Sunday, February 7, 2016

Applying Inspect & Adapt to the product

Here you can find my last contribution about how to help your business colleagues during the adoption of an Agile methodology in a big company. It comprises a couple of ideas to get the most from Agile and ensure the product really fits the customer needs.

1. Embed metrics and feedback as part of the MVP
These are practices that are far from being mainstream in the corporations nowadays, mainly because the traditional software production framework gives no agile options to improve a product once it has been deployed. The business guys are more accostumed to rely on manual techniques, such as surveys, to grab information about the usage of the product and the degree of satisfaction perceived by the customers or final users.

So it's time to assist our Product Owners in changing their mindsets and in being prepared to deal with the reactions of the end-users optimally, by making use of the mechanisms provided by the Agile framework such as the product backlog prioritization. Work with them to come up with a strategy to learn from the usage of the product and adapt to the needs of the user, ensuring the mechanisms to provide with that information are part of the Minimum Valuable Product.

2. Allocate buffer to analyze the outcomes
Finally, the business staff that comes from traditional frameworks have adapted themselves to a cycle of definition, development, deployment and operation of the product, with all these activities being carried out in sequence, and being the analysis of the outcomes part of the operation.

Now, they will face a framework that entails the concurrency of those activities, once the product has been delivered: since the very moment the product has been deployed the Product Owner is responsible for analysing outcomes such as the response of the user, the value creation, etc.. But she still keeps her responsability for defining the features to be part of coming iterations, and this is a working pattern she is not prepared to.

So, it's responsability of the Scrum Master here to assist the business guys in forecasting and estimating the time they will spend with these activities in future iterations, so that they make room for all the activities expected to be done as well (definition, refinement and testing).

We want the framework to be sustainable, but this point takes us to the potential issue of the right balance of business and technology staff within the team, which may vary significantly as the business guys get involved not only in tasks related to the functional definition and testing, but also more and more in tasks of collecting and analyzing the data related to the usage of the product (metrics and feedback, as mentioned before). But this is a can of worms I will not open today!

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