Death or glory: The power of frequent product releases

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Understanding the power of frequent product releases – typical in agile projects – needs some prior reflection on the more traditional approach to product release, i.e. waiting until a product is built and then releasing it into the system.

With that comes a certain feeling of dread about how well the product will work and how the customer will react to it. However, in that scenario you are already so far down the line that you want to deliver the product and move on.

This approach might be described as “death or glory!” But what is the fall-back position if your product doesn’t perform?

Agile takes a different approach which focuses on frequent releases and – combined with a governance structure as in the case of PRINCE2 Agile® – ensures that customers/users can see and test a product ahead of its final release, while maintaining the level of reporting that keeps stakeholders reassured.

The benefits of frequent product releases

There are a number of valid benefits you can obtain from frequent product releases:

  1. Early delivery of benefits to the customer
    Customers see the value the product brings and what it will do for the organization based on the investment. You can start to forecast benefits while adopting a method like PRINCE2 Agile provides the structure to manage time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefits – in other words, a control mechanism allowing you to obtain value.
  2. Gaining feedback
    At the end of each release customers can offer feedback. This means you have their involvement in developing the product rather than telling them what you think they should have.
  3. Reducing risk
    Building new products is risky so frequent releases reduce the likelihood of customer disappointment.
  4. Visibility and evidence
    When the customer’s happy, you know you’re on the right track. This empowers the team and gives everyone confidence in the project process.
  5. Engagement with project stakeholders
    Stakeholder engagement is so much easier when they know the timescale for product delivery and see value for their investments.
  6. Making releases second nature
    By continually releasing products, this makes deployment easier and means that you are not waiting for a “big-bang” product release which could go wrong.

PRINCE2 Agile – guidance for the project manager

For project managers there is a big difference between “I think I know what customers want” and “I know what customers want”. Therefore, it makes sense to have product visibility for the customer which allows project managers to return to the project sponsor and tell them – definitively – what’s required.

The PRINCE2 Agile guide helps project managers understand the benefit of frequent product releases and also obtaining value. The guidance – which is a mixture of behaviours, techniques, concepts, areas of focus and tools – also helps people move away from the mystique of agile and any latent fear it might create among more traditional project managers.

Why is having access to this knowledge important today? With a more dynamic marketplace, greater economic uncertainty and a higher expectation of what will be delivered within the available budget, frequent product releases allow organizations to be faster to market, deliver value earlier and gain a competitive advantage.

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