BE Agile, BE Customer Focused – Framework for driving “Customer Engaged Development”

As per Agile manifesto, the highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of software. Early and frequent delivery gets incremental value to customers quickly and frequent interactions with the customer help you understand what customers really want.

Backup Exec team has embraced Agile methodology nearly 5 years back. Ever since then BE team has sprinted their way to deliver 14+ successful releases adding many key features, enhancements, and proliferations much needed by our customers. Our development processes have also evolved during this journey through experiences and learnings.

Since the beginning, we have been responding to customer needs voiced primarily through the following channels during our release planning and development phases:

  • Backlog prioritization considering customer and partner value proposition
  • Focus on “Top supportability work-items” provided by BE support team
  • Focus on “Top customer escalations”
  • Production Beta and Internal Validation feedback
  • Direct customer feedback/forums/discussions
  • Sprint Demos with Customers

As you can see, except for the sprint demos, all other channels mentioned above provide meaningful customer feedback only after the product is either fully developed or after it is released. Hence to further encourage early and frequent customer interactions during product development phase and to have structured way to measure progress in this regard, Backup Exec team adapted framework named “3-2-1 Customer Engagement” which recommends on “3 External Customers Interactions, Every 2 weeks, At least for 1 hour” for new features being developed. The following report sample shows a typical report which tracks customer interactions for each feature being developed after every 2 weeks sprint and provides 321 scorecards against each feature indicating how teams are doing w.r.t “3-2-1 Customer Engagement.”

321Report.png

Here are some of the highlights/benefits of this framework:

  • A diverse set of customer representatives/administrators are invited to the sprint demos from various geographies & having different data sizes.
  • 3-2-1 guidance helps in ensuring continuous engagement during sprint demos throughout the new feature development phase.
  • The entire team gets a chance to interact directly and regularly with customers – This creates a better understanding of the customer point of view in the Engineering team and helps develop a customer-focused mindset.
  • Sprint prioritization is done also considering early customer feedback on their priority requirements & usability aspects.
  • Mock-ups/Use cases/Alternatives are discussed with customers to understand their needs/priorities. Any assumptions are validated.
  • Faster feedback loop helps in avoiding - wasted efforts, rework and major surprises at the later stages.
  • Customers/Partners are also rewarded and encouraged to participate actively and share their inputs during sprint demos ensuring their engagement throughout this journey.

This framework is certainly helping us understand our customers better and deliver customer value. For e.g. During BackupExec dedupe SDK upgrade work, the team received valuable feedback which not only influenced our user experience decisions but also overall upgrade workflow design. Few customer requests are as subtle as changing the text of certain messages shown on the UI. Customers provide a different perspective as a user of the product and how they perceive a certain message.

“What Gets Measured Gets improved” - Legendary management guru Peter Drucker famously said these words. Continuous customer engagement has always been the top priority of every agile practitioner and the “3-2-1 Customer Engagement” framework acts as a tool to measure & drive customer interactions during product development in a very effective way.