Deliver Value; Don’t Measure Efficiency

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Instead, delivery teams should work with their stakeholders to understand what a good measure of value is first, before identifying any stories whatsoever. Since value is such a subjective concept, you can think of this as answering the question "Why are we doing this?" In this question, “this" is usually some goal that the organization is trying to solve, and it should usually be expressed in a specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, and time-framed (SMART) manner.

For example, if a health insurance organization wanted to streamline their claims processing, it may set as one goal to reduce its received paper claims from 5,000 per month to 100 per month by the end of the year. After setting this goal, the delivery teams and stakeholders identify who can impact reaching that goal and who could stand in the way of reaching that goal. In the health insurance example, this may include office managers, billing personnel, and individual patients. Then for each of these actors, the team should consider what behaviors those actors need to change in order to drive closer to that goal. For example, we may want individual patients to send us their claims electronically rather than filling out paper forms. Finally, the team thinks about the solutions they could provide that would help the actors change their behaviors. The delivery team could produce a tool that scans electronic forms emailed to the health insurer extract information from those forms,and load it into the claims processing system, or the delivery team could produce an online claim form on the patient-facing website. This process is called impact mapping, a technique created by Gojko Adzic that, as he puts it, helps teams "make an impact, not just ship software."

After the members of the delivery team create an impact map for their effort, they can begin selecting a feature at a time to deliver and gauge its impact on the final goal. They may find that by simply creating the web-based claim form for patients, they immediately are able to reach their end goal and can stop there. Whereas, had they gone the route of brainstorming a set of stories, they may have come up with a slew of possible features and felt the need to develop most., if not all, of them, because that was the definition of their scope. Impact mapping, on the other hand, helps teams to identify the assumptions they are making and test whether those assumptions are correct. For example: We think a majority of our paper claims come in from patients. We assume that if we provide a web-based claim form for our patients to fill out, they will use it instead of using paper. The delivery team can develop that one feature, test their assumptions, and then move on to decide whether further development is needed.

About the author

Kent McDonald's picture Kent McDonald

Kent J. McDonald is an author, speaker, and coach who helps organizations improve the effectiveness of their projects. His more than fifteen years of experience includes work in business analysis, strategic planning, project management, and product development in a variety of industries including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, nonprofit, and automotive. He is co-author of Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility and currently delivers business analysis training for B2T Training, and shares his thoughts on project effectiveness at BeyondRequirements.com.

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