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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Manny Gonzalez on Joining the Scrum Alliance and Future Directions

Manny Gonzalez on Joining the Scrum Alliance and Future Directions


1. Good day, folks. This is Shane Hastie from InfoQ and we're here at Agile 2015 and we're able to talk with Manny Gonzales. Manny is the recently appointed chief executive officer of the Scrum Alliance. Manny, welcome. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. You've taken on the 800 pound gorilla in the Agile community, the Scrum Alliance. Wow. Tell us a little bit about yourself if you wouldn't mind.

Sure. I've spent 37 years of my life as an executive in corporate America, in the entertainment industry. So I come from theme parks, water parks, zoos, cruise lines, big show productions, which ironically, I didn't know at the time but when I came about Scrum and Agile and read five books on it, I discovered that I've been using Agile principles and Scrum framework all my life even though we didn't call it that way.

That's my background. Last five years as I discovered the non-profit, I ran an organization called the National Society of Hispanic MBAs so I've always been passionate about education, leadership, change management, that's what lead me here.


2. Leadership and change management in the Scrum Alliance, what's happening in the Scrum Alliance now?

Yes. Scrum Alliance has been extremely successful in the last 14 years of its existence. It's grown to incredible -- I mean people ask me what was it that attracted me to Scrum Alliance and I say three things.

One was that it wasn't a fad anymore. It's hit critical mass. I call it critical mass. Four hundred thousand members around the world, this is an accepted framework, growing very rapidly.

Two, it was the -- I call it brand equity. In my research, I could not find anybody really speaking ill of Scrum Alliance. It was a well-respected organization and very well supported by the community in its vision.

The third reason why I came to the Scrum Alliance, I call it momentum. Coming from the research area of education and seeing where our world is today versus the old -- even technology in traditional industrial age, I believe that we are in a pivotal time for our world of work and momentum is what's going to make it happen.

In the last three years, our growth has been exponential. So those three reasons are the reasons why I chose to come to Scrum Alliance.


3. You talk about the world of work and I know that Scrum Alliance has that as one of its goals. Part of its mission is changing the world of work. Up until now, Scrum has been very much seen as being an IT, a computer thing and Agile as a broader term perhaps the umbrella. It's very much been IT. Is that changing?

Oh, definitely. It's changing. We just conducted the State of Scrums Survey where we see continuous movement from the IT area to the non-IT areas and corporations. It's been the exciting thing. I really believe that for us to change how we live our lives, the work piece is one of the principles to change this world, to change our communities, to change us human beings and if you think about it, in the industrial age --it's funny we were just having this conversation.

The industrialists believe that they have to use people, abuse the earth to have profits but it's been proven, especially with new generations coming about that you don't have to do it that way, that you can enhance people's lives, make it better for human beings, that you can take care of our earth and that you can have profits too. The principles of Agile and Scrum are extremely aligned to be able to create that.

I believe that Scrum as a framework allows the beginning of that change at the team level and the individual level within corporations but it's not just in the IT level. To be able to transform the world of work, we're going to have to expand beyond the IT level and it's happening. It's a natural force in the market. So little by little we're expanding and we're a very young organization. If you think about it, we're 14 years old. Agile is 16 years old.

If you look at PMI, they're 46 years old. If you look at other organizations, could be 100 years old. So 12, 16 years old, we're babies and we're learning a lot about that, that adaption and that adoption and I think it's exciting. I think that the market wants it, the market needs it and it's happening.


4. If I can ask, what changes are going to be happening in the Scrum Alliance now that you're on board?

I believe that yes, we've been very successful until now but like every company, there's different phases of the organization and my predecessors have done incredible work so I don't want to speak badly of the past. It's been great. I tell people, it's like going from Dallas to Denver in a Bentley but now that we're going up the mountain, that Bentley doesn't work and our board identified that. That we are at a different stage of this journey and that it needed a different skill set and that’s when they decided to appoint a new CEO.

What we are trying to do now is what that next phase is. The board has developed an incredible strategic plan to expand. So we're getting into the education arena. We believe that in order to accelerate the pace of change, we need to get people younger. Right now, we have been impacting people at work, professionals and practitioners at work. We need to go younger with students so that's one area strategically that we're growing into.

Second area that we're growing into is corporate relations. Ironically, one of the Agile and Scrum principles is that everything revolves around the consumer. The consumers' needs, wants, challenges, but we in the past didn't have that relationship with corporations. Well, now that's one area that we're reaching out to develop in those relationships so that we can understand what their wants, needs, challenges are so that we can provide those solutions through Agile and Scrum framework. So that's the strategic shifts that we're building.

Now, there's a lot of technical and tactical changes that were coming about in -- we're going to be changing our platform into a new platform with more value. My goal is to continue to build value for our consumer. We have multiple consumers in our trainer community, our coaches community. I have to build that value for them. I have educational community, I have built a value for corporations, practitioners, members so our membership continues to grow so we have been focused on building that value. Early next year, we have a magazine coming out.

