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Agile Governance: Entering the Shark Tank

In my last blog, I noted the challenges of effectively implementing Agile Development. I pointed out that, while Agile Development has significant pluses, it also presents challenges. One of these is ensuring adequate oversight.

Business people meeting to discuss the situation

Agile Governance

Agile Governance is a process aimed at correcting this problem through the creation of an Agile Governance Board (AGB). Its responsibilities include:

  • Making business decisions quickly, based on predetermined criteria, to mitigate risk, resolve issues and assure delivery of business value.
  • Keeping project sponsors, project teams and stakeholders accountable for their product(s).
  • Focusing on agile opportunities that are
    • Revenue-generating
    • Cost-saving, or
    • Both

In my experience, I found that some organizations ‘get’ Agile Governance processes and some don’t. Those that don’t seem to be stuck in a “developer’s mentality” mode. That is, developing something great is the sole reason for implementing or marketing it. An analogy that most stakeholders are already familiar with may help here.

I recently read a Technology Management article suggesting organizations treat Agile Governance the same way a venture capital group would. Since I have worked engagements with venture capital groups and driven revenue for a strategic website, this approach hit home. It also made me think of ABC’s Shark Tank, on which contestants present product ideas with the hope of getting funding.

In short, an AGB should think like a venture capital group. The question then becomes not just is the product or service good in and of itself but does it solve a problem and bring value to the organization.

The Shark Tank Approach to Agile Governance:

  1. The AGB reviews each project request as an opportunity and has an understanding of what resources would be deployed for each iteration.
  2. The project team must go back to the AGB as each iteration is completed for continued funding (just like contestants on Shark Tank). This enforces accountability to the organization’s business goals.
  3. The AGB employs established decision-making criteria when considering the opportunity, and weighs it against other projects that could take priority.
  4. The AGB can stop a project at the end of any iteration if it determines there are bigger benefits from other opportunities.
  5. The AGB can also re-evaluate ROI if development is not progressing according to plan.
  6. The project team is tasked with adhering to the guiding principles of Agile Development—especially ensuring the biggest benefits are developed first and deployed at the end of the iteration.

The Shark Tank analogy is easy to understand and communicate. It also inspires project teams and sponsors to take an entrepreneurial approach. That should result in delivery of true business value and ROI within set budget constraints.

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