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Paul Ellarby


Owner, Tortillis Group

Location: Twin Cities, MN


Certified ScrumMaster
Certified Scrum Product Owner



First, the "dry" professional details:

I have over twenty years of experience in delivering information technology and business improvement solutions to the manufacturing, retail, distribution, engineering, and financial industries, and have held senior positions in both blue chip and start-up organizations. I like to provide both hands-on and executive experience in these industries, engaging on consulting and implementation engagements, and leading organizations in the delivery of these same services.

Trained as a mechanical engineer, I have many years of practical experience in the manufacturing and distribution of several types of products, from automobiles to consumer packaged goods. Between 1992 and 1998, I worked extensively on developing a production model based on the Toyota Production System for several General Motors facilities, implementing such techniques as just-in-time materials management, kan-ban methods, distribution center automation, warehouse management solutions, and e-commerce solutions in this arena. During this time, I visited production facilities in Japan and Thailand to learn these techniques first-hand. I also have done extensive work on "The Theory of Constraints", using these theories to improve cycle time in such divers environments as machine tool production and software development.

Most recently, I have turned my attention to merging the skills learned in a production environment to applying these same techniques in the software development world. As a principal in ITFirst, (my wife and I owned this company, where we developed custom software), I have used Agile techniques with my own staff to develop software solutions for many clients, including 3M, SafetyCall International, Home Depot, GE Financial, Moneygram, and many other companies, large and small. Over the last 4 years, I have been increasingly in demand to coach organizations in Agile software development methods, working with many organizations to help them overcome the political, organizational, and logistic barriers to moving to an Agile model. I am an internal coach with Thomson Reuters, where I teach, mentor, and lead teams in their quest to adopt agile techniques.

Selected publications:
EDS Project Management Methodology (team member)
Change Management
Business Process Reengineering Training Guide – AT Kearney/EDS
Pull Systems Implementation Guide

Some speaking engagements:
Guest lecturer, Notre Dame University
“Effects of Kan-Ban techniques on the supply chain”
Data Warehouse Group, Sydney, Australia
“Data warehousing – hints for success”
Mercury Interactive Users Conference, Orlando
“Y2K testing”
Second Harvest National Conference, Dallas TX
“Software for client and distribution management”

Sample client workshops
“Client-facing organizations – can you become one?”
“Retail exchanges – where do they fit in your strategy?”
“CRM – is it just for sales executives?
“Scrum Methodology for software organizations”
“Agile software development – why should you adopt it?”
“Requirements – the key to successful software”

Coventry Technical College, England
Bachelor’s Degree in Production Engineering, 1977

Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Senior Member
Institute of Mechanical Incorporated Engineers, England
Cerified ScrumMaster

So, on to the personal, perhaps even fun, stuff!

I am a professional soccer referee, refereeing in the US for the last 7 years. I have been refereeing for almost 20 years, working games in England (where I learned to ref), Hong Kong, Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore, but now I restrict my soccer activities to the local level.

My wife and I are avid curlers, and we are the founders of Dakota Curling Club, located in Burnsville, MN. Consequently, we are both active in the US Curling Association, lending advice and guidance to other start-up clubs around the US. We also both curl in Owatonna, a small town about 45 miles south of my home.

I own 5 acres in Burnsville (a suburb south of Minneapolis), where we keep chickens (usually around 20, primarily for eggs). Every November 5th, we hold a large (and getting larger...) party on our property to celebrate an English event, Guy Fawkes Night. This is the day Guy Fawkes was discovered in the basement of the Houses of Parliament planting barrels of gunpowder, in an attempt to blow-up the MP's and the King. The party seems to grow exponentially every year, as more and more people hear about it!

Oh, and I am English, having lived in the US since 1981. I was recruited by Xerox in Upstate New York (Rochester) to work there for a couple of years. I went back to England, but decided I liked it better here, so I came back. I have sinced lived in Colorado, and now the Twin Cities.

Work experience

Thoughtworks Inc, Principal Consultant
March 2011 - Present, , MN

Workshop deisgn and delivery, team coaching, PMO coaching, Executive coaching, project delivery, project inceptions.

Thomson Reuters, Agile Coach
May 2008 - March 2011, Eagan, MN, United States
I was approached by this company to join them as a full-time agile coach in early 2008, as they undertook a transition to a new software development technique. A Vice President at Thomson Reuters had identified that their traditional development process was not working well, leading to lots of rework, late delivery, and a dysfunctional relationship with their internal customers. She hired a local consultant to coach a couple of projects using an agile approach, both of which were successful, so she determined to introduce agile techniques across a broader spectrum of the company. During the first few months at here, it became clear that there was a huge appetite for education in agile techniques, so much of my time was spent developing and presenting classes, lectures, and round-table discussions with all levels of the organization. In quick succession, I developed training for 2-hour introductory sessions, 4-hour project simulations for people working on agile projects, and 2-day in-depth agile training for those people who would be leading agile teams. These training classes – with modifications reflecting what we have learned – are still in use today, and are being used by other organizations within the company. Recognizing that many employees here had been with the company for many years, my approach was quite collaborative, leading teams and individuals to understand why they might want to take an agile approach to software development, and to mentor them in their adoption. While not a sustainable model over the long-term, this approach has been very successful, allowing many people to try agile in a safe, supported environment. As a consequence, agile has been adopted extensively in the software development organizations, with 30% of new projects over the last year being developed under the agile framework. It has been agreed by the Project Management Office that agile is now the default method for new project development, although some projects will still be developed using more traditional techniques. Due to the growth of agile, I have grown a small consulting organization within the company, with 3 full-time coaches reporting directly to me, another 2 coaches reporting “dotted line” to me, and with 8 other coaches in other groups being mentored by me (with their managers partnering with me on most decisions on their activities and responsibilities). While not a huge staff, this broad reach enables me to maintain a cohesive, flexible approach to agile adoption, while focusing on the main goal of delivering high-value, high-quality software as quickly as possible.

Daugherty Business Solutions, Director, Custom Software Development
June 2007 - May 2008, Minneapolis, MN, United States
As the Director of the custom software development line of service for the Minneapolis office of this St Louis-based company, I was responsible for building the staff, growing the client base, and delivering projects for this recently-opened office. I focused on building the Java-delivery expertise, and planned on establishing a .NET practice in mid-2008. Projects I have worked on include the following: Project delivery leadership for a multi-million dollar software development project in the financial industry Software selection for an multi-national company to enable EDI transactions BI initiative in the health care space, actively leading this 16-person project Project requirements, definition and delivery planning for a major retailer I was responsible for initial project estimating, project team formation, development methods, quality, all the way through solution delivery. In addition, I worked with Daugherty’s project delivery organization, introducing agile techniques to be used on Daugherty-led projects.

ITFirst Inc, VP Delivery
March 2001 - June 2007, Savage, MN, United States
ITFirst is a small custom-software development company, based in the Twin Cities. Its clients range from Fortune-500 companies to small start-up organizations. I was a Vice President of this organization, responsible for business development and project delivery. All projects at ITFirst were delivered using an agile approach, combining developer-focused planning and execution with frequent client feedback and involvement. Projects were typically developed by a team of 2 to 5 developers from ITFirst, plus additional testing and acceptance from the client organization. In addition to my role in developing custom software solutions utilizing Microsoft .NET and SQL-Server technologies, I was often engaged by clients to assist them with in-house projects where focused leadership is needed, providing agile project delivery training and coaching, primarily based on the Scrum and XP methodologies.


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