Will the REAL user please stand up! Involving the right customers in Agile projects

Scrum brings the customer and the development team together as often as every sprint.  Because the customer is involved throughout the development process and is consulted once per iteration, the team can never deviate very far from the customer’s vision.” says Laszlo Szalvay in his recent Better Software Magazine article on SCRUM in which the author does an excellent job of providing an overview of SCRUM.
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Personally, I couldn’t agree more and I think he nails this key point about SCRUM. I suspect that most of you will be aligned with this too.

As an application development practitioner from the “old days” for me, iterative development and continuous business user involvement is the ultimate Agile truth – it’s the best way to keep projects on schedule and deliver a high value solution.

But now for the real question about customer involvement:  What happens when you don’t have the right customers involved?  

Last week I was discussing an Agile project with one of our OutSystems Engagement Managers and he described this exact issue. The team was very excited to tackle this project using Agile methodology as it was going to be the first for this particular client’s business area.  The business was on board, trained on Agile and they had the full support of the management who were committed to participating in planning user stories, each sprint demo, backlog settlement, etc.

trenches.jpgThe problem was that the supervising managers were not the ones who would use the application on a daily basis and were somewhat out of touch with the processes and issues on the ground. What happened? The management team met with resistance from the guys in the trenches about the initial app – and then what? …they changed their minds about the functionality. Ultimately this proved to be a positive experience as the Agile and SCRUM-based approach they used caught the mismatch early and the resulting app was accepted.   So, the lesson here : beware – management participation is critical but you also need the real end users to make sure you don’t get too far off track!

Have you come across this type of issue on your Agile projects? How is Agile helping your projects deliver better software?


About the author

Mike Jones

Mike is a professed 'hater' of complexity. He has been in the IT industry since the mid 80's where he learned his technical skills at EDS and Texas Instruments. He believes there is a simpler way for IT professionals to deliver business value that requires a pragmatic mix of agile methods and application development tools.


That’s why in Evo (Evolutionary Project Management) we use the concept of ‘Eagerly Waiting Stakeholders’.
We make (biweekly) Deliveries in order to get feedback. If we deliver to Stakeholders who aren’t eagerly waiting, then we don’t get the appropriate and timely feedback. If the Stakeholders we need to provide feedback don’t provide feedback, we feed them ‘juicy bits’, in order to make them eagerly waiting.
As described in one of my booklets about Evo, see http://www.malotaux.nl/Booklets , booklet#2, chapter 5.4.
Niels Malotaux, Project Coach
(not ‘Agile Coach’, because Agile doesn’t need coaching; projects do)

I like the concept of Eagerly Waiting Stakeholders! I will go check out the EVO booklets. I noticed that you deliver every two weeks – I am finding that this is key to keeping the business engaged – any longer and they forget what they asked for in the last sprint and begin to lose interest.

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