Procept Associates Ltd.: Helping Aspirants Build an Outstanding Career through Professional Agile Training Programs

Kevin Aguanno

Kevin AguannoProcept Training is a premier provider of professional training programs specializing in Project Management, Agile Project Management, Business Analysis, and IT Service Management. It is a Charter Global Registered Education Provider with the Project Management Institute (PMI), an Endorsed Education Provider with the International Institute of Business Analysts, and an Approved Education Provider with AACE International. Its consulting history spans over 30 years with clients including contractors, government, utilities, mining, financial institutions, and aerospace. Procept’s operations are basically divided into several business units: project management, change management, business & data analysis, IT management, leadership development, agile management, and general management. Procept started in Canada as a project management consultancy, primarily in the engineering/construction industry. It quickly expanded across industries and became the largest project management training company in Canada, in addition to its significant project management consulting work for Canada’s largest government and private-sector organizations. With several acquisitions and a global expansion, Procept can now say its combined business operations trace back to 1963, and to date, it has provided training to over 1 million people and services to over 17,000 organizations.

 

A Pioneer in the Project Management Movement 

Procept’s agile practice was established in 2003, which makes it one of the oldest agile consulting practices in Canada. Procept’s agile practice lead, Kevin Aguanno, is a pioneer in the agile movement, helping organizations deploy scrum, FDD, DSDM, and Extreme Programming starting in the mid-1990s. He was the first to coin the term “Agile Project Management” and has published over 30 books and DVDs on agile-related topics. He created IBM’s Agile Centre of Excellence in 2006, developed a customized agile methodology for the company, and then rolled it out to 420,000 employees across the company, including methodology development, alignment with governance processes, and extensive training and job aids. Kevin also built a US$40 Million agile consulting practice delivering agile transformation consulting and services to IBM clients. Since leaving IBM in 2010, Kevin has helped Procept (and its related companies) build agile practices and offerings, attracting many large corporate and government clients around the world. Kevin was among the first agile thought leaders to propose “disciplined, structured” approaches to agile and was influential in the development of Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) and the Open Unified Process (OpenUP) agile methods.

The current President of the company, Kevin Aguanno, is not the founder. Kevin took over Procept in 2014. Since that time, the company has experienced tremendous growth and success. Professor Kevin has written or contributed to many books on agile project management-related topics and has taught agile project management at the university level since 2003. He is a thought leader in the field, first broaching the topics of agile governance, agile portfolio management, and performance metrics to manage large programs consisting of both agile and non-agile workstreams. He was also the first to look at the impacts of agile delivery on project finance models and the tax implications of switching to agile. Kevin has published dozens of free webinars on agile topics on YouTube and regularly presents at conferences and professional association meetings.

 

The Agile Backbone Across Diverse Courses

Agile Methodology Customization and Deployment Consulting (Since 1996): Kevin says that Procept’s consultants have developed the agile methodology for Bank of Montreal, got it approved by the appropriate governance functions within the bank, and got it published on the bank’s intranet as official “methodology guidance” for use within the bank. Then, for a one-year period, the company provided the official agile training for the bank. Similarly, it worked with the methodology team at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and helped them develop their own agile framework (called “IID”) including extensive consultations with the governing groups within the bank (enterprise architecture, information security, IT operations, risk management, gating, auditing, etc.) to make sure the new agile framework would align with the bank’s governance processes. He adds that wherever necessary, small adjustments were made to various processes and policies (such as the business case policy) to create an environment in which agile projects could not only co-exist with waterfall projects but also thrive. Procept’s consultants have worked with the Canadian Medical Protective Association (a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association) to work on their agile deployment strategy and firm up the holes in their own internally-developed agile methodology. With CMPA, the company is also providing coaching and guidance through the completion of a 2+ year-long agile project. For eHealth Ontario (a government agency), the company developed a comprehensive change management plan to help the organization deal with expected resistance points when rolling out the new agile practices and pushing for the accompanying cultural change. Procept consultants have provided agile methodology consulting and agile deployment consulting for many government agencies and crown corporations including Industry Canada, the Government of Ontario, four U.S. intelligence agencies, and numerous private enterprises.

Organizational Design to Better Support Agile Adoption (Since 2006): Kevin claims that Procept consultants have helped the clients transform their organizations, including organizational design changes, to help achieve optimal agile success. The most significant change of this nature the consultants were involved in was the transformation at TD Insurance (formerly Meloche Monnex) starting in 2007-2008 when CIO Yves Legris decided to switch to an agile delivery model. The consultants came in and helped turn around the failed agile adoption attempt. Its efforts included working with HR to refine job role descriptions and performance review criteria in this heavily-unionized environment, create a new organizational structure (complete re-org), create new policies and procedures (software development, testing, business analysis, business case approval, etc.), a new project delivery methodology (with templates and tools), and even renovating the offices to create a more open and collaborative work environment. He continues that while the company has performed other organizational design consulting activities starting in 2006 with clients looking to adopt agile, the work at TD Insurance was the most extensive (and highly successful).

