An important question to ask is: What is value? Customer value—something that benefits the end customer who consumes the product/service that our team helps to provide—is what agilists typically focus on. This is clearly important, but in Disciplined Agile® (DA™) we’re very clear that teams have a range of stakeholders, including external end customers. So, shouldn’t we provide value to them as well?
Mark Schwartz, in The Art of Business Value, distinguishes between two types of value: customer value and business value. Business value addresses the issue that some things are of benefit to our organization and perhaps only indirectly to our customers. For example, investing in enterprise architecture, reusable infrastructure, and sharing innovations across our organization offers the potential to improve consistency, quality, reliability, and reduce cost over the long term. These things have great value to our organization but may have little direct impact on customer value. Yet, working in an enterprise-aware manner such as this is clearly a very smart thing to do.
There are several ways that we can accelerate value realization:
- Work on small, high-value items. By working on the most valuable thing right now, we increase the overall return on investment (ROI) of our efforts. By working on small things and releasing them quickly, we reduce the overall cost of delay and our feedback cycle by getting our work into the hands of stakeholders quickly. This is a very common strategy in the agile community and is arguably a fundamental of agile.
- Reuse existing assets. Our organization very likely has a lot of great stuff that we can take advantage of, such as existing tools, systems, sources of data, standards, and many other assets. But we need to choose to look for them, we need to be supported in getting access to them and in learning about them, and we may need to do a bit of work to improve upon the assets to make them fit our situation. One of the guidelines of the DA mindset is to leverage and enhance organizational assets.
- Collaborate with other teams. An easy way to accelerate value realization is to work with others to get the job done. Remember the old saying: Many hands make light work.