Innovation – Cost or Value?

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I read an article from Mihai Despa with the title: “The cost of innovation in software projects.” In the article, Mihai is soliciting for a list of costs associated with innovation. Our clients come to us with innovation in mind or experience some form of inspiration during the software development process. To foster technology breakthroughs, inspiration and innovation, the Agile PM uses the Agile Triangle as opposed to the venerable iron triangle.

The iron triangle, scope, schedule and cost, steer teams and stakeholders toward conformance on all three dimensions and sets the stage for focusing on constraints rather than goals. The Agile Triangle, value, quality, constraints, in contrast draws attention to the real goals of the project such as value to be delivered as well as continuing to deliver that value in a high quality way and at the same time recognizing that there are boundaries. The Agile Triangle, as Jim Highsmith introduces in his book “Agile Project Management 2nd Edition,” sets the stage for how the Agile project manager describes success to the team and the stakeholders.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the two and how they relate.

  1. Value – The Agile Manifesto talks about the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.  When you talk to your customers about value, ask them about what parts of the delivery are truly valuable to them. Projects that deliver content solely based on scope can over deliver in areas which provide no sustaining value. This leads us to the conclusion that value is a better control mechanism than scope.
  2. Quality – Although it is somewhat cliché, the statement:  “You can have it fast, cheap or high quality: but you only get to pick two,” has a certain ring of truth to it. The iron triangle to a certain extent is not focused on quality. Some say it’s an assumed or tacit tenet of the iron triangle. The Agile Triangle brings it out to the surface and says, make this delivery quality with facets of reliability and adaptability. This elevates the role of quality in the overall picture of the project. Not simply quality such as does the software work properly, but, will it continue to provide value into the future.
  3. Constraints – The constraints dimension of the Agile Triangle is the iron triangle itself. The constraints are not unimportant, at the same time, they are not the goals of the project.

The Agile Triangle provides the Agile PM with a way to focus on the goals of the project which can include innovation and inspiration without sacrificing the value to the customer or the key aspects of quality: reliability and adaptability.

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