An agile process, when executed well, follows five ways of delivering value. These are listed below in priority order, providing a good framework to assess problems. Each of these needs to be present before moving to the next. In other words, if you don’t have clarity you can’t have a steady diet and if you don’t have a steady diet you can’t have effective stewardship. Therefore, making sure you have each of these in place and in the proper order is critical for your success.
- Clarity of vision and path — The vision of what is desired and the path to get there are critical for a successful product. If you don’t have clarity, nothing else matters. Agile forces clarity through smaller iterations. It is much harder to go off track and get unclear when you have to deliver at the end of every Sprint. Often, people think that having a great project plan provides clarity of path. The problem is that too frequently the plan provides a false sense of confidence, since it is often wrong. Agile provides clarity by knowing what you want to build, having your tasks prioritized by value and consistently building the highest-value items, you can have true clarity of vision and path. Always start with clarity.
- Steady diet of high-quality deliverables — Sprints. Need we say more? The desired business value of a system is only delivered when that system is in use. Therefore, the iterative process of delivering finished work with every sprint creates a steady diet of work that can be seen and used by stakeholders and end users. The business then chooses to release or not, but each Sprint of the product can be released.
- Effective stewardship of resources — Through constant communication and iterative releases, resources are used effectively. Stakeholders can predict when resources are needed and can see progress quickly and easily, meaning that you don’t end up in the “99 percent done” phase for months, which drains resources and breaks trust.
- A smooth journey — The predictability of the process from sprints to daily stand-ups and reviews, along with regularly demonstrating a working system at the end of each sprint, creates a smooth journey. Stakeholders know what to expect and when to expect it and are involved throughout the process.
- Pride — The regular feedback and sprint releases provide the data to help stakeholders understand status and ultimately be proud of what is being crated. The product is demonstrated on a regular basis, (at the end of each sprint) which results in working solutions stakeholders can use, enabling feedback from business owners and actual users. This greatly increases the vision becoming a reality that everyone can be proud of.
Agile facilitates living these five ways of delivering value. Delivering better results more efficiently with results all stakeholders can ultimately be proud of.
1 See paper on the five ways for a professional service organization to deliver value, http://ssrn.com/abstract=2011999.