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5 Ways To Apply 'Agile' To Customer Relationships

Agile development strategies improve internal productivity, but you need to start use them outside the company walls with customers.

with the group and then prioritize the top four to five overall on which the development team will focus for the first milestone.

4. Produce a 360-degree project roadmap and schedule: While adaptations during development are inevitable, it's important to start with a roadmap and milestones. This will help team members from the client side stick to their commitments in order to meet our two-week delivery or "sprint" pace.

5. Develop a plan for testing and benchmarking: With all eyes focused on deployment, it can be very tempting to rush product testing, particularly if you're behind schedule. You've put in all of the hard work upfront, so don't hinder the overall success of the project by taking shortcuts at the finish line. Remember: It's much easier to address technical issues in the testing phase rather than in full production.

Regardless of the type of customer, industry, or technology being developed, our workshops have six non-negotiable rules:

  • Attendance is mandatory: All stakeholders from both the business and technical sides of the business must be present for both days. We typically host the workshops away from the customer's office to eliminate distractions.
  • Facilitate with a purpose: Workshops are led by an experienced facilitator who is skilled at reconciling differing points of views and reaching consensus and is familiar with the technology required and the effort and resources needed for implementation.
  • Be face-to-face: All of the workshops take place in person at a location convenient for the client. Conducting the session remote/electronically is not an option.
  • Capture everything: It's imperative to document everything that's discussed, particularly when attendees reach an agreement on a widely discussed agenda item. We use an online collaborative document and note-taking tool to share the notes with all workshop attendees.
  • Speak freely: Everyone is encouraged to voice opinions. All individuals are in the room for a reason, and if someone isn't actively participating, the facilitator should help draw information out as needed.
  • Don't do it for free: The workshops deliver tremendous value, and to be viewed as such and to receive full commitment from customers, we realized early on that, by charging for the workshop and not giving it away for free, customers will bring more focus and energy to the process.

The hard work you put in at the beginning of a customer engagement will help you meet customers' needs with minimal cost and time. Picture Abraham Lincoln sharpening the blade. Preparation is everything in Agile development and will help clear a path to a fruitful long-term customer relationship.

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Alexis Monville is Chief Agility Officer of eNovance (now part of Red Hat), a major contributor to the Openstack code and an active player in the open cloud ecosystem. Alexis is charged with creating and nurturing an agile culture that pervades the whole organization.