Stage 2: Communicate the benefits of Agile to the Project Sponsor
Now that the business requirements have been prioritized, and the team is working on the most important items using sprints, it is important to communicate this to the project sponsor.
Some coaches will suggest that this should be the first stage of introducing Scrum/Agile into an organization. I recommend that this is not done until after the first stage, because until the issue encountered in stage 1 related to decision making and business ownership is resolved, there is nothing to get agreement on from the project sponsor.
Once the requirements have been prioritized, it is important to ensure that the project sponsor agrees with the concept of Agile. The biggest advantage of Agile is that the team will provide the highest priority business requirements quickly and the solution will be of high quality. The biggest ‘disadvantage’ of Agile is that because quality is not negotiable, if issues arise, the lower priority requirements will be moved further out on the plan. In other words, they no longer have the Gantt chart that predicts (often incorrectly) exactly what features are scheduled when.
Instead of a detailed Gantt chart, communication with the Project Sponsor should include high-level goals (outlined in order of priority) planned for the next release. To be able to provide the goals planned for the next release, the developers must provide some high level estimates (story points – relative point system to estimate development time) for each requirement. Based on this the business is able to better prioritize and you should be able to come up with a rough idea of which requirements will make it in to the release.
The most important concept for the project sponsor to understand is the ‘Iron Triangle’, as depicted in Figure 1. One of the basics in Project Management is that with any project, if the scope (or the amount of features implemented) is increased then cost and/or time must also increase.
Figure 1 – The Iron Triangle
The key thing to focus on with Agile Development is that because you have outlined a fixed release date and have a defined team, time and cost will remain the same and scope is what changes. The Project Sponsor must understand that the goals for the release have been prioritized and if issues arise, the quality of the product does not suffer and we still meet the published release date – but features can be moved out into a future release.
Scrum features introduced at this stage
At this stage, we have introduced estimating the product backlog requirements using story points. I explain to the business the concept of high-level planning using Scrum in that a release is made up of a certain number of sprints each with prioritized features. You can also start measuring team velocity using the burn-down chart if the project sponsor is looking for proof of productivity improvements.
Issues overcome at this stage
The biggest issue to overcome at this stage is to gain business buy-in into the concept of Agile. If they don’t agree that quality and high priority business requirements are the top priority over a detailed (and unreliable) plan, then you should not proceed on to stage 3.
Benefits gained at this stage
The benefit gained from this stage is the Project Sponsor and Product Owner now have improved control of a project. It is much easier for them to prioritize requirements based not only on business priority but also on estimated story points. They understand that they will be delivered high quality software at regular intervals and it is completely up to them which requirements are included.