Create Clarity on What Represents Value for the Business and Its Customers

What are you investing in?

Achieving alignment around business agility requires clarity about the strategy and initiatives of the business. In order to be able to make decisions about which ones of these are important, it must also be clear what the business is wanting to invest in. These will often be fairly unique to a business and will help people in the business decide which MBIs of the company’s initiatives are most important. 

For example, a financial company might focus on:

  1. Retaining assets (because they make money based on a percentage of assets)
  2. Improving customer experience
  3. Lowering costs
  4. Compliance
  5. Lowering risk

They might also include one for improving internal processes.

A not-for-profit, such as a place the provides meals and housing for homeless may focus on:

  1. Number of meals served
  2. Number of beds provided
  3. Amount of  monetary donations received
  4. Value of non-monetary donations received

These become the basis for an organization’s strategic initiatives.

How many do you need? While you don’t have to have exactly four or five values for the business, that is often the right number.  They may not be equally important; however, once you have the five most important, you have at least 5/6ths of it. These areas of investment are just guides but create focus when decisions need to be made.

How to use these areas of investment

Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) suggests we look at the cost of delay (CoD) divided by the duration to create the value in determining the relative value of two potential items of work. But how does one compute business value and what does one do WSJF on? Let’s first look at what we should apply WSJF to first. Since our goal is achieving business agility, we are attempting to realize value as quickly as possible. While it may be useful to do WSJF on epics, since we won’t build the entire epic, the CoD and especially the duration of the epic won’t be accurate (both of these should be based on that part of the epic we’ll use). However, features, in an of themselves, don’t often result in the realization of value since they require other features. This is why WSJF should be done on MBIs and not features,.

What WSJF should be applied to is the smallest increment of value that can be realized – the very definition of an MBI. CoD in WSFJ should be based on the business value of the MBIs. This can be refined by attending to the relative importance of what the company wants to be investing in as described above.