Business and Agile teams

After reading “The art of business value”, a very interesting book written by Mark Schwartz, it was interesting for me because I linked a couple of dots inside my (not too much understandable) mind and I’d like to share this with you.

Most of the Agile frameworks ask for a business role, for example Scrum has the Product Owner (PO), Crystal Clear also talk about the Ambassador, XP is focused on what the user needs —actually this is user vale — , etc. As all these frameworks say, this is in order to maximize value delivered and also to avoid this uncomfortable separation between “business” and “IT”, but defining different roles out of the core team, in someway, we are currently doing this separation. Remember that the Scrum team is PO, SM and development team, PO is not inside the cool team, right?

However, what is the business in 21st digital companies? I understand that these business roles come from two believes: IT as a cost department serving other people on the company with tech issues, and IT people is only focused on technology and not on users, clients, business values. Are these two hypothesis true?

IT as a cost department: Nowadays, for all these digital companies that base they revenue on tech improvements, we can say that IT is the business. I can’t imagine Google without its search engine, Apple without iPhones, Amazon without all this Cloud infrastructure… IT is delivering services to company’s clients and users that make it grows.

IT people is only focused on technology: Maybe on the last century this was the case, maybe because the business was not related with technology, no e-commerce, no cloud services, no digital communication… But now, this is different, taking into account what I said on the last point, IT is the business so they can and must talk as a business unit.

Then, if with Agile what we want is to build high performance teams, improve what we deliver developing small pieces of software, fast feedback with continuous deliveries, remove silos with cross-functional teams, etc… Maybe one of the firsts thing we should start thinking to do, in order to evolve is removing this business role and shifting it as another skill that the team should have. Yes, I’m saying to remove PO and Development team from Scrum team and build ONE team.

Ok, I understand that you would like to ask me “Do you really think this is going to work?” Well… Let’s think about it, I see 3 different scenarios here:

1) PO as a manager: PO is supposed to maximize value, but what is value? Business value? User value? Customers value? Stockholder value? If we talk about value as the whole think, we can say that the value depends on the vision/goals/mission of the company. Who are the people that can play with system structures inside the company? MANAGERS, this is why I’m proposing this option.

2) PO as a request coming from the team: An agile team is set-up, it started to deliver features and they realized that have problems to deal with what they are delivering, they are not pretty sure if they are adding value or not, they don’t have this skills or whatever… Then its fair that the team ask for a PO (not the other way around), but is the team who is in charge to hire this person. Then, what the team will expect from this new hire PO is: build reports that helps the team knowing what is the impact related with each feature released, teach the team improving this “business” skills, help them to prioritize next features in order to maximize the value delivered according with what the company understand as value, improve communication between them and stakeholders, better understanding about different kinds of values so then they can balance different needs: users, customers, company, stockholders, etc.

3) PO as a skill inside the team: A real cross-functional team, a team that is completely self-organized, a team that decide what to do, when and how. This means that all th team have to spend time helping the organization to build and maintain an economical framework that they will use to take decisions (like Cost of Delay from Donald Reinertsen). With this we are deferring our decisions to the last moment, we are sure that this is a good decision, we don’t waste time with long meetings where personal goals, team has a purpose, it’s goal oriented and is aware about the economical impact its doing.

Based on what on business and companies are evolving, what do you think it make more sense? I know it depends on team maturity, where the company is focused on, type of business, clients, users, etc. But it’s a discussion that we should start in order to finally remove IT & business silos and move forward in order to build products that delights and people love :)