What is agile? Most cliched answer to this translates to “delivering working software faster”. Because, agile principles clearly states – “Working software is the primary measure of progress”. It doesn’t mention anything about the speed though. In rest of the article, where ever you see “value” translate it to “shed-load of money” if that works for you. It is very important to establish what is the definition of “value” for you, to understand the true meaning of what agility is.
If you buy a new bike or car, it’s performance will always be lower than a well oiled 2year old vehicle with similar specs. Agile teams are like that. The team members can be experienced and brilliant but to really know what part of the product is making the most value, requires investment on thought process. That’s where a Product Owner/Expert comes in with data to prioritise the most valuable work on top of the backlog and own the decision. It’s their job to also convey “why” it is more valuable to the team as well to validate the possibility.
Example Problem Statement
A company hired 10 team members paying £500/day. Screw prioritisation; an expenditure of £5k/day needs to be used up in anyway possible on that 8hrs contracted. Even if that means we make the member work on items no one really give a shit about or have any value. If we focus on priority we will end up wasting 3hrs a day, out of which the members will celebrate a 2hr lunch and will be milking the strategy. How do you propose to handle that?
Assuming a 20 days working month, paying £5k/day or £100k/month is actually a lot of money to go down the drain, if they work on features no one asked for. The cost can only be justified if they focus on the most valuable item first, instead of an item you may not need for a month. In many cases, as much as 80% work remaining are actually not necessary for early feedback, as the most valuable 20% decides the fate of a product. Work on them first and save your time and money and stop focusing on what the members are doing, as long as they are working on the right thing you require.
Does the above solution sounds familiar? Yes, I am referring to the Pareto Principle which is known for a century now. Albeit, saying that 4:1 distribution is “accurate” would be a wrong generalisation as it’s application varies. But it does make a point about how we should approach the product backlog. Empiricism, hence is the only way to go with faster feedback to continuously update the backlog as we know more and more about the product and end user’s expectation.
Working software is mandatory but the trick is to convey the message like this –
Agile is NOT about delivering working software faster, it is about delivering the most valuable software faster.
Prioritisation is all that matters. If you have adopted “Agile” and still focusing on speed or amount of work for monitoring purpose, then you are doing it wrong. There, Agile defined the way most businesses want to hear. Value can have different definitions for different businesses, “Money” being the most common form, which we should really focus on.
Hope this article makes it clear why “Agile” makes sense in development.