We’re all on the hunt for the perfect Delivery Management formula.
There are various frameworks for professionals to give structure on the ‘what’ of Delivery Management: some people love PMBoK, some love PRINCEII, others will live and die by Lean. There are also various methodologies you can apply to your chosen framework – these give you the detailed ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why, and ‘when’ – and again, we all have our preferences.
Regardless of your preferences and views on frameworks and methodologies, one thing is for sure in Delivery Management: having a disciplined formula to follow, and following it, is the right foundation to keeping your deliveries on track and running them smoothly.
In this article, I’m going to talk about adding Practices into your formula. I’m not going to distinguish between methodologies and frameworks, or try to convince you that one is right, or another is wrong. I am, however, going to talk about why applying disciplined Practices to product delivery is so important, and how you can apply Practices to managing product deliveries to a high standard.
Practices allow you to get feedback on the health of your product delivery, and identify problem areas early, saving you time and money. They can be used on top of the quantitative metrics you already use in your deliveries and can be added to any framework or methodology already in place.
What is a Practice?
A Practice is defined as being a “habit or custom”. For this article, I’ll define it a bit further.
At Terem, we use the term ‘Practice’ to define a standard, habit, or custom which is pivotal to ensuring product deliveries are successful. Practices are the things that we know from our experience are needed for excellence in product delivery.
As Delivery Managers, the first metrics we learn to track are the basics: budget, time, scope, and quality (by counting defects). Then we add in the hundred other data points we use to measure if our product delivery is on track: EVM, burnup/down, velocity, and so on. Although, most of these metrics are quantitative, so what about quality? Where is our qualitative data?
We use Practice playbooks as metrics for quality. They are measurable customs we use to ensure the quality and efficiency of our deliveries are excellent and not just ‘within parameters’.
A Practices example
Let me give you an example of what a Practice might look like. Let’s take a look at communication.
How communication might be tracked now
Communication is one of the most important areas of product delivery. It’s estimated that project failure rates are between 50-90 percent (John Grill Centre for Project Leadership). 80% of projects that have highly effective communication succeed in meeting their original goals, versus only 52% of projects that have minimally effective communication (PMI). However, communication in product delivery has very few metrics around it.
Some of the metrics which might be in place are things like measuring if a weekly progress report has been sent, or if a specific meeting has taken place. Those metrics, anyhow, don’t speak to the quality of the communication that has occurred.
Communication is a two-way process – yes, the chances of good communication are higher if a specific meeting has been held, but there are lots of other areas to check on as well. For example, were all the major stakeholders present, or were some of them absent? And have any of your stakeholders been absent for multiple occurrences of this meeting? You can see a possible flaw from only tracking the basic metrics.
How communication can be tracked with Practices
With Practices we can add in tracking of the qualitative metrics. In this case, it might be who attended the meetings, and how often they attended. This would give a much stronger metric to track information transmissions over a longer period of time, which allows a Delivery Manager to truly reflect on whether there may be any issues with communication.
Why are Practices important?
Hopefully, with the example above, you can see why Practices are important because they bring your product deliveries to the next level of monitoring. Although, if you needed any more reasons why Practices are important here are some more:
1. They make sure we deliver excellently
We know from experience that when things go wrong with a product delivery, a good proportion of the time it can be attributed to relaxing or even completely dropping the Practices we know are needed to deliver excellently. By measuring these Practices, we can keep ourselves on top of our game and deliver quality outcomes.
2. They give us information in real-time
When combined with our basic quantitative measurements for a product delivery, Practice playbooks give us a great sense of how healthy a product delivery is. If a key Practice isn’t being met, we need to take a closer look. There may be a very good reason why a Practice is not being completed, however, knowing about it faster allows us to take corrective action before a risk becomes an issue, rather than after.
3. They can save us time and money
As with the previous point, Practice playbooks give us real-time information, and the ability to know more about risks before they become large issues. Minor risks are much easier (read: cheaper and less time-consuming) to solve than large issues, therefore saving us time and money.
4. Our Practices playbooks think about everything so that we can focus on the big things
Whether you favour Waterfall and set up your Delivery Plans at the beginning of the project, or you favour Agile and plan at the beginning of each Sprint, “no plan survives contact with the enemy” (Helmuth von Moltke). Teams using both Waterfall and Agile will have an idea about how much we want to spend and how long we want to take to get a product or feature to market, etc. Tracking our Practices gives Delivery Managers another ally: providing qualitative feedback about how healthy our deliveries are so that we can focus our energies on the more complex, or problematic areas.
5. They can be used as a great point for learning and development
Practices allow us to see areas where quality isn’t being delivered or processes aren’t being followed. These can be easily identified and used as areas for improvement – either for an individual or the whole delivery team.
6. They can be used in all facets of product delivery and beyond
Practice playbooks aren’t just about Delivery Management. We’re constantly developing our playbooks to be used with Business Analysis, Development, Architecture, and Quality Assurance too. Practices can be used to track quality in anything you need them to, which makes them a really exciting prospect in the workplace.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to convince you that Practice playbooks should have a place in your product delivery formula by giving you an added qualitative layer of feedback.
Read on: Productivity and Product Development: An Initial Exploration