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PMI-ACP Value Stream Mapping

Value Driven Delivery

(This post, a draft sample from my upcoming PMI-ACP Prep book, takes a look at the “Value Driven Delivery” domain.)
Value, specifically the delivery of business value, is a core component of agile methods. This concept is woven into the agile DNA with its inclusion in the Agile Values (“Working software over comprehensive documentation”) and the Agile Principles (“Working software is delivered frequently” and “Working software is the principal measure of progress”). The focus on delivering value drives much of the agile activities and decision making on a project, and it manifests itself in many of the Tools and Techniques (T&T) and Knowledge and Skills (K&S) used. The focus on value is such an essential component of agile methods that the “Value Driven Delivery” domain has the most T&T and K&S of any of the 6 domains. This means we are starting with the biggest section early in this book.

What Is Value Driven Delivery?
Let’s start by defining value-driven delivery. The reason projects are undertaken is to generate business value, be it to produce a benefit or improve a service. Even safety and regulatory compliance projects can be expressed in terms of business value by considering the business risk and impact of not undertaking them. If value then is the reason for doing projects, value driven delivery is the focus of the project throughout the project planning, execution, and control processes.

It is the big picture view, the wearing of the sponsor’s hat when making decisions. By the project manager and team assuming this viewpoint, there is an opportunity to incorporate unique technical insights, such as technical dependencies or risk reduction steps, into the selection of features for a release that the sponsor may not be aware of. However value driven delivery remains a guiding vision for much local decision making, the selecting of choices that maximize the value delivered to the business or customer.

Risks as Anti-value
Risks are closely related to value. We can think of project risks as anti-value, i.e., things that can erode, remove, or reduce value if they are to occur. If value is the heads side of a coin, then risks are the tails side. To maximize value we must also minimize risks, since risks potentially reduce value. This is why the Value Driven Delivery domain addresses many risk reduction concepts and techniques.

Here’s another way to think about this concept. Consider value driven delivery to be like credits or deposits being paid into your bank account. Risks, or at least risks occurring (issues), are then like withdrawals or charges being taken out of your account. We want to maximize the inflow and minimize the outflow to create the most value.

Eat your Dessert First - Early Value Delivery
Agile methods promote early value delivery. This means aiming to deliver the highest value portions of the project as soon as possible. There are a number of reasons for this approach. First, life is short, weird stuff happens, and the longer you run a project, the greater the horizon of risk for failure, reduced benefits, opportunity erosion, etc. So to maximize success, aim to deliver as much good stuff as soon as you can before things change or go sideways on you.

The second major reason is that stakeholder satisfaction plays a huge role in project success. Engaged, committed sponsors and business representatives who support a project are vital to removing project obstacles and defining success. All project teams are on a “trial” period when they start, as sponsors may not be convinced the team can deliver. By delivering high value early, the team demonstrates an understanding of the stakeholders’ needs, shows a recognition for the most important aspects of the project, and displays an ability to deliver. Results raise stakeholders’ confidence, build rapport, and get stakeholders on board early, creating virtuous circles of support.

Chartering – Chartering in agile projects has the same general goal, but a different level of detail and set of assumptions. The goal of a Charter is still to describe the project at a high level, gain agreement into the W5+ (What, Why, Who, When, Where and How) attributes of the project and give authority to proceed. However, since agile methods are often used on projects with uncertainty around requirements / technology, and high rates of change, there is typically less certainty around scope.

In general agile charters have less detail, are shorter documents, and focus more on how the project will be run than what exactly will be built. This is because when aiming at a static target (unchanging requirements / technology) it is appropriate to plan, plan some more and then execute. In the dynamic and moving target environment of an agile project lots and lots of planning may not be appropriate if elements of the project are likely to change. So, when aiming at a moving target, we need to allow for mid flight adjustments and ensure the processes (prioritization, demos, retrospectives, etc) are in place to allow for them.

Elements of agile that may be different for an organization, for instance, welcoming changes and then prioritization of approved changes into the backlog, should be clearly outlines in the charter. This is especially important if the organization is new to agile and this may be a departure from how changes were handled in the past...

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You say :

Value, specifically the delivery of business value, is a core component of agile methods. This concept is woven into the agile DNA with its inclusion in the Agile Values (“Working software over comprehensive documentation”) and the Agile Principles (“Working software is delivered frequently” and “Working software is the principal measure of progress”).

However this seems to be predicated on the idea that (Working Software == Business Value) which is not always the case. In fact it is quite often not the case. Using the delivery of working software as even a measure of business value (let alone the definition) seems deeply wrong-headed.

Mike Griffiths

Hi Bert,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I will try to explain my points and address you concern. The statement that “Working software is the principal measure of progress” is not my statement, but a direct quite from the agile manifesto. Your observation that “Working Software == Business Value” and this is not always the case is true for many projects.

However in agile projects we prioritize work by business value and work on items in business value order. So if following an agile approach working software does equate to business value since the work would not have been approved for development if the business value had not been determined and approved. The format many teams use for gathering requirements helps illustrate how this is baked it. The format of “As a ROLE I want FUNCTIONALITY so that BUSINESS BENEFIT for example: “As a Netflix customer, I want a list of movies I may like based on my ratings, so that I can find more movies to rent”. Stories without a business benefit are rejected or sent for further analysis. The Backlog is prioritized by business value and work is selected from the top of the backlog

So, while you are right that just any old working software may not equal delivering business value, if the whole process is business value driven, then the software selected for development will have been predicated on its value. In these circumstance working software does equate to business value. I hope this helps explain my post.

Best regards

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