My company is still young, and our processes still inadequate. I want to get the scrum process right from the start. Would hiring an agile coach make that much of a difference even if I've done nothing but read and research implementation methods of scrum and other agile methods? What are the typical rates for someone with these qualifications? What is the usual process that goes into agile coaching? I would love to hear from both someone who has been coached as well as an agile coach themselves.
My opinion would be to hire the coach. The right coach is definitely worth the money, especially if you don't have any scrum experience (research does not count) on your team. If you have the experience of multiple past scrum teams on your team (either in one individual or several) you may be alright without a coach, but I would say if you want to get it right from the start the coach is definitely worth it.
I had been driving the scrum adoption process at my company for over a year. We had definitely been making improvements, but we finally invested in a coach and the difference was night and day. Maybe it also depends on your clout within your organization, but having the external justification of past decisions and the external nudge to make the hard changes that I had been suggesting for years was worth the cost alone. That in addition to some of the additional coaching on practices we had been struggling to perfect made a huge difference.
I am actually presenting the story of our adoption process which talks a little about the coaching experience at Agile 2011. It was through the Insights stage so I wrote a paper to go along with it. I would be happy to forward the paper along as well.
If I had someone experienced with the specific method, here: Scrum, in the team I would always choose them and not external coaches. While coaches usually have vast knowledge about the method they know very little about specific of your organization and this is exactly the spot where success, or failure, of method's implementation is decided.
If you don't have such person in your team we come to the question of time: how fast you want to get it more or less right? From what you're saying I expect you want it rather fast and basing on an inquiry about coaching rates I guess you expect to pay for getting it right soon. In such situation I'd probably go with coaches.
However, if this time pressure is set only by yourself you may want to reconsider it -- there's much value in learning what works and what doesn't when the team experiments with the method to get it right finally. As long as I have comfort to work this way I would allow that, even though it may mean visiting some dead ends along the way.
Actually you can mix these approaches -- you can allow the team to find there way but organize a coach who would help the team when they need them/ask for their help.
You also question value of coaches. Well, I assure you that even hard-core practitioners can learn a lot from good coaches. They just have different perspective. They usually work with many different organizations and in many different environments. They notice patterns people working all the time in the same place can hardly imagine. On the other hand they rarely stay long enough to see the battle, often uphill one, for making changes sustainable.
Anyway I'd say the ideal tandem of people introducing new method in organization would be an experienced insider along with a coach. However, having comfort of working with the experienced, I probably wouldn't chase the ideal and stick to them and them only.
As a dev team coach, I have some biases. There are three things I would recommend you think about before you go and hire a coach to get your "Scrum right"
1) What Are You Actually Trying To Accomplish
After all. Scrum is a tool. Not a bad one by any means, but if you don't know what you want to actually do besides "get your process right" you're going to wind up with problems. Maybe start with a simple retrospective where you ask: * What hurt us this past month? * What made us happy? * What would we like to change for this coming month?
By just starting with that and encouraging open and honest communication you'll be miles ahead of "doing scrum right"
2) Why Are You Trying To Accomplish It
Ok this is kinda like question 1, but at a higher abstraction layer. Yea. We like doin' stuff. We may have an idea of what we want to accomplish, but why are we really trying to accomplish it? Are we concerned that growing to another 15 developers will decrease our productivity? Are you worried that you'll wind up mired in documentation hell where people "communicate" 95% of the time and get stuff done 5%? There's a reason you want to fix your process. Figure out what that is and make it a big and visible goal.
I set a goal at one company I was at of "Polish". I wanted to make sure peoples minds were on going the extra mile to make things just a bit better/brighter for their customers and teammates. Afterw e got good at that, we changed it.
Anyway, these are the two things I would think about before just hiring a coach to get you scrum. A good coach will know these two questions and drive you to them; maybe in a different way and maybe phrased a bit differently than I did.
The right coach can make a big difference but just like any profession you have to do your due diligence and make sure the coach is a fit. As a coach it can be beneficial sometimes not to know too much but a good coach like a good physician takes time to understand you before making suggestions. A firm conviction is essential but it needs to be coupled with humility and integrity. Watch out for seagulls who fly-in, make a mess and then fly-off. If you interview a coach and they do more talking than listening then they are probably not a good fit.