Agile: The Antidote to Interior Design
The first step toward sanity is as simple as it is difficult: Put the best people you can on the agile team. In particular, the scrum master and business champion need to be seriously smart, energetic and committed. Great agile projects never involve wannabes.
The next step is to focus the team on functionality, not looks. I've seen a one-page report turn into a $20,000 exercise, as users focus on formatting rather than information value. They didn't even notice that the contents were incorrect until after the budget was gone. This goes double if you're trying to output CRM data into PowerPoint or Word. Any time you hear the phrase, "it needs to be pretty," just think, "pretty expensive."
Then, get Agile metrics in place. As I mentioned in a prior article, there are ways to make Agile projects measurable. Since this is the first step to manageability, start using those metrics.
Since I wrote that article in April 2013, agile tools have gotten better, particularly in creating crossover measurements that make sense to the non-agile manager. So the next step is to get these crossover tools, as they make it realistic to provide story burn-down rates to match budgetary consumption and elapsed timeline.
Dont take the metric "translation" too seriously, though, as stories rarely have a linear relationship to milestones or true completion. Of course, all this is subject to interpretation and gaming - but it's not like waterfall projects are impervious to those problems.
The strategic antidote, though, is tougher. Stay away from "deliverables," as that puts you in pure bean-counter mode. Instead, agile leadership must create a roadmap of strategic goals for the overall business process evolution - with the roadmap focusing on the sequence of completion, not the exact timing.
Even as stories are added and requirements change, you can still show "thermometer indicators" that measure a goals' progress. If management prefers red/yellow/green traffic-light indicators, that's OK for periodic status reviews. But the thermometer scales better indicate how far you've progressed in your big-picture organizational and IT journey.
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