18 Jul, 2008

A few weeks ago I was asked to explain Scrum and how our Agile Offshore Delivery Model works to one of our new sales guys.
During the session he asked me the question: “What does a client have to do to make a project done this way successful?”

I thought about it for a moment and started with a list from the top of my head.
They need to:

  • spend significant time during the project
  • be flexible
  • be available during the project for questions
  • review processes and procedures, especially for infrastructure management to support short iterational development

When I took a step back from the whiteboard and looked over the list I realized that you could summarize that list into one simple word: Commitment.
If a company is truly committed to the success of a project, all of the above and all of the things I didn’t put on that list yet are no issue.
Could it be this is why agile projects are more successful? It is next to impossible to even get an Agile project started without commitment from everyone involved. On the other hand it is fairly easy to get a non-agile project started without any real commitment. Throw some half-finished specifications and a bag of money at some people and except them to deliver exactly what you want when it is done.
Looking back on all the projects I have done in the past it seems there is a strong correlation between the commitment from clients and the successfulness of the project.
Which begs the question:”Is how we feel about this project even more important than how we do it?”
Any experiences are greatly appreciated in the comments.

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Eelco Gravendeel
13 years ago

To answer the question right-away: Yes! In my opinion the biggest difference between doing projects Agile or ‘Old skool waterfall’ is that you can’t hide the problems that are the result of a lack of commitment in the Agile project! Both kind of projects are doomed to fail without proper client / stakeholder commitment, but waterfall project(management) allows problems to stay hidden until delivery time (ouch!), whereas the Agile project will never properly lift of (as you mentioned). So doing it Agile will either cause the client to be more engaged or will fail early …

Gerard Janssen
Gerard Janssen
13 years ago

Commitment is indeed a very important factor for the success of a project. On this level there is a second at leas equally important factor, which is focus. Focus on the real goals, achievements and outcomes of the project helps in choosing the right actions.
I would not go as far as to say that how we feel about a project is even more important than how we do it. But a project approach that purposefully builds on creating commitment and focus really has the upper hand. That is one of the powers of agile approaches, although it is not unique to agile methods.
So the question becomes: “If we value commitment and focus on a project, how to evoke and stimulate them?”

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