Deliver business value, yes. But what should the business value?

Paul McArdle of Global-Roam writes about an interesting article by Roger Martin in the Harvard Business Review (which ca be found here, but requires payment for the full article): ‘The Age of Customer Capitalism’.

The main drive of Agile processes is to deliver business value as effectively as possible. For anyone working in a more complex environment, this automatically raises the question of what business value is, and how it should be prioritised. Things like ROI can be clear, but in my experience is hardly ever used with any kind of rigour. The maximising of profits is very nice, but can not often be linked directly to the particular feature that is being developed.

So why not focus on the customer value? As the articles above state, this is usually a pretty good way to ensure long-term profitability for your company. And though there can always be different points of view on how to serve the customer best, customer satisfaction is certainly a measurable quality!

If you are working on software ‘visible’ to the end-user, it is wise to always consider how that customer is affected by your choices. If you’re prioritising a backlog, keep in mind what features are really needed for your customer, and which are coming from a different source. When implementing some new functionality, imagine how this (rare, they’re always rare!) error condition will appear to the user. Or how much he will be helped by simply ordering this list in that pull-down menu alphabetically, even if that was not explicitly in the spec. The end-user rules.