The Agile Triangle

Jim Highsmith presented to DFW Scrum on July 26, 2011. We are grateful for his time and energy to come by and educate us on the true Agile Triangle and how to balance cost, scope, and schedule (which he ascertains are actually constraints, not foundational pieces of the Iron Triangle).

At DFW Scrum, we strive to concentrate on various “bands” in Scrum. The process is small and simple, and relatively easy to understand. Doing it… well that is another story altogether. Scrum says “start with a backlog, prioritize it, estimate it, commit to a piece of it in a sprint, deliver potentially shippable product in the end, look back on ways to improve, rinse and repeat”. I also add that our job is to make our organization/customers happy along the way with transparency (which is another post for another time). However, those pieces have logistics all their own and our topics try to focus on each of those pieces to guide us in the actual practice.

Jim Highsmith focused his presentation on value in the backlog. This means trying to ensure the business can actually quantify the user stories in value points against the development teams’ story points (cost). He brought a wide array of knowledge focused primarily on managing the projects (either from a PM or Management/Executive stand point).

One of the great points that stood out for me was the fact that Gantt Charts and traditional project management focused on following the plan with minimal changes while trying to juggle Gantt chart tasks and dependencies against the reality of what is taking place. The Agile leader however focuses on adapting successfully to the inevitable changes and focusing on value to the business over the traditional Iron Triangle notions of Scope, Cost, and Schedule.

Another highlight of his presentation was The Gap’s business value dials (their metrics for measuring their success). These metrics focus as much on quality and software development indices as they do on market value and quantitive measure of how much the feature is bringing to the bottom line. I think businesses need to hold our Product Managers more accountable to the features they are prioritizing by backing those features with quantitative market value points. Jim highlighted that he had come across very few companies who actually do that.

At the request of our group, I have posted Jim’s presentation:

Beyond Scope, Schedule, and Cost (The Agile Triangle)

If you have any further questions, feel free to email them or post them on our discussion board, we will try to get them answered. Our next MeetUp is now scheduled. Come join us Aug 16 at 6:30PM.


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