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This chapter is from the book

Reliable Innovation3

There are five key business objectives for a good exploration process such as Agile Project Management (APM):

  1. Continuous innovation— to deliver on current customer requirements

  2. Product adaptability— to deliver on future customer requirements

  3. Reduced delivery schedules— to meet market windows and improve return on investment (ROI)

  4. People and process adaptability— to respond rapidly to product and business change

  5. Reliable results— to support business growth and profitability

Continuous Innovation

As I discussed in the opening section, developing new products and new services in today's complex business and technology world requires a mindset that fosters innovation. Striving to deliver customer value, to create a product that meets today's customer requirements, drives this continuous innovation process. Innovative ideas aren't generated in structured, authoritarian environments but in an adaptive culture based on the principles of self-organization and self-discipline.

Product Adaptability

No matter how prescient a person, a team, or a company, the future will always surprise us. For some products, changes in the market, technology, or specific requirements happen weekly. For other products, the timeframe for incorporating changes varies from months to years. But for every product, the timeframes are shrinking, and the only way to survive is to strive for product adaptability—a critical design criterion for a development process. In fact, in an agile project, technical excellence is measured by both delivering customer value today and creating an adaptable product for tomorrow. Agile technical practices focus on lowering the cost of change (adaptation) as an integral part of the development process. In an agile project, developers strive for technical excellence, and project managers champion it.

Reduced Delivery Schedules

As the statistics for rapidly shrinking product development times indicate, reducing delivery schedules to meet market windows continues to be a high-priority business goal for managers and executives. The iterative, feature-based nature of APM contributes to reducing delivery schedules in three key ways: focus, streamlining, and skill development.

First, the constant attention to product features and their prioritization in short, iterative timeboxes forces teams (customers and developers) to carefully consider both the number of features to include in the product and the depth of those features. Constant attention reduces the overall workload by eliminating marginally beneficial features. Second, APM—like its lean development counterparts—streamlines the development process, concentrating on value-adding activities and eliminating overhead and compliance activities. Third, APM focuses on selecting and developing individuals with the right skills for the project.

People and Process Adaptability

Just as products need to adapt to marketplace reality over time, so do people and processes. In fact, if we want adaptable products, we must first build adaptable teams—teams whose members are comfortable with change, who view change not as an obstacle to resist but as part and parcel of thriving in a dynamic business environment. The APM guiding principles and framework encourage learning and adapting as an integral part of delivering value to customers.

Reliable Results

Production processes are designed to be repeatable, to deliver the same result time after time after time. Good production processes deliver the anticipated result (a known result), for a standard cost, within a given time—they are predictable, if you will. Exploration processes are different. Because of the uncertainty surrounding requirements and new technology, exploration projects can't deliver a known, completely pre-specified result, but they can deliver a valuable result—one that meets customer and business requirements as they become known. Good exploration processes can deliver innovation reliably—time after time. But while performance measures for production processes can be based on actual scope, cost, and schedule versus their predicted values, exploration processes need to be measured somewhat differently.

Rather than scope, cost, and schedule, exploration projects should be measured on vision, cost, and schedule. Did the project deliver a valuable product (implemented vision) to the customer? Did the project deliver the product within the cost and time constraints placed on the project? These subtle but extremely important differences between repeatability and reliability will be revisited in Chapter 3. The bottom line: APM reliably delivers innovative results to customers within cost and schedule constraints.

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