Embracing Agile Delivery in Software Product Management

Why is Agile delivery essential in this VUCA World? 

In today’s business landscape, a big product release seems not to be the optimal approach. The prolonged development cycles and limited flexibility pose challenges in meeting the ever-changing market demands. As businesses seek to accelerate time-to-market, mitigate risk, and enhance adaptability, the appeal of agile delivery, a strategy that creates value through fast feedback and short decision cycles, becomes more apparent. Agile approaches deliver value incrementally by: 

  • Slicing the product into small pieces,
  • Prioritizing them by business value, 
  • Addressing the riskiest items as early as possible, and 
  • Delivering new items of value frequently. 

By releasing smaller, more frequent updates, companies can better cater to evolving customer needs and maintain competitiveness in dynamic markets. Delivering a product incrementally offers numerous benefits: 

  • Early Feedback and Continuous Improvement: By releasing incremental versions of your product, you can gather feedback from users early in the development process. This feedback loop enables you to make necessary improvements, ensuring the final product aligns with user expectations.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Incremental delivery facilitates adaptability to changing market conditions, technology advancements, and customer preferences. It enables you to incorporate new insights as the product progresses, resulting in a more relevant product.
  • Risk Reduction: Breaking down the product into small and manageable increments allows you to identify and address issues early on, minimizing the risk associated with large and monolithic releases. 
  • Increased Stakeholder Engagement: Incremental delivery facilitates regular demonstrations of tangible value to stakeholders, maintaining their enthusiasm and support to the product. 
  • Faster Time to Market: Incremental delivery allows you to get portions of your product into the hands of users sooner, accelerating your time to market. 

How to deliver the product incrementally? 

Plan Delivery

Agile delivery planning can be iterative and adaptive.

  • Iterative planning prioritizes and refines the work in short cycles, designed to provide focus and facilitate learning gained from stakeholders.
  • Adaptive planning involves a continuous change to long-term plans, focusing on delivering the work incrementally and seeking feedback to refine and improve the product. 

Without a detailed plan in advance, Agile delivery may leave room for confusion and misunderstanding. And planning delivery is meant to provide the framework for meaningful communication that alleviates this type of confusion. 

To plan delivery, the product team need to do the following work: 

1. Manage product backlog: Product backlog is a list of items related to building a product, referred to as product backlog items (PBIs). Product Owner owns the backlog and holds accountability to manage it. A healthy and well-managed product backlog should: 

  • Be the single source for product requirements, 
  • Be continuously prioritized to reflect the product strategy, 
  • Include 1 to 2 iterations of PBIs that meet the Definition of Ready, 
  • Include 1 to 2 iterations of PBIs that are in refinement. 

2. Build Minimal Viable Product (MVP): MVP is a concept used to reduce cost and risk associated with developing the wrong product. By focusing on the core features providing value to customers to gain feedback and validation, MVP maximizes learning opportunities through a Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. One or several MVP’s may roll up to an MMR, MMP or MMF, each adding features to the product and providing opportunity for validation and learning. 

3. Plan releases: The product backlog is prioritized and shaped into MVP, MMP, MMR which identify WHAT to deliver. To define WHEN and HOW to deliver, we use release plan.  A release plan includes: 

  • The objectives for the next 3 to 6 months, 
  • The number of releases, value delivered in each release, and ship date for each release, 
  • The number of the iterations and iteration level goals  
  • The management of resources, dependencies, and risks. 

A release planning session takes place every 3 to 6 months, although the release plan may need revision after each iteration.

Deliver product 

With the release plan at hand, it is time to put all the planning pieces into play in a cadence of learning and improving. 

1. Plan iteration 

Iteration planning is an important time-boxed event designed to drive three outcomes: 

  • The team determines what items can be built in the next iteration, 
  • The team break the items into detailed tasks, describing how to get those items done, and 
  • The team commits, individually and collectively, to the work they will accomplish during the iteration. 

Iteration planning is dependent on having enough product backlog items (PBIs) meet the Definition of Ready, for the team to commit to building, in the upcoming iteration. This preparation happens during backlog refinement.

2. Build product features 

The team should be confident in the quality of the product planning to self-organize and begin the work of building the product increment. During the iteration build, Product Owner should step back and let the team do their best work. The primary role of the Product Owner at this stage of product development is to be available for arising questions and to make quick decisions if necessary. 

3. Validate product features 

One of the benefits of agile product delivery is the frequency of validating product features throughout the product development lifecycle.

  • In waterfall SDLC’s, validation of product features occurs near the end of the life cycle, just prior to production release, when it is typically too late to influence changes.
  • Agile product delivery integrates validation iteratively, inviting feedback and promoting learning opportunities. 

Product features are validated through:

  • PBI Acceptance, which is solely done by the Product Owner.
  • Iteration Reviews, expanding the validation opportunity to include business stakeholders. 
  • User Acceptance Testing, which integrates actual users, customers, or representatives of the customer, to validate product functionality and features.

In summary, adopting a customer-centric and agile mindset, along with a set of practices and techniques, facilitates effective delivery of “just enough of the right product to the right people, early and often”. This approach, given the fast-changing nature of today’s business landscape, has become more vital than ever. 


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