Agile Series #3: The importance of delivering value frequently & consistently

Welcome to the third of twelve articles where we talk about the do’s (and some of the don’ts) of Agile Project Management.  During this series we will work our way through the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto and talk about how it relates to you, a project manager (PM) and your project.

This week’s principle is Deliver working analytics solution frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. (Beck, 2001)

As we have discussed previously, projects can and do frequently change.  Customers ideas change and analytics requirements change with it. But what is the point of any of this change if the solution doesn’t deliver.

One of the most common challenges in developing analytics solution is ensuring the solution is high performing.  This often occurs because sometimes PMs’ want to have all the bells and whistles working, tried, tested and retested before sending the product to the customer.  This is a massive mistake. Customers prefer, and in many cases, want a working analytics product. Something they can see, touch and feel over a perfected product.  Being a part of the journey enables them to feel ‘involved’ in the project. 

A good PM uses this to the projects advantage. Also, working analytics product often means less documentation as the customer is already familiar with the product and doesn’t need as much additional training or the customer sometimes will undertake documentation on your behalf, so that is consistent with their own documentation frameworks. 

This was true at a University that where I had worked as Systems Analyst many years ago.  The Professor was so happy that they had a working product, albeit in a simple form, that it was rolled out “to test” to his students within a month and moved to production within 3 months and was fully documented by the students! An almost unheard-of timeline in the university sector.


Frequent delivery is also very important when project managing any kind of analytics solution development. Plan delivery dates and ensure that you can meet those targets.  It is up to the PM to make sure the stages of the project can be delivered to the designated timeframe.  Having knowledge or understanding that changes may occur, it is often easier to create short timescales.  This means that a customer, like the university professor, can test the working solution in staged releases in an iterative manner, rather than being lumped with one big project.

Having short (as in weekly, fortnightly or monthly) delivery dates means that the project does not become overwhelming to your managers, to the analysts/developers and most importantly to your customers.

Having short timelines also creates some visibility around the progress of the project and more importantly means that you can some better understanding around the constraints, barriers or problems that may be occurring with the various stakeholders.

The other benefit of iterative delivery is that you have the opportunity to not only validate your product is heading in the direction that the customer wants but also that you can learn and adjust the project approach and teams behaviours as you go.

To summarise, in analytics solution development, a working analytics product will almost always triumph over comprehensive documentation, especially if you can deliver frequently and consistently. In the next article, we are going to have a look at where project managers fit in a team, and how Agile can be used for great leadership which leads to robust project management.

References

Ammouri, Y. M. (2015, December 2015). Agile Analytics solution Development Basics and fundamentals. Retrieved from Code Project: https://www.codeproject.com/Articles/1064114/Agile-Analytics solution-Development-Basics

Beck, K. B. (2001). Agile Manifesto. Retrieved from Agile Manifesto: http://agilemanifesto.org

Hughes, K. (2019, 07 31). The Agile Manifesto, Explained. Retrieved from Project Manager: projectmanager.com/blog/agile-manifesto-explained

Williams, C. (2013, May 2013). Agile Manifesto – Working Analytics solution Over Comprehensive Documentation. Retrieved from Source Allies: https://www.sourceallies.com/2013/05/agile-manifesto-working-analytics solution-over-comprehensive-documentation/