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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Agile is about customer delight

Today on twitter I got into an interesting conversation with
@jeffpatton. The discussion was about whether Agile, as a family of methodologies and a value system is (or isn't) directed at customer delight.

@JeffPatton's point was that it is not. Here's one of his replies to me on this subject:

Later on during the day I had a face to face conversation with @mvonweiss and tried to crystalize in my mind why I disagreed with @jeffpatton. And the point is this: I believe that one of the core values in Agile is exactly about customer delight.The third value of Agile reads that Customer Collaboration is a preferred way to work in a software project. That customer collaboration is there for a reason.

The idea is that only through dialogue with the customer can we understand their needs. That is achieved by having close and continuous dialogue with the customer and through the delivery of software early and often (see principles 1, 3 and 4, for example). This continuous delivery of a working product builds the feedback loops we need. These feedback loops are directed specifically at providing an opportunity for the customer to interface with the team and help us understand what needs to be changed in order to provide, you guessed it: Customer Delight!

Real customer involvement patterns

Of course, there are many different types of projects that we work on. Custom software, Integration projects, shrink wrapped software, web-sites, etc. All of these projects have different "distances" to the customer (see figure below). But those distances can be bridged with many techniques so that the Agile values and principles are still applied and we can still get feedback early and often.

I've worked on many projects of the shrink-wrapped kind where we have teams working in an organization away from the customers (consumers). In these cases, interacting with "all" customers is impossible. But we already have many techniques that help us understand our customers better even when we can't be in direct contact! For example: customer surveys, usability testing, requirement exploration techniques, user persona development, etc.

Some people in the Agile community have been pushing us to consider these methods, David Hussman (@davidhussman) is but one example, but there are many more (including @jeffpatton, of course).

If @jeffpatton's point is to emphasize the need to consider the customer more fully in Agile projects, then I am in total agreement. But one thing is for sure, Agile methods are much more directed at Customer Delight than many of the other methods available today.

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  • He might be right. I would say though, my belief is it makes customer delight more likely. Having a system of development that is more responsive is more likely to do so. In the agile context it would have a lot to do with the product manager - but I think the agile mindset would make it more likely the product manager could prioritize tasks to delight the customer (for various reasons - such as not having to spend so much time fighting over specs decided 9 months ago, having a mindset focused on what is most important now [rather than following what we promised somebody 6 months ago])... Agile might not directly lead to delight, but it sets a stage where that is much more likely - not only because of system improvements but changes in what people spend focus on.

    By Anonymous John Hunter, at June 16, 2011 12:37 AM  

  • @John
    I agree with your statement that Agile makes "customer delight" more likely.
    However, I also argue that Agile is *about* customer delight. That's why we talk about "customer collaboration" and "delivering software early and often".

    Of course these are not the only methods to achieve customer delight, but they are anyway designed to do so. If we have, at the core of Agile, a set of methods that focus our work on customer delight, then it *is* about customer delight.

    The second point is that I believe that @jeffpatton's view was that Agile is specifically *not* about customer delight. And that I think is false.

    By Blogger Unknown, at June 16, 2011 9:38 AM  

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