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12 March 2008

Measuring the Cost Benefit of Agile

Currently at the office we are doing a pilot project using Agile development methods. For the most part, I think Agile is a great idea.

The concept of short iterations is a lot more sensible than trying to get everything done up front with the customer only involved at the start and the end of the process.

I could go into the reasons why, but there are many other resources that do that better than I could in this forum.

However, I have a couple of issues with Agile. The first is that too often people don't consider the larger business context of the development process.

Question: How do you justify a project to a bean counter?
Answer: With a measure of the cost vs. benefit.

Question: How do you quantify the cost of an Agile project?
Answer: Use something like AgileEVM

As the article referenced above states, Earned Value Management (EVM) is a well established and accurate measure of a project's cost performance. Anyone who has ever had to manage a budget knows that tracking the cost of a project is an important part of managing a project portfolio. This does not change if you use Agile development.

I have had to justify too many projects to the people with the money to ignore some form of EVM just because I am using a lightweight development methodology. In my experience measurement is a necessary piece of the overhead and that means implementing some form of tracking actual performance within your Agile process.

So the idea to take from this is that Agile should work within the larger business context, not separate from it. It should provide a useful measure for the people responsible for spending the money wisely (e.g. AgileEVM).

Next: Design/application architecture within Agile.