It’s no news flash that an agile process — once set up — delivers real benefits, quickly, for product management, in terms of collaborative development. The news flash really is that an agile process for product management brings as much, if not more, benefit to our customers.
One of the most successful programs we have run at Planview gives our customers the ability to participate directly in the agile process — from the very beginning of user story development, prioritization, sprint demo reviews, and all the way through testing. Most people are visual: when we can show our customers every two weeks how development is progressing in a sprint demo, the feedback and ideas flow continuously and therefore the quality of what we deliver is much higher. Our level of confidence that we are building the right features the right way is exponentially greater with this hand-in-hand customer participation.
The key to success of the program is that we take a good deal of time picking the right customers to participate AND determining the appropriate number of customer for each project. By the “right” customers I mean:
- Do they have the time to participate?
- Do they have in-depth knowledge of the subject — i.e. passion around the project?
- Are they geographically dispersed so that we have good representation globally?
- What verticals are they in, so that we have a good mix of markets represented?
- Do they represent all the personas we need across the different markets we serve?
The “right” number of customers for each project is determined by the complexity, reach of the feature (is it an element that spans the platform, like the UI, in it one module of the product), and importance of the feature to our business. We have run programs that range from 3 customers all the way to 45.
The internal benefits of the agile methodology have been well documented and blogged about. However, as I see it, the greatest value of agile is external, in that our customers truly become extensions of our product management team.