Our client – a regional medical provider – tried to incorporate Agile methods in its IT departments for several years but achieved lackluster results. Waterfall methods performed as poorly or worse. Independent of methodology, project features weren’t meeting business needs, and delivery deadlines were frequently missed.
The on-boarding of new employees and a large scale data warehousing project presented an opportunity to refine Agile techniques and truly make the methodology work for the company. Our client asked Plaster Group to develop a foundation for a more successful transition to Agile.
Plaster Group met with project teams and executive leadership to determine their difficulties with Agile and learned much of their trouble stemmed from an incomplete involvement of the business in the development process. Consultants suggested a Product Visioning Workshop to align business and delivery teams with a core set of principles, coach the business on the strategies, methods, and means of effectively communicating with delivery teams and defining project specifications, and determine what product visioning process works for the company.
The Product Visioning workshop brought business and delivery teams together to brainstorm and discuss the high-level goals of their project and to discover the product visioning process that works for them. Plaster Group consultants coached the teams through an initial product visioning session for the data warehousing project including the audience that will use the product, the user needs it fulfills, and the business benefits expected from successful project completion.
In this workshop, our client developed, and found unified purpose under, a vision statement. This vision statement would serve as a north star͟—a focused objective teams and individuals could use to ensure the value of their decisions in times of doubt and if the team lost sight of its overall value-add objectives in the sprints to come. Key workshop topics included:
- Establishing Regular Communication between Business and Development — advocated for a change in company culture that prioritized a view of operations as one team instead of separate business and delivery teams. Consultants coached this single unit on the cadence, role expectations, and continuous conversation essential to the SCRUM framework.
- Creating a Business that’s a Partner in the Agile Process — focused on getting the business comfortable with small failures, technology and priority changes, course re-direction, and the vulnerability, discussion tactics, and readjustment necessary to turn product changes and failures into growth opportunities.
- Advocating for the Essential Role of the Product Owner — promoted the importance of a dedicated product owner in a SCRUM environment, how they assist the development team and advocate for the business, expectations regarding their involvement, and strategies to develop a pool of product owners.
- Brainstorming Strategies — encouraged estimates, the open discussion of ideas, and consensus instead of requirements documents. These estimates served in the creation of a broad vision statement as well as an initial collection of user stories.
Our client developed a vision statement that has bound the team to a higher purpose and connected them to their work. In the months following the workshop, this statement hasn’t needed revision. In addition, the workshop resulted in a collection of 50+ user stories that would ensure a starting place for the discussion of features once the project began.
The development team regularly reports enhanced excitement. They are focused, feel more enabled, are invested in a common purpose, and have seen the value of Agile. The business is impressed with the project’s forward-facing results, reporting that they have gotten more done in months than the last two years, and are pleased with the enhanced transparency and communication from developers.
In addition, the business is going to expand the use of this model in other projects. Most importantly, business leaders are speaking in the terms that will lead to their long-term success in Agile while developing a community of dedicated product owners who can share experiences and ensure complete business involvement in all future projects.