Picture of Stephan van Rooden

Stephan van Rooden

Partnership and Scrum – How does that work?


We talk about partnerships all the time but how often is your collaboration a real partnership? When problem appear will the contract you drafted be dropped on the table and the finger-pointing starts? Or do you sit together and maybe both take a bit of the pain since your are in this together. Most of the time, both occurs, after a lot of attempts to shift blame we conclude that we both contributed to the situation and we make an agreement to share the pain. However, the bruises are there and so will be the lack of trust for future collaboration.

Once I worked with a company that had worked together with a supplier for over 8 years. Their collaboration started like a partnership, they worked together to get the product to market in a little over 4 months. The first release was a huge success and although there were some issues that needed to be fixed they continued to work together. Instead of improving on their collaboration they invested in more written agreements, bonus modules etc. stretching the release cycle from once every 4 months to 18 months. Having 3 months of contract negotiation, 3 months of design, 3 months of development and the other 9 months they spent on fixing bugs.

Thousands of euros for 5 minutes of work

The contract stated the customer received 5 deliveries of the product. The first couple of product deliveries was accepted if there were no more than 160 known defects. The fourth was accepted when there were less than 60 defects. The final release, the one that would go into production, was accepted if there were 30 known defects in there. 30 known defects in a product delivered to customers who paid a lot of money for this product. If the supplier met these agreements they would receive a bonus.

This resulted in strange behaviour from both parties with very expensive discussions on whether it was built as specified or a defect although they both agreed that in it’s current state the feature had no value to their customer. I have seen thousands of euros being paid for a bug fix that only took 5 minutes to be resolved. It was insane! No partnership there.

So in this situation, where no Scrum has been applied yet, they wanted to turn this around since the entire company was preparing to adopt Scrum. In the current situation their collaboration was based around a demand driven approach. Based on a specific scope, people were allocated, projects created and managed etc.  

Using the Scrum framework you move to a supply driven approach. A stable team that you offer work to, based on value you have the work on delivering a product.

What do you put in the contract?

That’s easy. At least 4 things

  • Collaboration – That’s easy, using the Scrum Framework
  • Who – Which professionals will work together in the Scrum team. We want stable teams so put their names in the contract.
  • Improvements – We know we will run into pitfalls so how do we make sure we are able to learn from them. So on every level in both organizations we get together on a regular interval and discuss how to improve our partnership. (Every x weeks).
  • Quality – What is the minimum level of quality we will accept. Basically a minimal definition of done.

Curious what started this blog? Read my earlier post

More to explore

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