Agile delivery requires as precise feedback and control as waterfall, just different.
More and more, organisations are looking to add Agile delivery methods to their transformation delivery capabilities. Agile delivery, without the right control and metrics, will not improve on Waterfall in terms of helping to realise successful outcomes.
Over the years, as Project Management has developed, there have been numerous, increasingly sophisticated, techniques for controlling delivery and measuring progress. Many organisations, frustrated by the ‘inertia’ of Waterfall approaches, move to Agile. The apparent attraction is speed, and more flexibility in delivery, but in doing so, they forsake some of the good disciplines of Waterfall and wonder why delivery (still) goes awry.
A structured lifecycle still matters
Whether you are using Waterfall or Agile delivery the following things occur:
Agile techniques are increasingly adopted because they promise greater certainty of outcome, closer to cost (and at lower cost) and time (usually quicker) than other delivery approaches.
Getting it wrong early is always costly
However, just switching to Agile delivery does not improve the journey any more than a change of car improves a bad driver. Agile does not help if business outcomes are not well-expressed, or if the wrong things are prioritised. Agile does usually mean that less is committed before things go wrong – but that is still costly. Errors caught later in the lifecycle can cost hundreds of times more than those uncovered early. The cost is not just financial, late failures can affect team morale and delivery credibility. So, regardless of the delivery method, there is a need to express outcomes effectively, and to prioritise against business needs and the available capability and capacity.
Key things to look out for
Within the Agile approach there are a few key measures to monitor and refine continually to ensure appropriate control:
There are many specific measures and technique based/tool-based dashboards, but fundamentally, if you are leading a programme that includes some Agile delivery and you do not measure these five parameters, you are not in control of your delivery.
In moving to Agile, or mixed delivery models, you still need to be rigorous in your expression of business outcomes and how you prioritise what you need and can deliver. Particularly with Agile delivery, you should not be seduced into thinking that “lighter touch” documentation requires any less precise control and understanding of demand, capacity and quality of outcome.
At Project One, we work with many customers whose business teams are frustrated that the nirvana promised by Agile (more achieved, for less in shorter timescales) just appears to be breeding more confusion. We work with them to help improve how they express their outcomes, how they balance demand and supply and how they monitor and fine tune their delivery. Is Agile working for you, or could you be doing better, but cannot see how? Talk to us.
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