Getting the business community to actively participate during agile software development can be tough. Hey, they have other things to do and creating software is our job not theirs!
Assuming you can get them interested and willing to commit their time, the bigger challenge is keeping them engaged. How do you do that?
- Encourage feedback — lots of feedback. Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions, etc.
- Track and respond to every feedback item in a timely manner.
- When you need to answer a question negatively, explain why. Never just say no.
- When you need to shoot down an idea or suggestion, explain your reasoning. It’s important for the business to understand why things work the way they do.
- If you agree to do something, get it into the backlog and do it as soon as you can.
- If you agree to an item that’s complex and can’t be done in the near term, explain why, educate the person about the process that will be followed, and track the item in an open and transparent way.
- Keep soliciting feedback!
It won’t be easy at times. Some users will be thoughtful, considerate and understanding. Others will want what they want, when they want it. There will be many more of the former than the latter — if you follow the seven steps above.
Keeping the business community engaged is essential to a successful, agile project. Once you deliver an agile project following these steps, it will be easier to engage the business in future projects. You’ll have to work at it but your agile projects will be more successful, more often.