Answer the client’s primary question: What value am I receiving in return for my check?

Nov 18, 2022

During every engagement someone on the client’s side wants to know “what are we getting for all this money we are paying?” The question is a legitimate one. The money paid is crystal clear. There is a desire to measure the value delivered from this investment. Let me also note that there are several aspects to the answer. In this article I will just address one aspect – the business value delivered by the agile teams.

Let’s define value

I would like to start by defining “value.” The dictionary defines value as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” So, value inherently involves the perception of a person or persons. Some companies put an emphasis on revenue while others like non-profits place an emphasis on charitable action for the cause. As agile coaches, we have the potential to work with both kinds of clients. The value definition belongs to the client. If a client doesn’t have a clear definition of value, they are often left unable to see the value they are receiving based on what we are helping them accomplish. In this case, it’s important that we help clients define value at the very beginning of our partnership.

Measuring value

SAFe® addresses this problem in a straightforward way – it says there are two primary outputs to a successful PI Planning event. The first is a program board and the second is committed PI objectives. The PI objectives are what provide us with what we need to drive the business to a clear understanding of what is valuable to them. In brief, the features prioritized in a PI Planning session are submitted to the agile teams and the teams determine what portion of them can be accomplished during the PI. As the teams are working through that process, they create PI objectives which provide a feedback loop to the business to confirm the agile teams have a common understanding of what is being requested through the features. As the business reviews the PI objectives, they designate the value (between one and ten) that those PI objectives represent in terms of business value. At the end of the PI, the PI objectives are reviewed and the business grades the actual business values obtained through the work completed during the PI by the teams.

Delivering value “predictably”

From PI to PI, this business value delivered is tracked through the mechanism of predictability metric. The overall result is to provide visibility of enterprise values and volume of value being delivered to everyone. The business can now see both sides of the equation – what they are paying and what value is being delivered.

Written by Jim Camden


Jim has over 35 years of helping large and small companies solve painful problems in technical and organizational areas. His early career was in software for large and complex mission-critical systems. He was a developer, designer, architect, and business analyst. Jim has been intrigued by the human side of technology success for the last 20 years, which led him to Agile and SAFe. He is motivated by observing successful SAFe Transformations in organizations that benefit in tangible ways from their efforts. As a coach, he has seen the organizations he works with gain clarity on what matters and what doesn’t, and then concentrate on the former. These principles are so powerful that they work when adopted in any organization—in every sub-group, in any industry, at every level, whether co-located or distributed—despite the current level of Agile maturity within the organization and regardless of the current structure. The key is to have a coach that can make them real to you and your people.