This is fundamental to Agile, not just Atern. It implies a focus on the immediate need of the Business as a whole, not just what is in a plan published six months ago. That plan will probably have changed.
It means :
* establishing a sound business case. How is this project going to make the business money? What are the benefits and anticipated costs? Can you believe them?
* understanding the true business priorities. Atern uses MoSCoW prioritisation to categorise requirements. It is essential to understand what the project absolutely must deliver (and no more) to avoid failure and to realise early benefits. It also establishes a baseline for change control if the project is to deliver on time (see next post in this series).
The Business Sponsor clearly plays an important role here. A Sponsor who understands the agile manifesto and the Atern principles and practices is invaluable in providing strategic direction and vision. Having other business roles who can translate that vision into clear requirements and be fully engaged in a collaborative cross-functional team provide the key to success.
Of course any project can only deliver what is required of it and if the requirements are not clear, neither will the solution be. Before anyone shouts at me, I am not advocating documenting requirements up front, but those defining requirements still need to be clear about what they want, or don’t want. Clear, unambiguous user stories are a good start. The importance of defining acceptance criteria cannot be over-stated, even though some find this difficult.
Modelling can assist greatly with clarifying requirements. A model is anything that facilitates understanding, either of a requirement or a proposed solution. It can be formal or informal, temporary or permanent, simple or complex, but models are often very useful to get a message across. Page flows, business process diagrams, use case diagrams, statistical analysis, wire frame designs, even working prototypes are all examples of models. Use them as and when you think they will aid understanding and facilitate collaboration.
Remember, it’s always about the business. We are trying to deliver value. Focus on that.