Better, Faster, Cheaper, Happier: An Agile Balanced Scorecard

Better, Faster, Cheaper, Happier: An Agile Balanced ScorecardAdopting an agile approach has a lot of benefits, not just when developing software and improving team working but for all aspects of our business. When it comes to measurement, I recommend that we all take an agile approach and keep things simple, open and adaptive to change. 

A simple, intuitive score-card is essential for any team or organization embarking on any form of agile adoption or transformation. The Better, Faster, Cheaper, Happier framework provides a great starting point for motivating and measuring your changes.

Agile: What’s the Point?

Let’s stop and think about why businesses get involved in agility.  What is the promise of agility that is so attractive to businesses?  What we at IJI have found when talking to business people is that agility is appealing because of the belief that better products will be built.  Not only will they be better software products but they will be built faster and cheaper than before. The promise is certainly there  and this is what people want to see as they make investments in agile adoption and, in particular, any kind of large scale agile transformation. 

The other significant result claimed for agile ways-of-working is that there will be an overall increase in everyone’s happiness - happier customers; happier users; happier sponsors; happier purchasers, and happier developers.

Better, Faster, Cheaper, Happier - This is what “Agile” means to the business.  Things like Continuous Integration, Test-Driven Development, and Scrum are only useful if they help us get better software; faster time to market; cheaper products, and happier customers. To ignore these, and other, business demands is nonsense and one of the key factors in widening the gap between business and IT in many organizations. To be honest businesses don’t care about how “Agile” the IT organization is – unless it is noticeably contributing to their goals to be better, faster, cheaper and happier. Measurements of agility are, like measuring CMMI, at best secondary measures and only useful as evidence of how you succeeded once you have achieved your goals.

Imagine, if you can show the value and the results that IT is generating in a way that business can understand? If you can demonstrate that you are getting better, faster, and cheaper whilst taking on-board your customers’, users’ and other stakeholders’ concerns and making them happier with happier employees? If you do, you can really start to close the gap and bring the business and IT together.

What’s All This Nonsense about Happier?

I must admit some people get uncomfortable when the happier aspect of the scorecard is introduced but this is an essential aspect of successful software development that often gets forgotten.

You really need to think about how people feel because otherwise you can be hitting all your deadlines with the right quality levels and fulfilling all the requirements, and you can still have unhappy customers and unhappy users.  When people love things they give you lots of feedback. When they don’t love something, there is often silence. Don’t mistake silence for approval.  

I remember reading an article once where someone claimed that their software was developed so well that they did not need to have a change request system because no user had ever had a change request. They felt that their software was perfect.  I suspect the correct interpretation was that no one had a change request because no one was using their software. 

You need to get qualitative information; you need to ask everybody whether ‘they’ like the software; whether ‘they’ are using it; whether ‘they’ feel they are getting value for money.  Gather qualitative as well as the quantitative data and make sure that you have practical measures that focus on the real goals of the business:  the business as a whole and the business of the IT organisation.

Some people become so focused on financials or on secondary measures that they forget to think about the most important goals.  Do you have happy customers?  Do you have happy teams?  Don’t forget these very critical questions.

Measuring happiness is very important.  Are you really your business’s preferred supplier? Do your customers feel that they are getting value for money? Are you really a company where the newly trained and empowered agile developers want to work and continue their careers? These are all qualitative measure that you should look at and are very important in one of the key areas that IJI sees everyday: a growing distrust between business and IT.