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Customer Role in Agile Projects
Three Pillars of Agile
Agile projects especially projects following Scrum Methodology depends on co-ordination and communication of three important roles in the project, namely, Product Owner, Scrum Team and Scrum Master.
Product Owner looks after the scope of the project and that team delivers the most important features first in the project. Look at the below quadrant, a successful product owner will always try to deliver most valuable features first to end users.
Scrum Team consists of developers, testers and architect. Scrum team uses agile principles to deliver high quality, working software periodically to customer. Architect who is part of Scrum team, defines the technical roadmap of the project and guide team in order to deliver the highest quality product to end user.
Scrum Master makes sure team upholds agile principles and are able to deliver quality, valuable features periodically to customer.
It is unavoidable to have negotiations between these three roles as each of those looks after important aspects of the project i.e. Scope, Technology and Process. These three counter forces make sure that none of the aspect gets compromised while delivering the product i.e. quality does not get compromised due to faster delivery of the features. Similarly processes are followed and team improves consistently while delivery high quality working software to customer.
And then there is one More..
One of the principle in Agile manifesto is: Customer Collaboration over contract negotiations. This article is all about this principle.
Customer is the most important factor in success of the project, which is often looked over in project development. Customer brings the most important perspective of the project i.e. WHAT.
Customer vs Product Owner
Ideally customer himself is best suited for the Product Owner role of the project as he knows the priority of the features, what a feature entails for end users, he is aptly suited to validate if the feature delivered is built as per expectations. While all this sounds good, in reality more often than not this role is handed over to one of the project team members. This could be due to one of the reason, -Availability : Product Owner is a full time role in an agile team. When working with a 5-7 member team, PO may spend more than half day discussing stories with team members, validating stories developed by team members and almost other half tending the backlog, defining stories for upcoming iterations. Since this needs a full time commitment from customer, which is difficult for customer in most of the project.
Why is it essential to get customer involvement in an agile project?
All the discussion above leads to a question that what is customer supposed to be involved in and informed of if he is not playing a dedicated Product Owner role in the project. Customer is the fourth wheel of the car, which is equally important to reach the destination in time, without accidents. Customer must be available for,
In the end, even though customer is not a recognized role by Agile, customer is definitely one of the most important factor in success of the project. As much as scrum team is responsible to deliver a high quality working product, customer is responsible of supporting team with their early feedback and providing all the tools which will help team and project succeed.