This week I learned a hard lesson.  I was at a customer site and assumed that because my boss agreed with the Agile principles and practices that I was touting, then the customer would agree without question.  I didn't even make a proper presentation as to the benefits that the customer could expect.  Michael Cline said in response to my last post, On Agile Island, "the customer cares about one thing. Does it make my life easier?"  I shared various features of Agile, but I did not really address the benefit to the customer.  I did not take the time to understand his process and his point of view.  Ultimately, what I was doing was proposing a considerable change with no obvious benefits. 

People hate change.  I was forced to regroup and look at how I could still apply Agile principles and gain the customer's confidence at the same time.  As Michael suggests, many of the Agile practices are for us, the builders of the software, and are not directly beneficial to the customer.  Indirectly, these practices allow us to provide a better product to the customer.  But, he is blinded by the prospect of drastic change.  Our goal should be to introduce small changes that gradually lead our customers to a new status quo.  We should help them become Agile without even realizing it.

So, how will I clean up the mess that I have made?  First, I will give the customer what he wants.  Then, I will speak in terms that he understands.  Finally, I will implement one small but significant change, iterative development.  This is one change that the customer is willing to try.  After a few iterations, I hope that the customer will reap the rewards.  When the time is right, when he can say, “This is what we do”, then I can consider the change successful and move on.

posted on Friday, January 25, 2008 11:39 PM
Filed Under [ Agile Customer Satisfaction ]

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