Agile Governance Model Consulting (Since 2002): Kevin reveals that Procept has provided consulting on how to make organizational governance models and project governance models more suitable for agile project delivery, or to create customized governance models, with an aim toward creating a single model that can support multiple modes of delivery, including agile. The company’s consultants are pioneers in this space starting in 2001 when the company’s Agile Practice Lead first coined the term “Agile Project Management” and released his Agile PM methodology that tied agile practices into a project management framework. He highlights that this early work fostered a movement within the agile community of those desiring more structured, disciplined approaches to agile that allow all the flexibility of agile but within a lightweight governance framework that keeps the enterprise governance stakeholders on the side with the agile work. Procept’s team has provided agile governance framework consulting since 2002 for organizations as diverse as IBM, Toyota, Teranet, Government of Ontario, Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Scotiabank, TD Insurance, Industry Canada, University of Waterloo, IMS Health, and many more.

Agile Training (Since 1994): One of Procept’s subsidiaries started offering management training in the U.S.A. in 1963, says Kevin. Its Canadian operations started in 1983 and have been providing project management-related training since the late 1980s. Procept started providing agile training in 2003 to corporate clients and publicly through its association with the Professional Development Centre at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Toronto starting in the 2003-2004 academic year. The consultants have been providing agile training extending back to the first half of the 1990s. Some early examples include IBM (2003-2012), various PMI chapters (2002-2018), and various software development association groups since 1995. He claims that they have provided agile training services tailored to executives, product owners, project managers, business analysts, middle managers, front-line technical managers, architects, programmers, testers, and general project teams. Examples include CIBC, TD Insurance, Canadian Medical Protective Association, Morneau Shepell, IMS Health, Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, eHealth Ontario, Cancer Care Ontario, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the Ontario government’s I&IT division, IBM, Toyota, City of Toronto, and others. Procept currently provides agile training to many government and private-sector organizations around the world.

Agile Coaching: According to Kevin, Procept consultants have extensive experience working with multiple scrum teams at an enterprise level, leading and coaching through scrum ceremonies such as daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning sessions, sprint reviews/demos, and sprint retrospectives; work-in-progress monitoring through the use of agile toolkits (such as CA Agile Central for Scrum, LeanKit for Kanban, Version One, Jira, and others) as well as team performance management through measuring velocity and the use of status reporting through burn down charts, etc.

The goal of its coaching is to achieve team autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose. The objective is to indoctrinate agile values such as commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage.

Building Agile Self-Sufficiency (Since 1996): Kevin states that Procept tries to add value to all of its client interactions. This means that the company strives to make its clients self-sufficient as quickly as is feasible following the implementation of changes within their organization. This strategy has been practiced by Procept’s consultants since 1996 when they first started teaching scrum, extreme programming, and similar techniques. Examples of this in action include the company’s consulting support for the Canadian Medical Protective Association where it provided full-time consulting support during the assessment and change implementation phase, easing off to half-time support for a few weeks until the teams felt they had the processes understood and operationalized, and then backing off to one day per month to support the end-of-iteration demos, retrospectives, and planning sessions for the upcoming iteration. He adds that another example of this is the consultants’ work with TD Insurance, to whom they provided extensive full-time consulting support during a transformation period. Once that transformation work was well-underway, those consultants helped TD to develop an internal support team through training and both on-site and remote coaching support, that was able to handle 90% of the support needs of the rest of the organization using the new agile processes. Over a short time, the remote support tapered off as the team was able to take over full support. A final example was at Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment where a team was struggling to convert a very large software development and systems integration project over to an agile delivery model. Kevin highlights that Procept provided training to the team, led the re-estimating and replanning of the project using agile practices, and then supported the project delivery team through a diminishing scale of support tiers as the team was able to competently take over control of the rest of the project.

 

Distinctive Awards and Recognitions 

Kevin reveals that over its 58-year business history, Procept and its subsidiaries have had many notable achievements including the first PMI Registered Education Provider in Canada (and 6th globally), and the first PMP Exam Preparation course in Canada. CIO Review has named Procept as the “Most Promising IT Service Management Consulting Company” in 2019 as well as the “Most Promising Agile Service Provider” in 2021. The Institute for Performance and Learning (formerly CSTD) awarded Procept’s TidalShift subsidiary their Gold Award for Training Excellence in 2011. In 2010, The company’s TidalShift subsidiary was the first and only Canadian corporate education provider to be awarded the Project Management Institute (PMI®) Continuing Professional Education Provider of the Year award. In 2005, Procept won the Conference Board of Canada Training Award and in 2015, Procept was a finalist in the Canadian HR Awards for “Service Provider of the Year”

He adds that the company has pioneered the use of agile in many industries outside of IT. In line with its focus on using agile methods in innovative ways, Procept is also the first to explore how agile impacts project finance structures and the income tax implications of using agile methods.

 

Overcoming the Pandemic Challenges with Advanced Practices 

Kevin says, “Being in business for nearly 60 years, we have weathered numerous economic downturns, several prior pandemics, labor shortages, legal challenges, and more; however, the greatest challenge we have faced to date has been the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t help others use: we have evolved our entire business to use agile practices at the core. Using agile approaches and our culture of agility, Procept was able to quickly and efficiently adjust to the changes brought on by this latest pandemic, emerging stronger and ready to face the expected post-pandemic economic boom. Agility saved us.”

 

‘Business Analysis and Data Management at the Helm of Future Endeavours 

Kevin states that Procept is a leader in project management, change management agile management, and IT management services in Canada. The company expects significant growth across these areas. It has recently merged its business analysis and data management lines of business into a new “business & data analysis” unit –it expects great synergies from the combination of these two business units. In fact, the International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA) recently published a study noting that big data project success hinges on having a detailed understanding of the business and its operational processes; combining business analysis and data analysis helps the clients create a path toward more innovation.

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