The underlying purpose of any project is to add value. Projects serve as vehicles that enable changes, which should bring upon benefits that exceed the cost of making these changes.
As long as this occurs, a project is deemed to have been effectively and efficiently undertaken. Project managers are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that both the performing organization, as well as to the clients they serve, benefit from projects undertaken.
Given the very large number of interrelated considerations as well as the highly volatile environments in which projects operate, the prospect of adding value becomes increasingly difficult. Uncertainties that affect projects abound. Costs of undertaking projects continue to rise. Requirements from stakeholders become increasingly ambiguous. These factors detract value instead of adding value.
As project managers, we have to overcome any potential threats that impede the realization of this value. This include the need to protect the “Agile Ozone Layer”. This Agile Ozone Layer is usually attacked from multiple angles, from rigid and bureaucratic organizational structures, command and control style leaderships, to a functional silo mentality and resistant vendors and customers.
To ride the wave of such impediments that surface, a heightened sense of opportunistic awareness based on careful examination of business value undertaken throughout the project is required. Business Value refers to the net quantified benefits derived from the business endeavour being undertaken by the company.
This requires developing a sense of urgency for intelligent collection and analysis of relevant data to make decisions that enable realization of business value to the project as well as ensuring that the momentum of continual improvement is maintained. Doing the above correctly occurs only when project managers select project management methodologies that commensurate with the business environment the projects are undertaken.
Developing and maintaining a sense of urgency
When projects are to be executed based on evolving requirements in a highly turbulent business environment, the agile project management approach is most applicable. Such an approach requires a sense of urgency to be ingrained within the project team.
Changes have to be embraced and adapted to through collaborative efforts with customers. Only by developing a sense of urgency will the cost associated with delays in adapting to changing requirements can be curtailed.
Firstly, we shall have to establish a Product Roadmap that provides an initial visual timeline based on the Project Vision. Then releases are planned using a Release Planning that defines when deliveries may be made based on frequency of delivery as well as extent of adaptation required. A more incremental model approach, where deliverables are made at regular intervals, speeds up the delivery of value to the client.
For situations where there is no need for deliveries to be made incrementally, but there is a very urgent need for the features to be aligned perfectly to the changing requirements of the client, an iterative model is adopted.
Realization of Business Value
To realize business value, a deep understanding of not only what the customer requires but also the value associated with those requirements has to be established.
The project team needs to ascertain the “why” behind the “what”. This is required for both the performing organization as well as for the client. The value or specific benefits the project delivers via the end deliverable needs to be understood and internalized.
This requires gradually uncovering all uncertainties within specific release cycles and working time blocks, that impede the ability of the project team to deliver the value that is expected. The ability to do so is enhanced when delivery is made incrementally based on priorities set by the client. This way, feedback from each incremental deliverable, as well as uncertainties uncovered, become valuable inputs for future deliveries. In this way the project “delivers value incrementally”, and in the process of doing so, enables realization of business value throughout the project life cycle.
Rapid Data collection and analysis
Successfully delivering value requires constant data collection and assessment of progress. It requires developing insights on what works and what does not. This is done not based on assumption, but on actual data.
To ascertain whether this is indeed the case, developers aim to produce what is called a Minimum Viable Product as a prototype. Such a product contains the smallest collection of features that enable customers to consider the product as being functional. This provides developers with an opportunity to test features and ascertain important improvement points quickly and effectively.
From the company’s perspective, this exercise also helps to establish what the smallest amount of value that can be added to a product or service that benefits the business as well. Collecting data on minimal new value propositions and the corresponding positive business impact provides an impetus for the company to decide quickly and effectively on what value additions it should incorporate in order to maximize business growth prospect. This concept of Minimum Business Increment focusses on the realization of business value.
In summary, delivering value requires a combination of collaborative efforts of all stakeholders who are committed towards developing and preserving an Agile Ozone Layer that makes it conducive to undertake agile project management.
A sense of urgency to deliver value needs to permeate throughout the organization. This urgency extends to rapid data collection and analysis where Minimal Viable Product and Minimum Business Increment considerations are routine initiatives undertaken using a delivery model based on an incremental or iterative approach.