Hi, Paula. Nice to have you here with us today.
Hey, Sergey, thank you so much for inviting me. Pleasure to be here today.
Pleasure on my side, Paula.
Today we are going to have an interesting conversation about the combination of Agile training and community. Paula is sharing her experience with the new experiment called Agile Thinkers Academy where they try a new approach to Agile training.
This is very exciting for me, because community is a big thing right now and everyone is talking about that. So please, Paula tell us what the Academy is and why you decided to do it.
Okay, with pleasure. Agile Thinkers Academy is a company that is trying to establish new ways of working in the Portuguese market. Not only in the Portuguese market, but we are mainly working in the Portuguese market. By establishing new ways of working we develop a new way of delivering training to individuals and companies that are trying to learn more about Agile.
For a long time and you still find two-day courses, one-day courses, that are isolated from everything else. Companies and individuals after attending a single course, they feel lost at the end. They learned about Scrum during two days, but after they come back to their companies, to their jobs, they don't know what to do, they don't have anyone to exchange some opinions, an open discussion.
At Agile Thinkers Academy, we decided that we needed to do something and we created this workflow, this Agile Thinkers Academy. Each time you buy a course, you get an introduction that helps you understand why you are at the course, what is supposed to happen, and what you can expect, what are the next steps. After the introduction, you have the two day, three day course.
And the most interesting part is the last and final part. It’s the community, as you said. All our delegates are invited to join a community in the Slack channel. And there are two channels for each delegate. So there is a general channel where our team shares frequently all types of content, like webinars, masterclasses, Agile employment opportunities, giveaways, books suggestions, podcast suggestions — a lot of information that we share with attendees. And they also get to join a specific channel according to the course they attended. For example, if you attended the Kanban course, you get access to the Kanban channel, for the DevOps course you get access to the DevOps channel. And in those specific channels, you get exclusive access to contents that are related to what the course issues. For example, you get access to reports, you get access to case studies, open discussions. We have consultants that go to those channels and start an open discussion. You can have the opportunity to share your fears, your difficulties with practitioners. You do not feel alone after attending a two-day course. That's what we try to bring with this sense of community.
That’s perfect. For me, it sounds as a very big amount of efforts from your side, but it’s also a more human approach than it was before. But you mentioned this, so it's a sort of interaction when there is a course and when there is a community and you plan a lot of additional activities inside community channels like masterclass, webinars, etc., to make sure that the people inside the community are kept engaged.
What stopped working? I mean, before you didn’t have anything like that, so what changed your mind?
Yeah, we are really trying to help companies change the way they work. We felt the need to support our students in any other way. And the proof of that, Sergey, is that we are not increasing our course prices. The prices are the same, we are delivering more value for the same price. Of course, we are making a difference over competitors, but our main goal is to deliver more value to the customer, to our attendees. And so, they can still pay the same price for a two-day course, but they get full access, an exclusive access to many contents.
We also started seeing that we were producing so much important content every year with our conferences. As you know, we are also co-organizers from Experience Agile Week, it's a five-day conference, and we record all those talks, all those workshops. There was so much good content available that we felt that we had to do something with that content. We are using some of the content that we produce exclusive for the conference. And we are also sharing with all the attendees of the Agile Thinkers Academy that type of content.
And as you know, we bring some of the most important Agile leaders of the world. Can you imagine to attend the Scrum course and after that you get full access to talk from Joe Justice that works with Tesla, or from Chet Hendrickson, that was the creator of extreme programming? So it's like that — we want to give a full experience that you don't get anywhere else.
This makes total sense, because right now you not only add additional value, but also differentiate yourself from the competitors in the market, and it sounds like a solid strategy.
In many cases, people who participate in training, they are not very engaged because they are sent to this training by the HR department.
And from your perspective, will this approach help to solve this issue or not?
Maybe not, Sergey, because the problem is, as you said, people are not engaged. Sometimes they don’t even understand why they are attending that specific course.
So it will help them to become more skilled in that area, but it will not help the previous part, that is “Why am I attending?”. The first question that is “Why am I attending this course?”, the Academy will not solve. That’s why at Agile Thinkers, we also have the support to these companies to help them choose the best training programs to their attendees.
You are right, we still see many companies sending their employees to Scrum Master courses, mainly Scrum courses. And they do not even use Scrum, they don’t even need Scrum, they don’t even understand a lot about the Agile. So you should start to ask help from Agile Thinkers or a company that has this type of programs. And you should start, in this company’s case, by understanding what are your needs, what are your goals before deciding to send someone in a two-day course or three-day course. And companies such as Agile Thinkers Academy, we are able to assess those companies, we are able to study with them, to analyze with them all the goals they have for the moment. And we can even design an academy that fills their personal needs.
