Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why you should care about experience design and continuous delivery as a project manager ?

I had written earlier about how a good project manager in a mature Agile team needs to go beyond managing scope, time and budget to be really effective in his/her role. The key is to understand the product and the tools and techniques used by the team to build it.

But there is more a project manager should do, which is, to provide the right direction to the team. The focus shifts from "building the thing right" (i.e delivering within scope , time and budget) to "building the right thing" (a product that fits the purpose the business and its users).

Building a delivery engine that can react quickly to market feedback and adapt needs focus in a few different areas than traditional project management. And this is where project managers should have a good understanding of experience design and continuous delivery.

From a continuous delivery perspective a PM should have a good understanding of

* The level of automated testing required to certify almost production quality builds in no time.
* The value of using a production like environment for testing and feedback.
* How automated deployments can help speed up time required to deploy to multiple environments and rollback quickly if the need arises.
* The need for real time monitoring of production systems for the team to quickly respond and fix production issues.
* How one can benefit from feature toggles v/s branching.
* The advantage of releasing quickly and minimising work in progress to shorten the feedback loop.

The main advantage of continuous delivery is not so much in reduction of deployment and maintenance costs. Instead it is in the capability it provides to validate and adapt the product being buit quickly based on end user testing and research.

It is important , as a PM to know

* If we are doing enough user testing to validate what we are building at regular intervals ?
* Are we doing enough user research to provide critical user context data in the form of personas etc...?
* Do we have good analytics capability built in the product to profile usage patterns which can help us make informed decisions about the product?

An insight into some of these aspects can really help a project manager steer the team towards building the right product which is way more valuable than someone who ensures the team is tracking to an outdated plan.

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