There is a nice summary of Kanban at http://www.kanbandistilled.com/. It shows Feature Requests going into the Software Development Pipeline and Improved Software coming out.The article does a great job of showing how Kanban helps improve the flow of software development. Getting better at software development is important and Agile methods have been helping teams achive this goal. This is the first bargain of Agile-delivering software faster and with much higher quality then ever before. In most organizations however, this is only a small part of the business equation. Even when development is successful, a narrow focus on software development narrows the value an organization will achieve. We also need to align of development with the most important needs of the business, balance development with adoption, and ensure improved business performance is achieved.
Feeding the Software Development Pipeline
Unless a company is a software development service provider, its business is not about software development. Software likely enhances the businesses ability to create value for it’s customers. So, while Agile development helps teams get better at software development – the goal is to get better at creating value for it’s customers. The focus of Agile software development is upside down. The focus should be on the capabilities of the business. Aligning development with the needs of the business requires understanding which business capabilities will benefit from improvement and prioritizing these needs based on business value.
After using a business capability approach to need identification and prioritization, the business needs must be appropriately scoped and communicated to development. Over the last month I have been writing about Making Agile Requirements Work. need to make sure the requests that go into the Software Development Pipeline are clear and appropriately defined. Following the six principles of Agile Requirements That Work help with this feeding of the Software Development Pipeline.
- Articulate Purpose and Outcome
- Establish a Shared Language
- Provide a Stable View of the Business
- Support Progressive Elaboration
- Prioritized and Reflect Business Value and Risk
Gaining Business Benefit
The other part of the equation is to ensure the organization adopts and supports the improved software. Once the Software Development Pipeline has produced Improved Software, it still isn’t valuable until the Business Capability has achieved the intended performance improvement. Just as the elicitation and analysis of requirements has to match the cadence and needs of Software Development. Software Development has to match the cadence and needs of the organizations ability to adopt and support Improved Software. Part of the overall feedback to the organization includes ensuring the capability improvement is achieved.
At every step in this equation different risks may exist. identifying, prioritizing, and scoping feature requests have risk associated with a lack of understanding. Software Development has risk associated with the Ability to Execute and Verify the delivered software. Benefit realization has risks associated with achieving adoption and being able to sustain and support change in the organization. These risks should be explicitly managed and feedback mechanisms should be in place to recognize the realization of risks. Failing to understand and manage risks in an integrated fashion will also diminish the organization’s ability to maximize benefit from it’s investment.
The Real Agile Bargain
The real agile bargain is the maximizing of economic outcomes by increasing the speed and focus an organization can improve and respond to the market. The Agile Business Value Equation is solved at the Business Capability Level. The ability to rapidly develop high quality software moves Technology from a change obstacle to become an change enabler. This happens at the intersection of Feeding the Software Development Pipeline, Developing the Software, and Gaining Business Benefit. Solving any of these parts independent of each other does not result in optimizing business agility.