Finding the Forest in the Trees
Golden West Room
Tuesday, 16:30, 30 minutes
Jeff Patton, ThoughtWorks Inc.
While the iterative development approaches found in Agile Software Development fulfill the promise of working software each iteration, that task of choosing which software to build first can be daunting. While simple guidelines like "choose features with the highest business value" may seem useful, what really has high business value may be debatable. On large projects, the number of possible features to implement may number in the hundreds. Prioritizing such a list can be exhausting and frustrating. Simply building the features that are highest priority on such a list often results in a software that's unusable by its intended audience because of omitted features that, although lower priority, were necessary to the users daily workflow. Wading through piles of features to create a successful project release plan requires strategies other than "highest business value". We need strategies that bring our focus above the feature level, the tree level, to see the forest. Strategies that help us identify small but coherent sets of functionality that by releasing them early will begin to really generate the business value we desire.
This experience report will discuss my team's experience working within large healthcare company writing software for use in their hospitals newborn intensive care unit. The very large scope of this project and the urgent need for delivery made project release planning difficult. Focusing on feature details, user story writing, lead to more confusion about priorities and release strategy. Making good use of User Centered Design user role models and task models gave us the big picture we need to un-stick the release planning process and effectively choose the bit of project scope we need to focus on for our first and subsequent releases.
Keywords: Agile, User Centered Design, Incremental Release Planning, User Story Writing