My Agile Failures - Welcome "Changes"

"Welcome Changes" becomes one thing that product owners/managers love most in Agile .  Most of time, when you talk with new teams, product owner/managers always come and demand changes; At start of my Agile journey, I did believe that "changes" are important. We should allow "any" changes. The outcome is output of team is unstable and feature delivered were hard to maintain. And from time to time, we missed commitments because of change required. And lots of changes doesn't bring expected business advantage. 

After years practice, I believe that there should be a line for

  • Whether a change is a new story or changes to existing story
  • Whether changes are the change which bring lots of customer advantage or it is another hypothesis from product owner/manager
And if you frequently experienced any problem related to story change becoming new story, you need to looking at what is the root cause of problem. It is very important to solve root cause of problem. Mostly, I found that lack of either functional requirement or architecture design are mostly root cause of problem. It is highly related misconception about agile doesn't require document. Agile means "communication" over "document". It does NOT mean that you don't need documentation. But from time to time, document, esp design document, are very helpful, but skipped. Although you don't need them in a very formal format. But some sketch on whiteboard and record them in somewhere will help team understand problem and find question earlier.


My Agile Failures - No or Long Customer Feedback Loop

For agile journey, most of companies focus on engineering practice like TDD, BDD, Automatic Testing, and Continuous Deployment. But the everything in agile is about shorting customer feedback loop time. Without it, agile practice will mean nothing to business. It will only become purely cost side for business.

The hardest thing in Agile is about involving customer / customer proxy in every stage of development including analysis, development, UI testing and customer satisfactory survey. Without customer feedback, any decision to change or add feature to a product is gut feeling and guess. Production vision is build from experience and vision. But to build a software product can survive, it is about to build an innovative product which support ever change customer's need. 

In my agile experience, I have seen similar problems happening from time to time where there is lack of customer interaction and there is no define of success for a story/feature. If the situation continues, it will cause friction between business and development teams. 

I still in progress build such feedback loop, I am trying following ways:

1. Get customers into UAT stage
2. Setup early access environment so that customer can access newly released features
3. Setup monitoring/tracking strip for user actions
4. Involve customers and other stakeholders at grooming sessions
5. Try to change to business culture to understand importance to have customer/customer proxy in house/easier to access while product delivery process

Do you have any suggestion for this? 


My agile failures - Deploy to production is a finish line

Agile principle highlight that to be agile, we need to deliver valuable software to customer in continuous way. In practice, it becomes continuous delivery. And we keep forgetting about customer value. 

My experience is that we focus on starting Agile transformation at Engineering/Technical teams is easiest way to do considering popularity of "agile" in software development space. But as soon as you get a team up to certain maturity level, you will be able to deliver a piece of software continuously. I were in a phase like that. And I still didn't see lots of satisfied customer faces. 

So what has been wrong? There are few things that I found that we can do better: 

  • Didn't engage customers in story discussion and delivery (we only involve customer proxy - Product Manager in the discussion)
  • Treat deploying to production as full stop, then 
    • Engineering is disconnected from customer; Small issues are stopping large number of customers adopting
    • Project based methodology has delayed future improvement
    • Support team take over communication even for MVP products
    • Lack of communication between teams and engineering team after software on production
What I have done to improve the outcome:
  • Setup a kanban which has "transition" as one of columns; Project/Stories will be only moved to "Party Time"/Finished/Done when it is proved to work for customers;
  • With above Kanban board, we make sure improvement stories related to new projects/stories have highest priority
  • Engage customer directly in "transition" stage so that customer values can be delivered in timely manner; Project can actually become "valuable" product
Some further things to be answered:
  • Does "Project" stop us from doing better job? 
  • Without project, how will you manage budgets? 
  • How to engage customers more in execution/in progress stage to shorten transition stage?  
If you have any suggestion, please let me know


My Agile Failures - Customer Value and Failure Demand

Agile first principle: "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software."  So first of my thought that means that we should deliver customer value as quick as possible. As highly experienced developer and architect, a customer value does not only include function delivered, but also include non-functional requirements including quality, security and others. 

But with monitoring in place, it doesn't seems that our agile delivery bring more significant sales into business.  So which part goes wrong. A recent read of John Seddon article bring some lights on that. In his article, he talk about failure demand - "demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer".  Most of our "agile" delivery are delivering wrong thing quickly. 

There are few wrong sides for things delivered:

1. Miscommunication and information lost
2. Someone else did that and that is valuable to our customers too
3. Never analysis root cause of customer business problem; So solution can't solve the most important problem

Sprint Review has been prescribed in SCRUM as part of process. But our product delivery and customer value feedback were just skipped after sprint review. And there were no continuous improvement process related to product development and provision. 

What I am trying at the moment

1. I have setup Kanban to visualize whole product delivery process including MVP provisions 
2. Plan to have some review meeting like sprint review. But it focuses more on product delivery to customer.