So now, it's a beautiful platform that's very well aligned with our strategy to go to corporations and have that Agile ideology and Scrum framework right on their desk and our community to be able to explain to management why this is so important.

Shane: Your mandate is to take Scrum to the world.



5. You mentioned some of those communities, the trainers, the coaches and so forth. What does this mean for things like the certification programs the Scrum Alliance runs?

My model is I call it -- the first three months I do situation analysis. Really, it goes out to try to understand the community; my stakeholders and the existing product that we have. As a certifying body, we're evaluating and strategically not only the products that we have but how do we enhance those and how do we build on those aligned where our strategy needs to be which is eventually our vision is to transform the world of work. But how do we utilize these products to be able to do that? But how do we utilize these products to build the value proposition to our members, to our practitioners, to our trainers? So we've been very careful on how we look at expanding certifications.

There was one session yesterday where somebody asked what the difference was between the certification and just a class. It's the standard really, the quality of the learning that is mentioned by a certification. No, it doesn't make you an expert but at least it shows that you went through the minimum guarantee let's call it of learning that allows you to be set.

It's like getting an MBA. Doesn't make you the expert but it shows that you've learned certain principles to then move forward. So that's what certification brings about. But we're going to be expanding on those. We're looking at new added programs and classes and certifications so that we can then achieve our vision.


6. The Scrum community as a whole, you mentioned four hundred thousand members. What do you provide back to those members and how do they get value from it?

Well, right now, as it exist is the community's value is really transformed by our user groups which I've never -- to be honest with you, I came from an organization that had chapters and they were very engaged, very passionate, nothing at the level of our Scrum user groups. They're extremely engaged. They're extremely valuable.

I tell people when they ask me, what is Scrum Alliance? I say we are a construction company. They look at me like I knew this guy wasn't from this industry but what's he talking about? I say, all we do is we build bridges. We build bridges between our trainers and our practitioners. We build bridges between one member and another member. We build bridges between corporations, potential employees. We build bridges. That's what we do. That platform, that network is the most valuable thing that Scrum Alliance provides as a value to our members.

Now, we're not stopping there. So we're expanding into recruiting services. So now, we're providing that bridge to connect our members, our practitioners to corporate opportunities for jobs. There's a lot of recruiting happening in our conferences, in this conference, informally.

What we're going to be creating those platforms to provide that value to our members, we're going to continue to build programs that are valuable for our members because you're a member, it becomes free. Additional discounts. So we have direct and indirect value that we are creating for our membership. So a lot of exciting things coming up in 2016.

Shane: Talking of building bridges, what about bridges with other organizations? Agile is a wide church I suppose you could say.

You're right. One of the principles that I love about Agile and Scrum is the principle of collaboration. For us to transform the world of work, we will not be able to do it by ourselves. We need everybody and we all need to work together. So actually I just had a meeting with Phil from Agile Alliance, how do we collaborate, how we work together. I'm reaching out to every organization out there to have more power to change the world. So we are all about collaboration so we're exploring those opportunities.

Shane: One of the things, certainly I've heard in the community a lot, is the question of what happens with all of the money? What the Scrum Alliance gets with 400,000 members, that's a lot of revenue, a lot of income. What happens with that? You're a non-profit.



7. How are you dispensing the funds?

Yes. I call it as a non-profit, the revenue that we get from our community, I call it our investment -- I don't call it expenses. I call it investing in our vision, investing and building the value for the community. We have been doing so in the past. We spend supporting our user groups which is our members. We spend over a million dollars in supporting their events and programs. We support their regional events.

We're a global organization so it takes a lot of investment to support the movement around the world but now we're doing it even more strategically as we're expanding into education, as we're expanding into the corporation and we're growing with that value it's where the investment is going. So that's how we're aligned.

We just had a board meeting a couple of weeks ago and what we do at the board level is we do three things. One is we've developed 12 key metrics to, I call it, monitor the business. So one of the responsibilities the board has for the community is to make sure that that monitoring the business of this year's plan, it's being executed the way it was supposed to be. That's all about the value for the community. Are we investing those funds properly?

Second fiduciary duty of the board is the risk management. So we want to make sure that we're not risking the funds of the community irresponsibly. So we have a process to mitigate those risks and minimize those risks. The most exciting part about it planning the future and it's looking at three-five years and beyond. It's not just these next couple of years, it's really looking at the future and that's what the board is truly engaged into creating that value for the community that's truly going to achieve our vision of transforming the world of work. So every single penny is being strategically invested in the organization in that manner.

Shane: Well, Manny, thank you for taking the time to talk to InfoQ today.

No, thank you, Shane.

Shane: Good luck in your new role. It's a big challenge but it sounds like you've got it under control. Manny: I'm honored and I'm excited to be here and I want to thank everybody in the community for being so welcoming. Shane: [0:16:10] All the best. Manny: Thank you.

Oct 24, 2015