Agile frameworks are designed to accept and handle change – but you still need feedback to determine what changes will ultimately provide the most value. So, ask your team these three questions to ensure you’re taking full advantage of feedback loops. And no, it’s not just holding Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives.
1. Have You Captured ALL Your Stakeholders?
Think about everyone who has a stake in the outcome. Widen your stakeholder circle to include additional perspectives, and don’t forget to engage with remote stakeholders. Examples include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Customers (sponsors, purchasers, or end users)
- Business reps (Product Owner, Business Analysts, Subject Matter Experts)
- User Experience experts
- System Architects, Security, Operations, and Support
- Training and Marketing
2. Are You Making Use of ALL Feedback Opportunities?
Set expectations for participation early and capture feedback as often as possible – not just at the beginning and end! It’s crucial to keep stakeholders engaged throughout your software development lifecycle (SDLC):
- Before Building:
- Industry Reports – Learn about current trends and your competition.
- Interview Target Users – Determine needs and build personas.
- Release Planning – Clarify business goals/strategy & the highest priority items.
- While Building:
- Daily Scrum – Share new info with the rest of the team.
- Testing – Test as early as possible, including integrations and performance. Automation will provide even quicker feedback by highlighting broken tests immediately.
- A/B Testing – Quick feedback on alternate options.
- Guerrilla Testing – Go out in the field or around your office with a tablet (or a mock-up) for informal feedback.
- Intra-sprint Demos – Show the PO done work and get immediate feedback.
- Sprint Review – Feedback from a wider audience on a small slice of done work.
- Sprint Retrospective – Improve the process that supports product delivery.
- User Acceptance Testing – Integrate UAT within Sprints to discover how your software is really used.
- After Release:
- Collect Relevant Metrics – Usage stats, error logs, support calls, satisfaction surveys, improvements in cycle time, etc
- Interview End-users – Or better yet, sit with them and watch how they interact with the product. What do they like? What are their frustrations?
Remember, a production release is the best and truest way to get feedback. Keep cycles short by identifying your minimum marketable feature (MMF) and automating testing and deployment tasks to lower the cost of releasing.
3. Are you putting your feedback to work?
People will spend more time providing feedback if they know it’s being used. Adjust course at these meetings to ensure feedback doesn’t get lost:
- Backlog Refinement – re-prioritize based on the newest information
- Sprint Planning – pull in stories based on the latest priorities and that address feedback from demos and testing
- Release Planning – apply lessons learned from actual usage or industry trends
Feedback cycles are nothing new, but to truly take advantage, look for any ways your team can shorten those loops and maximize opportunities for feedback throughout your entire SDLC.