The Agile Tribe

“Business value as a raison d'être? Or is decibel based prioritisation the answer ..?”

on March 12, 2010

Author: Dean Coulter

I wanted to just put down a few points from my experience about what I believe it really means to provide value to our business in an Agile world.


  1. Agility has value for the whole supply chain, not just the IT folk! But how well do business operational general managers understand the benefits of agility? IT as collaborators with their internal business colleagues should be able to answer the question – “What does Agile mean for my client’s line of business, their bottom line, their ongoing success in getting their product/service out quicker and more effectively?”
  2. To me, the very core of what Agile means for business people is around the question – “WHERE IS THE VALUE?” This fundamental query guides prioritisation. If there is a demonstrable, quantifiable business benefit, then it’s a candidate for prioritisation. If not, move on, or come back when you’ve got one. This is the key to managing the eternal imbalance between IT service demand and supply. “In the kingdom of infinite demand, she who can prioritise is Queen.”
  3. The value focus leads to the next building block – don’t waste energy building stuff that doesn’t have a quantifiable business benefit. This may seem kind of obvious but “decibel based prioritisation” (wherein the loudest voice gets to set the top priority) is not quite dead yet!

In summary, setting agreed priorities + business value = good Agility.


4 responses to ““Business value as a raison d'être? Or is decibel based prioritisation the answer ..?”

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  2. Brad says:

    Unfortunately I think decibel prioritisation methods are still being taught and encouraged at some companies Dean! How have you managed to get around these people? I must admit we are still not a work culture that has accepted Agile yet. Thanks for bringing the question up – why do we continue with a project when it is obvious to everyone that it provides no value to the business!!

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Brad

    It is so obvious in an Agile project when it just isn’t worth moving forward. Many of us have ran Agile projects under wraps until it is time to present them. It is amazing the turn around in attitude when the results mean $$ and time savings.

  4. Dean says:

    Hi Brad, sorry for the high latency reply.

    My strategies for Agile operations in a non-Agile ecosystem would include:

    1. Find folks in your organisation (IT and business) who are interested in, sympathetic to, or perhaps even sceptical of Agile philosophy / practice and BEGIN A DIALOGUE. *Talking* about the possiblity or utility of change is the first step to effecting it.

    2. If you are in a command and control, waterfall, “decibel based” environment, you will no doubt have your share of messed up projects. Sometimes, you need to “let the wheels fall off” to create a compelling case for change. If a waterfall project is broken, why not suggest a different approach? A sage once advised me to “never waste a crisis”.

    3. However if you feel that despite your best efforts your organisation is Agile resistant, you need to consider your position. Such resistance *can* be indicative of deeper organisational culture pathology. You have to determine the alignment between your values and those of the organisation (not the “poster on the wall” values, but the the REAL behavioural norms). If that alignment is really out of whack, consider your future. In the meantime, as another sage once advised, “you can always act dumb”. ; )

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