2. Collaboratively prune the backlog.
If you’re following an agile process, you’re already using a ticket-tracking system to plan your sprints, write your epics, track your backlog of user stories, and perform other tasks. Often, you wind up with a growing backlog of enhancements, small tweaks, ambiguous feature requests, and more.
When you’re working with a client who is participating in the process of pruning the backlog, it can be difficult to get on the same page about what the team can finish, by what time, and for how much money.
But managing the backlog carefully—which means pruning back unnecessary features—is actually a great way of aligning yourself with your clients. Doing this requires having fully transparent, collaborative meetings with your client—meetings whose laser-focus is on the goals of building a high-quality product and launching on time and on budget.
3. Stay in contact through vision-alignment meetings.
Yeti has developed a unique version of agile development called applied agile. One of its main components is our use of vision-alignment meetings. These are scheduled meetings for the product-development team and stakeholders, which occur after a predetermined number of sprints.
The focus of these meetings with a larger group of decision makers is on reassessing the current roadmap and assessing the features that have already been implemented, as well as what’s up next for the project. The team can also reconsider the scope, cost, and timeline.
Such opportunities to carefully review a team’s work can be beneficial for discovering possible new features and discussing priorities with executives and decision makers. Because vision-alignment meetings happen at a regular frequency—without too much time elapsing between them—they let clients consider issues such as whether to deprioritize some existing features or establish a new product roadmap. These meetings also provide an opportunity to expand the timeline or budget, if necessary.
4. Hold retrospective meetings, too.
Other important, agile-process meetings are recurring, retrospective meetings. The primary purpose of these retrospectives is to allow the product-development team to discuss what’s working, what’s not working, and how to improve things, but the client is always welcome to attend. The intent of a retrospective is to produce action items the team can implement to improve the product-development process. In many cases, these meetings also help the team hone the scope, timeline, and cost triangle by saving time or reducing scope.
Over the course of several retrospective meetings, a team adopts multiple improvements that can have a synergistic effect. Thus, the overall positive effect of such changes is greater than the sum of the individual changes. Such improvements can take many forms. For example, we implemented a requirement that at least one developer from the client’s development team and one developer from our team would approve pull requests before merging them. Since everyone on both teams need not review new code, we can make progress more quickly, while still getting input from both teams.
Your Clients Should Love Agile
Agile development offers too many benefits to let the agile process get derailed by client misunderstandings and unfulfilled expectations. Fortunately, you can keep your clients in the loop if you follow the best practices I’ve outlined in this article. The key principles behind these best practices are collaboration and transparency. Within reason, always strive to keep your clients informed about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and why you think it will ultimately benefit the project.
Your goals probably include the development of features, but they can also include devoting resources to documentation, returning to and possibly updating the project roadmap, or making other changes. Of course, clients retain the option to leave some of the details to your team, but the channels of communication should always remain open.
Therefore, when you’re using an agile-development approach, keep your roadmap current, vigilantly prune your inevitably overgrown backlog of issues or nonessential features, and employ both vision-alignment and retrospective meetings. By consistently doing these simple things, you can ensure that your clients feel engaged and empowered and know that they’re a crucial part of the equation. This ensures your work stays agile—and that your clients stay happy.