If you are working with products, I bet you know what you are building and selling.

But do you know what your customer is buying?

The key to understand what your customer is buying is to understand value and how you create it. Simply put adding value is what the agile movement is all about.

This article will help you increase the focus on value instead of working software.

We also wrote a guide on how to get started with Continuous Delivery so that you and your team can focus on value instead of working software.

But what do I mean by value? Or more specifically Business Value?

What is Business Value?

To deliver Business value frequently is super important to a team. You probably nod in agreement now. It sounds so easy, but does everyone agree on what it is?

You are not alone in thinking that value is pretty vague but answering a few questions might help you on your way.

  • How do you know if work done by the team results in value?
  • How do you know which functionality is more valuable?
  • Are there different kinds of value?
  • To who are we delivering value?

These are hard questions to answer. But I can easily imagine a team working away with their sprints, delivering good quality but of no actual use at all to anyone. This is called the Software Factory and you can read more about that here.

Different kinds of value

Even though we talk of Business Value I like to think about some separate kinds of value.

Commercial Value is value that results in direct profit to your business. Like a new feature that customers are willing to pay for. To help decide this kind of value you should be able to answer How much profit does this work result in?

Market Value is a feature that the competition does not have? Is it a feature that attracts new customers? The question to answer here is: How many new customers to we attract?

Efficiency Value are things that reduce your operating cost, us engineers are great at this. We always know about a new tool that helps with this. But how much time will it save us?

Customer Value are things that make the users want to use our products. What problem do we solve for our users?

Future Value is all of the above. Can we invest in something to increase our chances of achieving any of the other values?

Start prioritizing value

I’ve been doing scrum and other agile practices for a while now, and most organizations that have adopted it agrees that it is better. But how?

Most adapt some measurements, usually on things like:

  • Do all the teams have retrospectives?
  • How many items are in the backlog?
  • How many backlog items do we produce each sprint?

The problem with all of these are that it measures effort, not the outcome. For example, the best held retrospective is useless for any customer. Another more obvious is that it doesn’t matter how many items from the backlog you produce each sprint if they are the wrong ones.

Maybe your team doesn’t need or can’t affect all of the different values I listed, but starting to identify them is the key to avoiding being stuck in doing things good instead of doing good things.

Simply put. If your team is spending time doing stuff that doesn’t result in any value, then they should stop and do something else.