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Agile Principle Part 1: Valuable Software

by Ken Rickard

Dec 06, 2017

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software

This principle speaks volumes about the underlying ideas behind Agile. They could have stopped with just this first principle and there might have been enough direction for teams, organizations, and companies to drastically improve.

Let's break this principle down...

Highest Priority is to Satisfy - The founders of Agile set out to change the way we work, by declaring that development teams exist to build great things for their customers. Sounds revolutionary, but why was there a need to declare this? All too often with software projects, the outcome is a letdown in one way or another. Business or industry changed during development, upfront requirements became stale during development, development took too long an opportunity was missed, or estimated budget for the project was run over. As an industry did we get to a place where the norm was to disappoint our customers? I suspect that the Agile founders believed we did. Making satisfaction the highest priority for a development team sets the tone for everything else they do.

Customer - Traditional projects include the customer like bookends. It's been this way for decades, so naturally, business folks have been conditioned to provide requirements upfront. Business people are also often overworked, so they typically are trying to get back to their three other job roles as quickly as they can. This company culture aligns with only being involved at the start and finish of a project. I think we all have a basic understanding at this point why that's a bad idea. Less frequent interaction means less understanding, higher risk, and more opportunity for failure.

All things aside I think customers would prefer to work closer with development if that equals a better product. The most common themes I've experienced when customers are not able to make the mental leap to behave with agility typically stems from poor company culture that influences their behavior. Overworked with no time for frequent interactions, demotivated because they are stuck in roles that don't excite them, a company culture that rewards personal agendas and/or extrinsic motivation, an attachment to existing process or fear of change, and a disconnect from what is truly valuable for the company. The required culture changes of Agile address all these concerns if people are willing to learn, participate, and take Agile seriously at all levels within a company.

Early and Continuous - What could impact project success more than delivering early and often? The longer you go without inspecting your progress against expectations, the higher the chance you will fail. That's common sense in our normal lives, if you don't balance your checkbook regularly, you have a higher chance of overdraft. Shouldn't we have been following suit on software projects long ago?

Let's not skim over the continuous part here. We should be planning for ways to get work into the hands of our "validators", such as stakeholders or end users, as quickly as possible. Even building Scrum around Agile so that there is a cadence of delivery makes a lot of sense here. Any increment of functionality potentially has the value that could be realized sooner, if we can just get that feedback quicker. Doing so further reduces your chances of failure, and increases our chances of being on the same page as our customers. It's a win/win situation.

Delivery of Valuable Software - Value is an interesting topic. It can be interpreted differently by each company. However, today's cutting-edge companies consider agility valuable, as it enables them to meet the needs of their customer's changing desires. If a company values agility, then so will the workers, and the software they build will be agile. Lead time from request to delivery on software changes will take days or less, instead of months. People will start to change the way they behave and work because they will see the values of agility changing behavior throughout the company, hopefully from not just the bottom up, but also from the top, sideways and down. It's amazing how the behavior at the top is reflected down throughout a company. I've seen companies with engaged and empowering leaders in the C-Suite positions, and I've seen companies with such a heavy-handed CEO that everyone is afraid to move.

If we want satisfied customers we need to build engaging (read as "valuable") products. Engaged employees build engaging things, and they are happier for it because they feel valued themselves.

This 12 part series was published by Ken Rickard on LinkedIn Pulse, to read the original version of this blog click hereTo read the entire 12 part series, click here for a table of contents. 

Interested in learning more about the Agile Methodology or incorporating it into your business? Contact a representative at CCG by emailing info@ccgbi.com or call (813) 265-3239. 

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