Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Scrum: Involving the Customer


Creation of the Agile Manifesto at Snowbird 2001

There was a dialogue in the scrumdevelopment group today on how customers should be involved with Scrum teams, prompting me to regurgitate a few of the examples I have been involved in since the first Scrum in 1993. Most of my companies have been product companies. The product owner is typically the product manager who spends about half his time with
customers. We also try to get developers out to customer sites.

In my current company, the customers are physicians. We can't get the physicians in the hospital to spend full time with a development team, so we hire them as product managers and they serve as product owners. They must test any new features against a carefully selected group of customer physicians before a feature can come off the product backlog into sprint backlog.

In fact, we have created a special application we sell for $39 bucks on the web that is basically a full medical record on the Palm Pilot that includes most of the enterprise code we ship to our large customers. New features are introduced there and are available to over 50000 downloaders of the product. We get a tremendous amount of feedback from this process which is very useful for validation before we put this into a sprint backlog for release in the enterprise product.

There are many ways to involve the customer. In web portal companies, they usually test market new features to a small subset of users and get real time feedback before they build for large scale distribution.

In projects which are of a consulting nature, I've always had the customer right in the Sprint. For some products we have flown customers in from around the country for every Sprint review for a new product as we built it for them. That was a very successful exercise and a memorable and growing experience for some of the customers.