Thursday, October 1, 2009

Driving Adoption -- Benefits realization in the agile space

There's no time like the present--Benefit tracking begins with the first release.

Adoption may be slow. Because of the natural reluctance to change, embracing new capabilities may not be automatic. To encourage adoption, competing or legacy capabilities should be withdrawn as soon as practical.

Remove the legacy
It may be possible to help adoption by having the first few iterations produce product increments that are naturally attractive and capable of creating a buzz.

Early adopters
There are, of course, early adopters who will eagerly grab new capabilities, especially technology capabilities rich in software features and functions, and especially those that are user-configurable. But early adopters are only one of five personalities in the body of knowledge known as diffusion of innovations.

The five are:
1. Innovators: Those who are anxious to work with the product in a preproduction or beta status and take risks with immature product; usually very personable and networked individuals, well connected with technology, and able to handle a high degree of uncertainty;
2. Early adopters: Those with opinion leadership eager to put product through its paces and be first on the block to have the advantage of a new capability;
3. Early majority: Those willing to adopt after visible proof that the bugs have been worked out and operational effectiveness has been proven;
4. Later majority: The reluctant but willing, not too comfortable giving up what they know best; and
5. Laggards: Those that might never adopt and so drop out of the pool of users.

Innovators often make their own decisions to engage using new ideas; they are often in at the beginning and may be drivers behind the original vision. Early adopters may wait for official sanction before taking up a new product; later adopters may be forced by decision makers to get involved. Regardless, Everett Rogers, one of the early academics in the theory of diffusing innovation, posits that everyone passes through a five-stage decision-making process, albeit on difference timelines.

Roger’s paradigm is:

1. Seek knowledge: Seek basic information to become familiar and acquainted with a new idea, product, or service;
2. Accept persuasion: Evaluate benefits in context of personal use and application;
3. Decide: Decide to adopt or reject;
4. Implement: Begin to apply the product or service to the everyday routine; and
5. Confirm: Accept the product as a fully qualified alternative to the prior capability.

Agile impact
In the agile space, this five-step process repeats with every release, although the steps begin to merge and the timeline is shorter as each release builds upon the past. The mission of business preparation is to smooth this decision process as much as possible; to prepare the knowledge base; and to prepare persuasive information so that moving to implementation and confirmation is as rapid as possible.

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