Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is your Agile dashboard == Business dashboard?

Agile dashboards include Burn down charts (product\release\iteration), team velocity charts, backlog items (product\iteration) = Agile denominators

Business dashboards have managers measuring the schedule, resources, quality.. ; CXO's measuring the ROI\ ROCE\... ; and the business analysts have the Quick Ratios \ quarterly stock price\ EPS expectations to ponder = Business (Economic) denominators

But do we measure and communicate the relationship between the agile denominators and the economic denominators? Can you say that if my project agile denominators are high (low), my organization economic denominators are high (low)?

Or is the agile denominator dashboard only for the masses (teams executing projects) and the 'sacred' economic denominator dashboard for the management?

It appears that most organization dashboards have not evolved yet to measure both the agile denominators and their relationship to the economic denominators. Very few companies have the P&L visibility at the team execution level and this is what makes it difficult to derive or even see the above relationship (forget measuring the relationship) ! Though a limited organization set may be measuring both the indicators but in my view most organizations cannot think of sharing these financial numbers, citing trust or confidentiality as the primary reasons. Did someone say self organizing teams with responsibility?

In my view this missing linkage, offers an excellent opportunity for the agile community, to break the tradition, and challenge the latent organizational mindset. The right choice appears to be the Product owners who can (need to) step up to the plate and make this linkage visible; since they know both sides of the story and can communicate both up and down the organization streams.

Product owners talk about user stories and themes but rarely bring the project cost structure (salary\software\hardware\support team’s costs) and how the agile process is impacting the economic denominators. I feel they need to act as THE Glue and assert their voice by providing a bidirectional business dashboard for the ‘masses’ with the ROI / development costs, along with the team vision and vice versa for the business audience. This information flow to all stakeholders would allow an opportunity to question and debate while increasing the sphere of influence for everyone in the organization.

Until the above linkage is established, the various functions in the software industry are all sub-optimizing the system each sub-system meeting it’s benchmark, while reducing the overall system throughput. This surely is against the Lean principle of "optimize the whole"

Product Owners : are you listening ?