Thursday, November 8, 2012

Conversation through contracts

In the agile business, we've pretty much done away with the 'shalls' and 'wills' of traditional structured requirements, replaced by the conversational story. Even the use case, certainly structured by the UML paradigm, is not so much a 'shall and will' device.

That said, how do you convey a conversation through the vehicle of a contract? Off hand, it sounds like an oxymoron to be sure. There's certainly no more structured device in the project business than a contract. Is it the right framework to converse with?

My recommendation over the past several years that I've been talking about this is that the right contract is a fixed price framework with either fixed or cost reimbursable work orders, each work order corresponding to a iteration. Obviously, to keep the overhead down, a really lean process for writing work orders is Job 1.

First conversation
The time to have the first conversation is before the framework is put in place. This is when you explain the vision and discuss the top level narrative and the overall value proposition. Subsequently, the framework captures the contractual elements of the overall project...if you're building a bridge, that's one thing; if you're building an ERP, that's another.

Retrospective conversation
Then, as part of the retrospective review of the backlog, iteration by iteration, there are more conversations, each one then put more or less into the job order. The JO should still have some flexibility to handle unforeseen backorder problems. However, the foresight of the JO need not be but a few weeks, so it's risk of the truly unknown is foreshortened.

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