Whether waterfall or agile – be clear on required outcomes

This article brings the themes of benefits and mobilisation together, stressing the importance of the business and delivery teams being aligned and in agreement before change starts in earnest. Whatever the delivery approach, fixing later is usually a lot more expensive than investing slightly earlier in the delivery process to get it right first time. 


Agile delivery methods are very much in vogue but are blurring control. The risk is that delivery, instead of being like shopping with focus on a list of budgeted needs, becomes like going to the shops and simply seeing what takes our fancy, as if our wallet can magically create money. 


Change is always an investment; it should have clear business benefits based on specific and validated enabling outcomes. Delivery still needs to be deliberate, otherwise, like that shopper, we find we’re overspent on things that caught our eye, or seemed like good deals, but don’t really help with the problems we were seeking to address. 



Be clear on what is being delivered and why 


Before getting embroiled in delivery, mobilisation (and scoping before it) should make clear what is being delivered (the functionality required) and why. It should also ensure business and delivery are aligned on how to achieve the benefits. We still often see a lot of change where the balance is too far one way or the other. If waterfall is biased towards technical solutions irrespective of functionality, Agile tends to go the other way – opening the door to endless ‘can you just…’ type requests. The risk is delivery runs late, and is overspent, often with knock-on consequences elsewhere in the delivery portfolio. 


To help manage this risk, the delivery approach should also be agreed up front – it’s not that things can’t be changed, but it’s essential to be clear on the process and rules for doing so, and the potential consequences or hurdles. Contingency in time and budget makes space for change, but the value of additional scope should still be tested hard. 


Modern delivery emphasises speed, and this can help with cost and return, but don’t sacrifice direction, alignment and control. Don’t exit mobilisation until you’re clear and agreed on what the target outcome is, and how it will be enabled, with governance along the way, and with alignment of the leaders both of delivery, and the receiving functions. 


So, if you think your delivery portfolio or approach is out of balance, or you’re concerned about getting better balance in your delivery, please get in touch.

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