Deliver value incrementally


Deliver More Value Incrementally

The problem of delivering all at once

Not everything is equally important. If you are a leader whose role is to enable the teams to build a successful solution—whether it is a software system, a marketing campaign, an employee career development path or any other important asset—you probably already know that some capabilities within that solution are more important and more urgent than others. 

Traditional development methodologies typically follow the “big-bang” approach, planning a lot of things up-front, and expecting to deliver it all at the end. But as a result of that approach, customers get their product much later, risks are discovered much later, and fitness for purpose is usually not great. Such methods cannot provide a great ROI when building complex solutions. 

Let’s talk about a better way to do this. Here are a few points to remember. 

An increment of customer value

First. To accelerate value delivery—and very importantly—learning, do not plan to deliver everything at once. Instead, first produce an increment that would contain only some of the intended capabilities. Something that provides value to the customer, but only contains the most necessary, the most essential functions. This way, the teams will quickly see if there are implementation problems or technology issues. But even more importantly, you will be able to see if your complex solution is solving the customer problem. And if you keep this increment thin enough, you will uncover risks very quickly, and will make important adjustments for the subsequent increments. Some call this initial increment a Minimum Viable Product. Remember, you will have to apply some effort to make this happen. Often, organizations that are used to the big-bang approach, may find it challenging to embrace a new and better way of operating. And it will be up to you and the leadership that you manifest, to drive the organization toward splitting work not by skill-sets, not by underlying architecture, but by increments of customer value. 

Measures and feedback

Second. Establish measures and feedback loops for your value increments. It’s not enough to just slice the project correctly. A slice needs to be properly evaluated. Will it be executed and tested in a proper environment? Will it be demonstrated to stakeholders? Will the customer, and the end consumer, be able to use it and provide feedback? Will it be instrumented with basic data analytics to reveal the actual customer behavior while using your solution? 

Making important adjustments

Third. Let’s say you delivered you first increment and learned a bunch from it. Now is the time to make adjustments. Adjustments, adaptivity, need to be a part of the process. You must make sure that there is an established way to easily incorporate the learnings into the plan of the next increment of value. 

Lead toward higher value

Being able to slice work by increments of customer value is one of the key competencies for value-driven organizations in a fast-changing world. So, instead of delivering a broad CRM feature set to your sales workforce, deliver a few key features, to see if you are moving in the right direction. Or instead of delivering a highly detailed career management framework to all of your employees, deliver the most important elements to a subset of people and see whether it answers the challenge of enabling and inspiring modern workforce in your environment. No matter what the nature of the solution is, more often than not, it can be delivered very effectively as a series of value increments. And by the time you are delivering your second and third and subsequent increments, your first increment has already provided the vital learnings. But moreover, it’s already delivering value. So, the cumulative economic value of incremental delivery is much higher than in case of big-bang approach. 

As a leader, I’m sure you know that it is all about taking the right action. Take one of the initiatives that your teams are either already working on or will soon being to. And help them take a first slice of customer value.      

Alex Yakyma

Alex Yakyma is the author of “Pursuing Enterprise Outcomes” and “The Rollout”. As a consultant, Alex is helping enterprises succeed with complex challenges. Throughout his career, he operated in multi-cultural, highly distributed environments. Alex has trained a large number of change agents and leaders whose key role is to help their organizations achieve higher effectiveness at pursuing business outcomes.

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