Although I’d already run a pilot project using Scrum whilst working at Central de Reservas in Spain, my first real taste of Agile in action came at Newlink, also in Spain. So, in the Autumn of 2012 Inviqa sent a 2-man team to join us in Huesca, Aragon to do a discovery and make their bid for the upcoming system rewrite project.
The first challenge was to drive out the business goals and then to prioritise them. A couple of rounds using a structured voting technique then sorted them into rough order. In the first round we each cast votes for our top 3 goals. In the next our bottom 3. This was sufficient to prioritise all 10 goals into an order that made sense to everyone present. Having refined the goals and made them as SMART as possible we then reviewed the priority order and adjusted it where necessary.
The next stage was to perform Impact Mapping on the business goals, starting with the most important. As I later discovered, having joined Inviqa, this was the first discovery they had carried out. This explains why the impact mapping was documented in a spreadsheet rather than a mind-map diagram. The process was the same though.
First we looked for the actors, that is to say “Who” could help or hinder achieving the first business goal. It’s important to remember that each stage of the process is iterative, eg. note down the actors you can think of at the time, but don’t stress about finding every last one there and then. If you think of another one during a later phase, just add it in when you do.
Secondly, for each actor we identified “How” they could help or hinder achieving the first business goal. How they can help is the obvious thing to look for, but how they might hinder is equally important in ensuring the success of the project.
Thirdly, for each “How”from the second phase determine “What” can be done to help the positive actions and mitigate those that hinder.
The conclusion of the impact mapping left us with a comprehensive product vision that was prioritised and clear. It was also the basis for the next phase of the discovery, viz. Feature Mapping. The process is the same, but you start with Whats from the third phase of impact mapping instead of starting with the business goals.
Our guests from Inviqa helped us through the feature mapping of the Whats for the first few business goals and I completed the process for the rest after they’d left. This gave us a comprehensive release vision, which again was both prioritised and clear.
Everyone at Newlink was impressed by the extent and depth of the documentation produced by the Inviqa discovery process, but probably none more so than me. I’ve experienced many forms of requirements gathering. Each one is dictated by the associated development methodology such as LSDM by LBMS (a commercial variation of SSADM), Method/1 and Design/1 by Arthur Andersen Consulting, now Accenture or more commonly an in-house amalgamation of the latest and greatest methodologies. None come close to the Inviqa discovery process for the following aspects:
- Clarity. At each stage of the process everything was written in business English using the terminology of the client. And every item could easily be traced back to the business goal it came from.
- Documentation. Usefulness of the documentation created, both during the discovery process itself and in subsequent phases of development.
- Simplicity. Iterating the process over the business goals and again over the Whats very rapidly became second nature.
- Focus. Starting with a prioritised list of SMART business goals and building on them led to a joint sense that the project had the best chance of achieving the business needs and only the business needs.
- Fun. The best part for me was that the whole process was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved the way each phase flowed into the next and how iteration reduced the potential for stress.
In the Spring of 2013 the CEO changed the commission structure for employees at Newlink in a manner that led me to think it was time for me to move on. The economic climate in Spain encouraged me to look for opportunities back in England. The experience I’ve described above and the expertise and professionalism of their consultants put Inviqa firmly at the top of my list.
I’m proud to say that I started at Inviqa on 16th May 2013 and haven’t looked back since. I’ve also been on the delivery end of some Inviqa discoveries, but more about those another time.