Many product managers who work with or within Agile teams have told me how they've felt left in the dust during the early phases of the Agile implementation. "We've sighted our target persona!"the development team exclaims. "Champagne for everyone!"
Unfortunately, they forget to invite to these festivities the very person who will, beyond this sighting, provide ongoing intelligence about that role--and the use cases, and whether that's the right role for the product, and what the competition is doing to serve that person, and whether there's a market for all this technology in the first place. A good product manager also has mad skillz in collecting and analyzing this information, something that even the most wunderbar of Wunderkinder doesn't necessarily have right out of the womb.
Shane Hastie at InfoIQ describes the same problem facing business analysts, the cousins of product managers in IT organizations.
Our survey about Agile's effect on the structure and operations of technology companies is now live. If you're interested in participating, here's the link. If you have questions or technical problems, please contact Zachary Reiss-Davis.
Who should take this survey? Since we're interested in the ripple effects outside of the development team, practically anyone in a company that has adopted Agile. The broader the sample of different roles, the better. Please forward the link to anyone who might have something to say on the topic. Affected or unaffected, happy or unhappy with the results, we're interested.
Also, my colleague Dave West is running a different Agile survey. In his case, the topic is limited in focus to development teams, and not just within the technology industry. if you're interested, please contact David D'Silva.
For our ongoing research on the effects of Agile technology company structure and operations, we need your help! If you have been part of a development team that has gone Agile, either wholly or partially, we're interested in your input. If you work directly with development teams that have gone Agile, we're also interested in what you have to say. We're not just interested in talking to developers, or development managers, but everyone--QA, Marketing, PM, and so on--who has been affected by a tech company's switch to Agile.
Terms and conditions: As always, we keep your responses confidential. The survey should take 15 to 30 minutes to complete. You'll get a copy of the results, once published.
If you're game, just drop me an e-mail (email@example.com). And, just to repeat, the domain of this survey is the technology industry, not the entire universe of Agile development (like, say, in corporate IT departments). And tell a friend, if you know someone who would be a good participant in this survey.
A big thanks to the folks at Rally Software for the opportunity to co-present, with Rally CTO Ryan Martens, today. Check the Agile Commons web site later for the archived presentation, if you missed it.
And a big thanks to the attendees, especially for the many excellent questions (my favorite measure of whether or not a presentation went well).
Regardless of the topic du jour--whether or not to adopt Agile, whether or not to revamp product requirements, where the market development opportunities lie, how to use Web 2.0 as a vehicle for marketing--the downturn inspires two distinct reactions in technology companies:
We live in the best of all possible worlds. We may need to economize a bit, but we don't need to explore any significant changes to how we do business. All we need to do is wait, and not do anything stupid.
We could improve what we're doing. In fact, even if the downturn hadn't happened, we'd be in the middle of a discussion about how we might [fill in the blank] better.
Of course, there's always a strong argument behind the first position. Aside from Old Man Inertia, the other culprit here is the perceived cost and risk of change. The perception is important--moreso, in some organizations, than the measurable costs, benefits, and risks of change.
On December 17, I'll be co-presenting (with Ryan Martens, founder and CTO of Rally Software) a webinar, "Making Agile Work For Your Bottom Line." This is part two of a series, "Agile In Turbulent Times," that Rally is hosting. (Click here for the link to the series.)
* SPOILER ALERT *
Yes, Agile definitely can have a profoundly positive effect on your bottom line. In fact, it addresses directly some of the chief sources of financial anxiety for technology companies.
Agile is also a change that's necessary in the evolution of the technology industry. "Turbulent times" just raises the urgency of making the change, if Agile is right for you. My inevitable historical analogy is how the maniple defeated the phalanx. I say no more until Thursday.
Since I've been spending a lot of time talking with people about Agile, I've felt the need to concoct new, vivid metaphors to explain Agile. Of course, you can often best explain something by contrasting it with what it's not, and in this case, it got me thinking about the frustrations of non-Agile development:
Yesterday, two of my research interests, Agile and CRM, intersected during a briefing. The demo, which I'll describe in a moment, was a great illustration of one of my pet theories: integration will be the killer feature for software in general for the next several years. CRM in particular needs these benefits of integration.
Rally Software has a nice integration between their tools, designed to support Agile development teams, and the Salesforce CRM system. Salesforce users can record enhancement requests and product feedback that are fed automatically into the requirements component of Rally's suite of tools. Product managers then can refine this information (has anyone asked for this feature before? how does it fit into a user story? how important is it?) and add it to the backlog. The product roadmap, which now includes requests that start in the CRM system, can also have some visibility within Salesforce.
Very slick, particularly in how this example shows the value of integrating CRM with other things. As of today, CRM has a lot of untapped potential. As we discovered in the "product management tools" study earlier this year, the CRM system ranks at the bottom of requirements sources.
"Inquiry Insights: Agile Development." Interestingly, a lot of questions we get from clients focus more on the type of product and organization implementing Agile methods than the methods themselves.
Also, I have a short piece in Computing magazine about the best practices foremost on the minds of development teams. As always, your observations, applause, or expressions of mild outrage are welcome.
Currently in the editing and production queue, for publication in the next couple of weeks, are the following documents by Yours Truly:
The role of product management in Agile development.
The role of product management in software as a service (SaaS).
NEW! The questions people have been asking us about Agile, and what they reveal about the state of Agile development practices.
Also in the works is a piece that I'm co-authoring with Thomas Keitt about serious gaming as a tool for requirements collection. Updates on the exact publication date of these documents are coming soon.
Unfortunately, the document about the future of CRM is coming next month. I'll give you a more exact ETA, Dear Reader, as soon as I can.