Philly ETE 2015 #22 – Michael Toppa – Agile Contracts for Software Consultants

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Slides from Michael’s talk are available here.


You’re ready to go with all the best Agile practices: you’ll develop incrementally and iteratively, you’ll have sprints and retrospectives, and you can’t wait to tell your clients about your velocity and show them your burndown charts. But all of your prospective clients are telling you they want firm quotes, and contracts with detailed specifications and delivery dates. Clients almost always start with a preference for these types of traditional contracts. Such contracts provide them with a sense of security and confidence that they will get what they want.

How do you convince them a traditional contract is actually riskier than they think, and persuade them to instead sign an Agile (time and materials) contract? This is the most significant challenge facing consultants who want to follow Agile practices. In this talk we’ll discuss:

  • The specifics of the language in a contract that distinguishes an Agile contract from a traditional contract. This includes important clauses to protect both the consultant and the client.
  • The persuasion and negotiation process for getting your prospective client to sign an Agile contract. We’ll discuss real-life situations from our experience at PromptWorks.
  • Signing the contract is just the first step – you and your client must then work together to deliver a successful project. We’ll discuss what do if things go wrong, to get a struggling Agile consulting project back on track and avoid costly legal difficulties.

About Mike:

Mike Toppa has been developing web applications for 18 years, since the days of the Mosaic browser and HTML 1.0. Prior to his current position as a software engineer at the Agile consulting company PromptWorks, Mike was half of the 2 person engineering team at the Philadelphia based start-up ElectNext. He’s also worked E-Trade, Ask Jeeves, Penn, Stanford, and Georgetown University. Mike has led the adoption of Agile practices at several organizations. When away from his computer, you will most likely find him embroiled in a nerf gun battle with his 2 young boys, or tearing down yet another wall in his house.