work plan to contain the most valuable features seen at that time.

On the other side, after so many years working under fixed price,fixed content contract its really hard to change especially since much of the time the other side (the one paying) is not really involved in the decision to adopt agile.

Its all about risk

a couple of weeks ago I had the chance to talk Giora Morein during a conference, after a while we started talking pricing schemes at which point Giora pointed out that when working under a fixed price contract, the risk involved is mostly placed on the side providing the services, while when using an hourly/daily rate most of the risk is taken by the paying side.

I believe that this fact is part of the problem we face when trying to adopt to an agile contract. The problem is how to convince a customer that is used to having the risk placed at the supplier to accept the risks involved in committing to a project under a flexible budget and content.

Moving Into an agile Contract

The first thing I found useful when I try to switch to a flexible more agile contract, is to start by acknowledging this fact. I than counter to with the benefits of such a move, focusing on the benefits the client will see.

In many cases this is not enough and the customer will still choose to use the same fixed price, fixed content agreement and in this situation I found the following steps to be very useful to establish a level of trust needed to actually change the working contract.

In order to actually change anything the first order of business is to sort all requested features by order of importance. In most cases this is grasped by the client as a reasonable request and it opens several channels of communication whiled doing so. its very important that the client will be involved in this as much as we can since this phase build the basic understanding both parties can build upon later on.

Second I try to add the following key points to the contract

(since all this points are actually controlled by the client most have no real objection to include them in the agreement):

1) Scope can be changed - The client can swap any requirement/feature by a new one of similar size, as long as it conforms to the basic priority scheme.

2) Priorities can change - by the client at any point of time. These changes will be reflected to the work plan (excluding things which are currently under way).

3) The client can take a working version of the work so far. In fact he is encouraged to do so and provide any feedback he can n it.

4) Termination - at any point of time (subject to a reasonable fee – I use 25-30% of the remaining cost) the client can terminate the project taking all the work done so far.

I have tried this scheme on a couple of occasions and found that after a few times the client actually invoke any of this clauses. He usually see the benefits involved in such an agreement and the next time he actually insist on this ability and is much more open to a working under an “agile contract”.


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