So, answering your question, the community will be better, but will not help people that don’t even know why they are there. It will not help them because they have a huge problem and it starts before the course. I’m not sure if I was very clear with that.
Yeah, it’s totally clear. What you are doing with the Academy is that you are improving on the How part — how we can deliver the value better to people. And not on the Why part — why people should participate in the training in the first place and in what kind of training they should participate, which is a different step and which is not what the Academy should answer.
So, how do you plan to measure the effectiveness of this Academy?
Okay, so, we are still working on some details of these academies. But the most important one is that we keep an open channel with all the attendees through the Slack channel.
For example, one of the segments of the Agile Thinkers Academy is “Ask me anything” live moments, where we invite our trainers and practitioners to address the channel during live moments, so they can ask their questions, so they can share their difficulties in implementing Agile in the companies.
We will be in touch very closely with all our Academy attendees, so we can help them also measure the success of the training and the support that we are giving them. That will be a way of measuring the success — being very close to everyone and being there to help them when they need any type of suggestion or advice.
And we do that a lot. All our trainees call us anytime. They have many doubts. They find many impediments in their companies and they call us and they have that open channel, so they can solve or at least hear a different opinion of what can they do in their companies to implement the Agile practice they are planning to.
I got it. It’s still not clear to me, because I'm talking about numbers. There are two options for how we can measure effectiveness. It's qualitatively and quantitatively. So what you're talking about, you're talking about the quality: how you're going to see that you answer people's questions etc. But are there any numbers you're going to put in place or you want to achieve?
Yes, so, I think I understood your question in the wrong way. As you know, we use Workshop Butler for managing our trainings and we will have a different feedback form for the academies, where we will also measure the effectiveness of these moments of support after the course and demands that come after the course. We are planning to use feedback forms and some Slack polls in order to get the attendees feedback.
But we are mainly planning to use polls. And by polls I mean ask people which topic they want to see discussed in the next live moment or which kind of webinars they would like to attend. We do that a lot, we often ask our attendees which topics they would like to see addressed. For example, for the conferences, we normally ask the attendees or former attendees, which speakers they would like to see at the next conference.
So we will be mainly using polls and feedback from Workshop Butler also.
Now I understand it, and it seems more solid to me as it was before. And regarding the community itself: whenever I read about organizing the community or working in the community, especially when we talk about some kind of company scale, the first advice is to have a community manager. Are you going to have one? What's your plan for that?
Yes, we do have, you actually know her. But in Agile Thinkers, we have a way of working that everyone is involved in almost everything. Everyone collaborates with the conference, everyone collaborates with the community.
The main person managing the community will be Tatiana who is also our marketing leader. But everyone is involved in the community. All the consultants have an important part in the community, according to their knowledge, their specific skills. They have the responsibility to keep the channels with open discussions, with great content share, but we will have one person that will make sure that the contents reach the right people. And that will be Tatiana with my support, but also with the support of all the Agile Thinkers consultants in each of the areas. We have one person for SAFe, we have one person for DevOps, one for Kanban, one for Scrum. Everyone, I can say, will be involved, but our person that will be looking at the big picture and making sure that everyone is getting great content will be Tatiana in this case.
Okay, that sounds reasonable to me, because in my opinion, it's a lot of work. Because not only you need to collect the data on the polls and understand what people need, but also deliver them this content and make sure that people are engaged, that if there is some low energy in the group and the community, to level it up, etc. That would be a really interesting experiment to talk about in several months to see how your startup, I mean training startup, I would say in this way, is going.
It’s a challenge, Sergey, and you know what, we started this concept last year with the first online conference we had, when we saw how difficult it was to keep the community active during the last year, between the two conferences, between 2020 and 2021 conferences. It was hard to keep the community engaged. And we saw how difficult it was.
And now, it's a big challenge, we know that for sure, because it’s not only one channel. We have several channels, each one dedicated to an area of learning. So it will be an even harder challenge. But as I said, we have so much content that we decided it would be a good idea.
We are now working together in a big plan. We are planning all the moments of contact in each channel. Because without planning, it's impossible to say: “Okay, let's do this. Let's do that”. We are planning all the moments with the help of everyone involved and we share that planning with everyone. So everyone knows we're what they are supposed to do in each channel, and when. But, as you said and you are totally right, it's hard work. That's why we believe and we hope that our customers understand the value of what they are getting joining one of these academies.
Yeah, thank you very much. Indeed, what you are talking about: planning, the number of touches you are going to put, and the engagement point — if this is all planned, I am pretty sure you will get what you want.
Thank you very much. I think it was enough for one time and I would be glad to talk to you in several months to see how it's progressing.
Thank you so much, Sergey, for inviting me. And I will be happy to give you some feedback in a couple of months about this new concept.
Okay, thank you. Thank you, Paula.
Thank you. Bye bye.