Author: Craig Barker

Agile boasts huge benefits; faster time to market, lower project risk, continuous improvement and wider project visibility. These rewards take time and the journey can leave execs wondering when they’ll ever see proclaimed value. In this article, I want to focus on perhaps the most common complaint and give actionable insights as to how to mitigate it.

Here’s a sentence you’ve all heard: “We’ve adopted agile, invested time, money and resources. When will we start to see the value?

It’s frustrating for you trying to manage worries from above whilst maintaining steady progress below. Agile is not just about the destination; the journey is as important. Here are some common misconceptions and assumptions to refute and prove value to your execs from the get-go.

Reducing costs isn’t the end game

TechBeacon suggest that “organisations that have adopted agile primarily as a way to lower costs tend to develop some very destructive behaviours.” The effectiveness of agile isn’t weighed in the money it saves your company. It’s worth is calculated by delivering the most value from your known capacity.

Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) from your sprints helps to deliver the most value relevant to the end user by getting the product to market much quicker than traditional models of development. 

Take Microsoft, for example. When getting their Office 365 package to Android, they didn’t release the whole ‘package’ to market. In fact, the Android version was just 89MB versus the Windows desktop experience totalling hundreds of megabytes. This initiative wasn’t to short-change Android users: it was simply to get the MVP to market as quickly as possible to ward off industry competition in the most effective way.

How do you prove value from this? Value can be seen in different ways than monetary savings: by getting a stripped back, lean product to market, you can introduce new users, garner their interest which will ultimately lead to a positive effect on your bottom line upon release. 

You don’t have to cross the finish line to see results

Agile is different. Your focus doesn’t have to be on the project as a whole; rather, you can deliver sections to incrementally build on before project completion.

Continuous improvement is one of the key hallmarks of agile working. Not only does this benefit your customer, but your team will learn from retrospectives to understand what worked and what went wrong, discovering what can be done better next time. This activity leads to greater focus and a self-aware agile team, ultimately encouraging smoother working practice.

How can you prove this value? Reporting on short bursts of work gives project visibility to stakeholders, helping to manage their expectations. You’re looking for real feedback from customers, which in turn will generate positive feedback into the business helping to build momentum and excitement for the project.

Changing priorities aren’t failures

Agile embraces change. In traditional models, changing course could easily be seen as missing the mark or failing to deliver agreed terms – in an agile framework, this simply isn’t the case.

Right now, change is frequent, and you must be flexible to meet not only your customer’s updated needs, but the overarching needs of society and the world around us. As a project develops, so too does the world around us, and needs can and will change.

The value of change? There’s a reduction of investment in superfluous development for features that no longer have a place – another fallout from retrospectives and feedback loops with the client – which invariably saves your team’s energy and time.

There is nothing worse than keeping a change of heart isolated to one person, continuing blindly to create something that’s long forgotten. It not only wastes time and resources but it highlights a clear short-fall: that you’re not communicating as effectively as you could be. Especially now with the reduction of face-to-face feedback, communication is imperative for success.

It might feel different at first, but new-normal KPIs will become clear

The value of agile lies in working on the right things for the right reasons, and this can mean reassessing success metrics. You’ll get used to measuring your KPIs by focusing on customer outcomes, rather than team outputs. Changes to what was originally planned at team level won’t matter; but the delivered outcome for your customer will. 

Switching from a project management style that was A-Z in a straight line can feel like a huge jump, when suddenly things are broken up into smaller parts and the end goal is no longer ‘completion’. Reassurance and clear communication is the key to making agile work for you and your execs, and keeping them informed with developments is vital.

The value agile delivers is undeniable: it allows for change during execution which can enable you to be transparent with the customer, removing any fears of letting them down or missing key milestones. Through working together, you adopt a collaborative approach and deliver quality and value to your customer, in the most efficient and transparent way possible.

 

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Who contributed to this article

  • Craig Barker
    Chief Customer Officer

    Craig Barker is BlackCat’s Chief Customer Officer and co-founder. He acts as the voice of the customer, ensuring the business remains focussed on their needs and that we always deliver the best possible outcomes. Craig also supports BlackCat’s engagement and delivery functions and can often be found guiding and coaching our teams, encouraging a culture of collaboration and learning. Craig’s background is technical. Prior to founding BlackCat with Simon Godden, he gained a first class honours degree in Computer Science from the University of Aston then built up almost 20 years experience in delivering innovative software across a variety of industry sectors. He’s an advocate of lean and agile methodologies and is happiest in the thick of the most complex of deliveries.