Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Accurately Reflecting Agile's Value in Budgets and Schedules

I've been struggling for some time to ensure that our agile projects get a true representation of value delivered to the client when schedules and budgets are being discussed.  I think our flexibility to deliver on client-driven scope change too often fails to show how we're really doing, particularly in e-mails or on the Great Game of Business boards we use at Quick.

For example, a project I just wrapped up the first phase on used SharePoint Excel services to host a complex workbook the client uses to show total cost of ownership for heavy equipment.  The original scope was for one set of features at a specific estimated cost.  We ran over estimates on a couple tasks (Excel Services is a difficult technology, especially when you're trying to work around its limitations) and beat a couple others.  The big delta, however, was that the client had us drop a couple items and add in a significant amount of new features.  Overall the client was extremely happy with what we produced.

Unfortunately, every mail regarding schedule and budget always went out the door saying we were slightly behind schedule and slightly over budget.  I'd have to immediately follow up and say "Yes, but look at the added scope and value we're bringing to the client at their direction."  Furthermore, the GGOB board shows a variance on our project, nicely written in red because we were over the initial figures on a time and materials project. 

This mindset comes straight out of the PMP world and I'm struggling with how to get this changed in our environment.  Metrics are good, as are BVC information radiators, but only if they're a fair and and accurate reflection of where a project's at.  That accurate reflection should include some measure of succeeding on client-driven scope change -- after all, shouldn't we be all over recognizing the value we've brought to the client?

I'm not sure where this will end up going, but I'm noodling over some ideas.  I'd love to hear suggestions if you've got 'em.

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