If you browse online and navigate through the details about the Vision, Mission & Strength of different IT companies, you would find one thing in common that most IT companies challenge that they are one of the best agile companies in IT industry because they practice agile principles right from end to end product development. If you deep dive further you would discover, many IT companies believe that to survive & thrive in a neck to neck competitive market, a company has to deliver fast & if a company adopts agility and deliver in small batches, the company could easily deliver fast. Hence inculcating agility in the shared values, strategy, structure, system & skill is all about ensuring fast delivery to the stakeholders in minimum possible time in order to get frequent feedback. Therefore many companies have adopted & have been instrumenting agile philosophy to develop & deliver in frequent small cycles in order to survive & to maintain a consistent happy relation with their clients.
I believe the happy relation of such companies with their clients might last for short term but might not in long term as fast delivery alone, without keeping the end user problem at the center of development may result Volume based Increment over Value based Increment.
Let’s understand it with an enchanting example, your client asked you to develop a beautiful catchy search page for the web site to get more traffic. You developed & delivered innumerable Increments (features) in batches as fast as possible in small sprints and at the end of the project you melted those increments to finally deliver the Product i.e a heavy loaded search page with a search option at the top center, followed by news column at the bottom right & an entertainment content column at the bottom left of the search page. After receiving the product, Client was very happy particularly with the coaxing interface of the complicated web page but the end user found it crap & confusing once it was released to market. Even the search page with innumerable features delayed the page upload time which even irked and made the existing customers switch to its competitors. In this case, we delivered Volume based Increment by shunting the end users’ problems & requirements. Thus in the short run, the client was happy with the quick delivery of the ordered Product but in long run, because of the poor product market fit, the client was dissatisfied as the client not only received very poor customer response but also lost its existing set of customers.
I believe Google has mastered in understanding its end users as the search page of Google is pioneer in simplicity which could be considered as Value based Increment.
One thing we need to clearly understand that the primary objective of any agile methodology no matter you are following Scrum, Kanban or XP is to deliver Value to the end user. According to the Scrum Guide 2020, an Increment is only Valuable when it is usable. I would like to add one more adjective to it which is “A Valuable Increment is always Simple to use”.
Now let’s dabble into Value based Increment vs Volume based Increment
Value based Increment : While developing Value Based Increment, the product owner invests a good time to shadow the customers in order to read customers’ behavior in their day to day activities to meticulously catch a point where the end users generally stumble with some problem and insinuate about a scope of IT solution which could solve that problem and could also generate a good business for the stakeholders. Meanwhile the stakeholders’ inputs are also pulled to align & enrich customer understanding. Finally Product Owner crafts Product Backlog Items based on the observed customer problem & works together with the scrum team to “Design — Develop — QA”, the 1st piece of solution in a small sprint and at the end frequently releases the 1st piece of solution in the market to evaluate whether the end users like & consistently use the 1st piece of solution to solve their problem as well as to pull customers’ feedback whether to persevere to develop the 2nd piece of solution or pivot.
Even Scrum Guide 2020 says that after innumerable release, the time when the end user feels “OK” to use your delivered piece of solution but do not give a “WOW” feedback and meanwhile you also observe that your delivered piece of solution has a minor edge over the one of your competitors, we need to quickly realign our Strategy-Structure-System-Skill-Staff to deeply focus on Innovation in order to discover & develop the Unrealized piece of solution i.e. Unrealized Value to delight our end customers.
It’s interesting to share that even the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos asserted while addressing to his team that we should always develop a solution by primarily focusing on our end customers rather than focusing on competitors. I believe “Alexa” & “Fire stick” are the live examples which were developed by observing the customers’ problem rather than competitors so both products enjoyed its monopoly after its release to the market with a responsive product market fit.
Volume based Increment : For me developing Volume based Increment using Scrum (one of the agile methodology) is somewhat following Mini Waterfall mindset within Scrum Framework where we just analyse about the solution which might fit to solve end customers’ problem and hence our focus is to develop and deliver innumerable pieces of solution as fast as possible in small sprints no matter out of 100 pieces of solution, only 10 are accepted and remaining 90 goes waste (lean). In Volume Based Increment development, the primary goal of Scrum is missing, in fact we drag the same old water fall philosophy to analyse about the customer rather than engaging with the customer and finally drop the water fall philosophy into the small Sprints of Scrum to deliver the same Volume based Solution but quickly in small batches, that’s why I call it as following Mini Waterfall within Scrum Framework.
Hence at the end of this blog, I believe in order to follow Scrum in its true sense, “the primary focus of an organization should be on delivering Value i.e Simple Value” and once the primary objective is achieved, “the secondary focus should be on improving the “Velocity to deliver the Value”.