Clear business goals

Value in a Digital Services Project

White papers

Author(s): The Agile Research Network

Peggy Gregory, Raid AlQaisi, Kati Kuusinen, and Katie Taylor (University of Central Lancashire, UK)

Helen Sharp and Leonor Barroca (The Open University, UK)

Executive Summary

Delivering value is a key tenet of Agile approaches to software development, including the Agile Project Framework (Agile Business Consortium, 2017). However, there are few techniques for identifying, tracking, and sharing value in Agile IT projects. The value concept is commonly taken for granted, and is rarely clearly identified in IT projects (Racheva et al., 2010).

The Agile Project Framework refers to ‘business value’ and states that it emerges “when projects are aligned to clear business goals”. This starts with the identification of a high-level business vision and objectives. However, a key issue is how these business objectives filter down into the project detail. After project set up, the work and decision-making moves to a lower level where the focus is on technical practicalities and business process changes. Decisions made at this level are key to defining the final product or service. What is harder to do is to maintain links to the high-level business objectives throughout the detailed development work, and to measure success at the end based on those business objectives rather than successful completion of the technical work.

We tell the story of a city council housing organisation, our case study, as they digitise part of their tenant services. The business has clear strategic aims, and we found that project stakeholders and team members could describe the value of the project from their point of view. The key challenge areas that emerged were nuanced differences between value perspectives, a need for more precision about and prioritisation of value, and for a coherent thread to join high-level business strategy to project aims and to measurable project outcomes.

Based on the findings of the case study reported in this study, this white paper presents some recommendations from relevant literature on value characterisation in Agile projects and value delivery. To summarise, the main recommendations from literature are:

  • Value Characterisation: To gather value perspectives from different stakeholders to identify and form a mutually agreed understanding.
  • Build the Right Thing Right Based on Actual Value Need: To base the project on customer and user needs and keep them involved throughout the project through continuous stakeholder collaboration.
  • Value Progress Recognition: To estimate, manage, and deliver value based on estimations and feedback, taking stakeholder views into consideration. Moreover, to enhance the system’s ability to create value frequently throughout the project and system’s lifecycle.