Post 3 of 4 –

Last week, we met our most important client. It’s been 3 months that our Agile team is working on the next version of his product. While the Product Owner has been in direct contact with him all along, this is the first time that he comes to us.

The agenda for the meeting was to discuss our product line, but the team offered to demonstrate what had been done during the first few sprints. I had some doubts because the project is far from being finished. We are supposed to deliver in no less than 4 months, and the project still lacks a lot of features, not to mention the interface, which is still very basic. I was afraid that the client would be disappointed with our work. However, he was delighted to see that things are already operating while the project is at its early stages. He even used the application which was unheard of for him. To see and “play” with the product gave him several new feature ideas that he had not thought of at the beginning of the project. The client even thought of marketing a preliminary version of the product because he saw a lot of value in the first functionalities developed.

The team and the PO were very transparent about what could go into production and what elements should be added to be able to deliver. To my surprise, the client understood that the results were still preliminary and there were still elements to be defined and finalized. He was comfortable and happy to participate in these discussions. He said he finally felt listened and he appreciated getting an accurate picture of where things stood with his product. He sent someone to work with us this week in order to refine the preliminary version, and I made sure that the ladder had his place in the team.

We reviewed with Carole, our organizational coach, how to monitor the projects’ progress. The dashboard was revised to include a “Sunset” graph. This graph indicates the velocity of the team based on the evolution of the product backlog (remaining effort).  Now that the velocity is more stable, the graph allows us to predict more accurately when (at what sprint) essential, important, and optional features will be completed (i.e. ready to go into production). We also see on what to work to achieve our delivery goals (scope, budget, time). The dashboard allows me to see the progress of the project almost in real time. Also, this tool has proven to be very useful to us in planning with the client when a functional preliminary version would be ready. With workshops on the product backlog, the team discussed new needs directly with the client, and the ladder could quickly have estimates. I do not dare to think that the entire contract would have had to be renegotiated in the past. Now we can quickly see the impact of adding or editing functionality with simple indicators such as the effort estimation in story points and the velocity. It helps us make the right decisions on priority while remaining within the budgetary constraints of the client.

The culture of the company is beginning to change. I’m more aware of what is going on, and finally people are telling me the “real deal”! All this has led us to be in a “finding solutions” mode rather than finding someone to blame. And I must admit that I am quite impressed by our project team. After the first rather uncertain sprints, the team has reached its cruising speed. I now feel a real synergy between the team members and I’m beginning to have real confidence that they will be able to deliver to the client what they have committed to.

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Paul

Meet Paul. He is director in a large high tech company. At work, Paul is responsible for major projects, and the decisions he is making impact the entire organization. He has heard of Agility, but he is not certain to be ready to take the plunge.

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