As part of a module on the MSc Software Project Management programme I had my students write an essay comparing a work breakdown structure for the iteration of a project and the approach taken for ‘business value delivery’ described by Ryan Shriver in his Measurable Value with Agile article. This produced some interesting results amongst the students.
I had eight essays to read from students, who all work in the software industry. Some work with traditional software development processes, and others follow more agile and TOC approaches, and everything in between.
Of the eight, three thought it was a good approach, which they thought would work well, three had some criticism of the approach, and could see it being applicable in some places, while two were generally against the ideas put forward.
The gist of the arguments against and ‘sometimes’ seemed to be down to two aspects. There were some who had different interpretations of the text, which means that I need to lay out this approach more clearly next time around, so that it’s better understood. Others had a difference in opinion about how the ‘value’ of a solution should be measured. Some felt that you can’t measure the knowledge gained in developing a solution, for example, while others thought that this approach doesn’t take full stock of the margin on some solutions. Again, this looks like I need to lay out the importance of cashflow, and the difference between througput and cost based approaches.
As the course has gone over some of Tom Gilb’s evolutionary project management (evo) ideas before this, I was a little surprised that more weren’t supportive of the ideas. I suspect part of the issue is that I need to take more time laying the ideas out more clearly, which I’ll do when I re-write the course text. Similarly, I’ll also need to lay out Eliyahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints more fully. I just finished re-reading them and can now appreciate where they fit into the coursework more clearly. It’s also quite interesting how some parts of TOC overlap with EVO as both are evidence based approaches to solutions with results.
All in all though, I think this exercise will get used again next year, or maybe something similar if Ryan, or someone else comes up with a better ‘step-by-step’ guide.