Monday, February 23, 2009

Is Agile useful now?

Why, yes, Virginia, the times they are a-changing.

You may have noticed a few not-entirely-happy things happening out there in the economy. It might even have affected you and perhaps even your place of work.

So, in what ways is Agile relevant? Now.

First, Agile is even more relevant now than before. (OK, just my assertion so far; see below.)

Second, for reasonable firms, it should be easier to implement Agile now, as there is a greater sense of urgency. (Yes, there are probably some areas with people running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Always some exceptions.)

So, in what ways is Agile helpful?
  1. The team is the best unit to manage. (Organize people into Agile teams, and measure the success of the team.)
  2. Agile teams adapt faster. Probably pretty useful in your neck of the woods just now.
  3. For the team itself: Assuming a strong Agile team, that knows its cost, and knows its "multiple" (now much Bus Value it delivers for its cost), it is far easier to justify its existence in the face of layoff. Anyone getting a 200% return on investment these days? Well, a decent Agile team (with a decent Product Owner) should be getting that almost at a minimum.
  4. Progress. Both in terms of increasing BV (business value) and in terms of increasing Velocity (story points of size/complexity) the team should be able to show a record of getting better all the time.
  5. Faster time to market. That is, we get new products to market before our competitors. Or we respond to competitors faster than they expect us to.
  6. Satisfaction. This one is actually for managers. You might be noticing that some of your people are getting demoralized or are lacking in focus. A normal human reaction. Agile does not have a silver bullet, but there is a great deal of satisfaction in working together in a decent team, and the biweekly or monthly Sprints keep the team focused on delivering. Maybe useful in your area just now.
The transformation to doing Agile (or doing it right) is hard, yet cheap compared to the alternatives. Or so I think, and would be happy to prove.

There are a few thoughts. What else do you find?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Should we invest in a better Product Owner?

I won't bore you with the calculation, but...

If you assume that a better Product Owner can:
* increase the value of Product Backlog items (stories) by 20% on average
* identify the Pareto curve partially in the Product Backlog, so that an 85-33 rule applies
* and if we assume that the team costs about $1,000,000 per year (all-in) and delivers, before the better PO, about $3,000,000 per year...

...then, what happens?

The team is now able to deliver $3,000,000 "projects" three times per year. Thus, this new PO has tripled the business value delivered by the team.

So, how much could you afford to invest in that better PO to get those results? Probably more than $1,500 (eg, for a Certified Product Owner course). And, while the course is good, I suspect that most Product Owners need more than just the course to get those results (eg, perhaps some coaching from someone really good).

So, what's the first impediment to doing this?

What I find is that most firms think of their IT department as a cost center. And thus they have no concept of BV delivered by IT, much less metrics around that. So, I am suggesting that just getting estimates of BV (and telling the team) and then measuring (even if only roughly) the BV actually delivered would be a big step in the right direction.

BV does not have to be measured in money. At least not initially. Depending on your firm, other direct metrics would be more meaningful. Then you need some experts to give you a rough estimate of the money value of those benefits.

Knowing the BV delivered of each team might be kind of important right now. In more ways than one. Go talk to your Product Owner about that today.