Agile, Project management, Risk and uncertainty

Frequent delivery generates opportunities

Photo by MarikenFrequent delivery throughout a project doesn’t only allow you to test your product and manage the uncertainty of a big bang launch. It also opens up the possibility of unexpected opportunities.

Imagine if we were to plan our project but didn’t get the product out there early and often. We would start with a collection of user stories, we might group them into milestones, but ultimately we would have a complete idea of the end product and work towards that. Throughout the project one of two things would happen: either everything would be delivered on time (unlikely) or it would take longer than expected. If the latter happened (far more likely) then the control we have is essentially about managing and reducing the disappointment gap.

By taking this approach we’re setting ourselves up for either meeting expectations or doing worse than expectations.There are no opportunities—no unexpected events that could be turned to our advantage—because we have shut ourselves off from the outside world, where the opportunities come from.

So instead suppose we release our product early—long before completion—and get it into the hands of those crazy, random people we lovingly call “users”. This might be an actual public release, or it might be something more controlled. By putting our product in an environment we know least (and we know external users less than internal users) we invite the unexpected. Unexpected bad news is valuable because we get to find out about, and deal with, real problems sooner. Unexpected good news creates opportunities. We have the chance to exploit those opportunities and get more out of our project than our original plan allowed. The more we do this, the more opportunities we open up.

Just following our own plan allows us to meet expectations at best. Exposing our work early and often to the outside world gives us the chance to do better.

Photo by Mariken

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