Back to Basics Series – Principle 1

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

What Does It Mean?

There are many interpretations of this principle, but this one is mine. Honestly, I’m not looking to make any ground-breaking revelations here. I’m looking to break it down to get back to basics. It means what it means. In the software world, the path to customer satisfaction should be delivering early and often, but things are not always that black and white. Let’s take an expository approach in evaluating this, the first agile value.

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer.

This principle says that we will satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. However, I think there’s a reason why the group at Snowbird listed customer satisfaction first. Without customer satisfaction, we have no business. Bottom line. According to the great (or not-so-great) collective that is Wikipedia, customer satisfaction “is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation.” Whether or not the software you and your team work on is customer-facing, ultimately everything we build has an end-user. If that end-user is not satisfied (that’s a whole other blog topic), then we need to go back to the drawing board to make sure s/he is. Customer satisfaction is why we do what we do, and their continued satisfaction keeps the lights on.

Early & Continuous Delivery

I actually dreaded writing this entry because I’m currently stuck in quarterly release hell. My present reality provides no fabulous insights or special instructions to get your company (or mine, for that matter) releasing early or often.

But what does it mean? At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, delivering software early and often is just that. A better question is why should we do it? The sooner we deliver working software to our customers, then the sooner we get feedback. We can then inspect and adapt that feedback to better form what’s in our hopper (roadmap, battle plan, whatever you want to call it). We do this to keep our customers happy, so they continue to pay us, so we continue to stay in business. Yes? Yes. If we do this in regular, short cycles, then we’ll hopefully align ourselves with ever-fluctuating market demands. This actually points back to the “customer satisfaction” part of this principle.

Valuable Software

The final part of this principle is valuable software. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of valuable is having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities OR is of great use or service. Google “valuable software” and a myriad of articles pop up on what actually constitutes value. Quality is obviously a factor (but that’s also listed in a later Agile Principle; we’ll cover that), but ultimately, the team needs to determine what is valuable to the customer. That could mean anything from an intuitive user interface to speedy access to data. If the customer finds no value in what you’ve delivered, then what’s the point? This part, too, points back to the “customer satisfaction” part of this principle.

Customer Satisfaction is Key

To wrap it up, customer satisfaction is the key. Early and continuous delivery provides the feedback loop that keeps us informed, and delivering valuable software keeps our customers happy.