Day two of The Art of Agile Training (taught by James Shore and Diana Larsen) has finished. This was a really enjoyable day for me, as it brought together a variety of concepts that had been disjointed in my brain for a long time.
My primary disconnect had been: What ties customer value (say, in a Market Requirements Document) to Agile stories? How can stories be measured to show whether customer requirements are being met? And lastly, how can the stories that teams are completing indicate how close we are to actually releasing?
James discussed the concept of a Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF). An MMF is the smallest amount of work that can be completed and released yet still provide customer value (see "Phased Releases" by James Shore). A release is comprised of MMFs. MMFs can be broken into stories. Stories are then assigned to iterations. Suddenly by measuring a consistent rate of completion of stories per iteration I can predict when my MMF will be completed with varying degrees of accuracy.
To take the example further, we know we'll release quarterly. Based on past experience, we're 90% confident we can ship MMFs A, B, and C. As we near the release date we become more and more confident in what we can ship based on the measured team velocity. And just before we ship we can have a crystal clear understanding of what exactly is going out the door.
Your sales and customer expectations have been continuously set after each iteration as the picture gets clearer. We have a lot of expertise doing this for waterfall, but Waterfall measures success by how well Scope and Schedule match the initial targets. In Agile, predictability is the key indicator of success. With a predictable velocity you can attach a confidence level to your estimates at any time during the project. I find that extremely reassuring.
I'll also give a shout-out to the wonderful customer-oriented folks (mostly from Autodesk) that I sat with for the Planning portion of the training. As a developer it was terrific to be so close to people doing the hard work of product, program, and project managenment. Every team, including internally focused ones, deserves a good PM. They're invaluable.
And another book round-up:
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