Taken from Marta Jasinka’s InfoQ interview with me about No Bull.

Business teams can and should go through a similar change the sysops teams are going through right now and become agile so they won’t be a bottleneck in the development process. Have you worked with any agile business teams? How do you think transformation like that can impact on how companies build their products?

Business plans, budgets and feature ideas are hypotheses. Iterative development and continuous delivery generates customer feedback and reduces uncertainty without over investing. As long as the cost of change remains low, business assumptions and ideas can be tested with customers to discover what they think is useful. It sounds good – to us. I suspect it might be scary for some business people.

I’ve spent twelve years telling businesses that detailed specification at the start doesn’t reduce uncertainty and that releasing everything in one go is making a bad bet with the whole budget on hitting a hole-in-one. Maybe they’ve always known this? Maybe it’s safe hiding behind a big specification that takes a long time to deliver? As someone in the business team, once the specification is given to IT, maybe I don’t have to think too hard about what’s really needed; I can dip in and out. For 95% of the time I can report “everything’s on target” because that’s what the project manager tells me. This highlights a possible tension as values may be in conflict with the transparency that closing the loop on business decisions actually brings.

Energized Work was setup to provide an end-to-end delivery capability that implants into business teams. By connecting to daily business operations it becomes a collaboration to decide what product or features to spend money on based on measured benefits incrementally realized. We’ve taken this further when there are multiple business teams in a company by introducing portfolio governance focused on incremental investments tied to value realization, as opposed to tracking progress against planned milestones and a forecasted burn rate. When a business grabs the steering wheel with both hands the competitive advantage is almost unfair. Unfortunately we’re some way from seeing more businesses being willing to close the loop on their decisions.

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