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Delivering Business Value

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The first principle of the Agile Manifesto talks about delivering valuable software to the customers, therefore many agile practitioners are constantly thoughtful of the value in each step of the software-development lifecycle. But calculating the business value of features is not an easy job.

Larry Cooper, senior partner at BssNexus Global and coauthor of the book “Agile Value Delivery - Beyond the Numbers”, in his recent blog talks about the value delivered by Agile. He stated that word ‘value’ in Agile space is used in the context of prioritizing the work to be done in order of highest business value first, but no Agile practice provides a definition of ‘business value’.

No Agile practice actually provides a definition for “business value.” It is left to someone from the business (or their proxy in the form of a product owner) to provide their exalted interpretation of what exactly constitutes business value. This is an attempt to define value by prioritizing features in a product – which we think is hardly a valuable approach.

Larry stated that one’s interpretation of what is valuable may not match another’s and without a cohesive understanding of value, different parts of an organization can come into conflict with each other. He said that what value is, when and how it is delivered are questions that are often never considered by organizations and their project teams.

Do organizations, even consider other possible aspects of value?

  • How will it affect our customers/clients?
  • Will it lead to improved brand recognition or brand loyalty?
  • What about reducing risks?
  • What about more efficiency or effectiveness in our business operations?
  • What about making more resources and people available to do other valuable things?
  • What about enhancing our business capabilities or adding new ones?
  • What about improving our social presence and perception in our communities?
  • What about improving our decision-making ability in timeliness and quality?
  • What about ensuring our organization remains relevant and viable?

Larry says that the organizations should also consider when and how Value is delivered:

  • Is value something we get all at once or in increments?
  • Does all value get realized when the project is over or are some parts only realized long after the project is completed?

Brian Hartlen, Chief Marketing Officer at Blueprint Software Systems, talks about delivering business value and how to define it, in his recent blog. He shares some perspectives to define and understand the value as follows:

  1. Value is not always about money: value can also take the form of:
    • Driving greater efficiencies
    • Improving organizational culture
    • Increasing productivity
    • Enhancing flexibility
  2. Stakeholders define value differently: each project has a range of stakeholders that we can understand in this three-pronged approach:
    • Customer stakeholders
    • Business stakeholders
    • Technology stakeholders

    Each brings its own set of priorities, interests and perspectives to the definition of value.

  3. Definition of value changes as project progresses.
  4. Context Matters: defining value for one project (or even for a different point in the same project) does not necessarily define value for all contexts.

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