I was thinking recently about how agile delivery makes different demands on our budget spend compared to a more traditional delivery model. “Agile” means different things to different people, so for this article I’ll use my usual definition of “delivering value incrementally” and contrast it with the other model of delivering something meaningful much later.
With a model of later delivery we spend more money before we see the results of our work. So this model requires a bigger budget commitment up-front.
With a model of more frequent delivery—and crucially, that’s delivery of meaningful things that allow us to test our assumptions about usability, utility, and so on—our budget spend is tested earlier and more frequently. So the budget commitment is more gradual.
In theory neither model requires more money to build the whole thing, but reality has a habit of differing from theory. In reality, a the model of later delivery we can only test our assumptions late in the process, and if we’ve made some mistakes we’ve spent a lot of the budget already. With more frequent delivery we can see the results of our assumptions earlier and so react earlier.
Meanwhile none of this considers what happens if outside events lead to us wanting to change our plans.
In the end, a model of more frequent delivery is much more financially responsible than a model where we can only deliver later.