Even today, to the detriment of agile success, most organizational cultures remain delivery date-driven—resulting in delivery teams that are not focused on creating value for the customer. So how can we redirect stakeholders, the business, and the project team to concentrate on delivering the greatest value rather than simply meeting dates? Pollyanna Pixton describes the tools she has used in collaboration sessions to help all stakeholders and team members begin the process of adopting customer-centric agile methods. These tools include laying out an end-to-end customer journey, forming reusable decision filters to help prioritize backlogs, converting features into actionable user stories, and developing a solid process for making group decisions and communicating those decisions. Pollyanna shares questions that product owners and managers can use to define the problem while making sure they don’t solve the problem. After all, that is the responsibility of the delivery team.

The goal of this process is focused on bringing meaningful thoughts and creating one shared valuable vision. However, the additional value is providing a concrete beginning of moving the culture away from date driven to value driven.

The Tools

    Customer Journey
    Too often development teams focus only on solving the problem and miss the big picture of delighting customers at each stage. Remember when you buy a product, have a problem and can’t find any information on their website? So, we start with the journey a customer makes from identifying their business need, finding you as the solution, trying before buying, on-boarding, engagement including support (many times support teams need tools to troubleshoot our products – often forgotten), billing, and operations, proving value (customer loyalty indicates customer satisfaction), upgrades, and cancellation when required.

    Decision Filters
    To give the whole team ownership and avoid unwanted features creeping into the project, decision filters, framed as “Will this help us ….”, continuously filters the backlogs.

    Managing Management Need for Certainty
    Since we cannot defy gravity and at the beginning of a project we have a 5% chance of getting it right (not good odds), management desires some control where there is none. Several tools can assist with management’s nerves: risk management showing reduction of risk and movement to an acceptable risk level before taking dates; customer forums to let customers define the priorities and give feedback on each iteration; and minimal viable product, a working slice of the product to assess the value with the customer.

We will not re-visit standard agile practices such as creating a product and release backlog but work on other tools in the process to provide a new way of thinking that focuses on delivering value and delighting customers while changing to a value driven culture.

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