Software Quality Insights

Aug 9 2012   2:14PM GMT

Agile2012 preview: Defining and delivering value with structured conversations

Melanie Webb Profile: Melanie Webb

Structured conversations enable team members to communicate more effectively and meet delivery expectations, according to Ellen Gottesdiener, principal consultant and Mary Gorman, VP of quality and delivery at EBG Consulting. They are co-presenting “The Product Partnership: Using Structured Conversations to Deliver Value” at Agile2012 on Monday, August 13.

They cited experiences with clients, those who are currently using Agile and those who are transitioning to Agile, where stakeholder conversations had been less than optimal. One of the main issues Gorman noted is that planning meetings can be unproductive, lacking the focus, detail and attention to complexity that is really necessary. Often the right people are not involved in the project.

Gottesdiener added that team members often come to the meeting with requirements that are not ready for planning.

She explained that there is an “art and science of making requirements ready to pull into the team’s work for a particular delivery cycle, whether it’s a release, or whether it’s an iteration, or, using Scrum terminology, a sprint.” She emphasized, “‘Making ready’ is a really big issue.”

Other challenges with stakeholder conversations are the siloes that form, in which Agile team members are adhering to particular “roles” rather than working together towards the same goal—delivering value. Furthermore, the value is not well-defined; it is not transparent or explicit for team members.

In terms of explicit value, Gorman explained that it’s important to look at what the value is for each of the product partners—the customers, the business people and the technology stakeholders. “What’s their value, and what’s their perspective on the value of the product that they’re going to use? Be very explicit about that, really get inside their head, and sometimes their heart.”

She continued, “Being able to explore the value and then use that for our decisions as we move along has been really critical.”

Gottesdiener added that everyone needs to understand the definition of value. She said, “Value is fair return or equivalent in exchange for something—goods, services, money, time… Value is in the eyes of the beholder.”

During the tutorial the participants will learn how to apply the structured conversation pattern “Explore-Evaluate-Confirm” to identify high-value product options. 

Gottesdiener and Gorman are also presenting the following at Agile2012:

That Settles It! Techniques for Transparent and Trusted Decision-Making on Your Agile Team Wednesday morning, August 15, 2012 with Ellen Gottesdiener. 
The Contracting Two-Step: Patterns for Successful Collaborations, Wednesday afternoon, August 15, 2012 with Mary Gorman.

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