Ruthlessly Helpful

Stephen Ritchie's offerings of ruthlessly helpful software engineering practices.

Better Value, Sooner, Safer, Happier

Jonathan Smart says agility across the organization is about delivering Better Value, Sooner, Safer, Happier. I like that catchphrase, and I’m looking forward to reading his new book, Sooner Safer Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns for Business Agility.

But what does this phrase mean to you? Do you think other people buy it?

Better Value – The key word here is value. Value means many things to many people; managers, developers, end-users, and customers.

In general, executive and senior managers are interested in hearing about financial rewards. These are important to discuss as potential benefits of a sustained, continuous improvement process. They come from long-term investment. Here is a list of some of the bottom-line and top-line financial rewards these managers want to hear about:

  • Lower development costs
  • Cheaper to maintain, support and enhance
  • Additional products and services
  • Attract and retain customers
  • New markets and opportunities

Project managers are usually the managers closest to the activities of developers. Functional managers, such as a Director of Development, are also concerned with the day-to-day work of developers. For these managers, important values spring from general management principles, and they seek improvements in the following areas:

  • Visibility and reporting
  • Control and correction
  • Efficiency and speed
  • Planning and predictability
  • Customer satisfaction

End-users and customers are generally interested in deliverables. When it comes to quantifying value they want to know how better practices produce better results for them. To articulate the benefits to end-users and customers, start by focusing on specific topics they value, such as:

  • More functionality
  • Easier to use
  • Fewer defects
  • Faster performance
  • Better support

Developers and team leads are generally interested in individual and team effectiveness. Quantifying the value of better practices to developers is a lot easier if the emphasis is on increasing effectiveness. The common sense argument is that by following better practices the team will be more effective. In the same way, by avoiding bad practices the team will be more effective. Developers are looking for things to run more smoothly. The list of benefits developers want to hear about includes the following:

  • Personal productivity
  • Reduced pressure
  • Greater trust
  • Fewer meetings and intrusions
  • Less conflict and confusion

Quantifying value is about knowing what others value and making arguments that make rational sense to them. For many, hard data is crucial. Since there is such variability from situation to situation, the only credible numbers are the ones your organization collects and tracks. It is a good practice to start collecting and tracking some of those numbers and relating them to the development practices that are showing improvements.

Beyond the numbers, there are many observations and descriptions that support the new and different practices. It is time to start describing the success stories and collecting testimonials. Communicate how each improvement is showing results in many positive ways.

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