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5 Expert Tips for Mastering Value Delivery in Agile

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Value-driven delivery is at the heart of agile methods. As you are going for your PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)® exam, it’s a topic you’ll want to dive deep into because 20% of the exam questions come from that domain. In other words, you are more likely to get questions on value delivery than anything else on your examination.

However, it’s also a topic that feels very different to a lot of business education, and if you have done other kinds of project management training before, you might already be feeling a bit overwhelmed about what it is and how you can use it.

There’s also the challenge that ‘value’ is in the eye of the beholder: stakeholders get to decide what is valuable to them, so there isn’t a definitive set of rules you can follow each time to get a quality outcome. Every project is unique, which means you have to understand the value proposition for each project

In this article, we’ll share our best agile tips for reviewing the concepts that make up value-driven delivery, drawn from successful certified project managers and expert professionals. You can test how well you know the topic with a PMI-ACP exam simulator.

Tips for Mastering Value-Driven Delivery

As this domain covers such a large part of your PMI-ACP exam preparation, it’s importance cannot be stressed enough. Here are some expert tips for making it easier to break down and learn the core concepts relating to the value delivery process on a project.
  1. Understand stakeholder priorities
  2. Work out how to define value
  3. Involve customers early
  4. Collect feedback regularly and act on it
  5. Deliver in increments.
Studying this topic, along better understanding the agile principles, is essential for your exam, so let’s dig into those core concepts now.

1. Understand stakeholder priorities

The Examination Content Outline (ECO) covers a broad variety of topics, but they are not all given the same importance in the test itself.

“Of the seven domains, value-driven delivery gets the most weight on the exam,” says Jeff Furman, PMP, PMI-ACP, author of The PM Answer Book and agile trainer. “I recommend studying this domain early on, to build a foundation for the other domains.” Agile training courses and materials tend to put emphasis on this domain for that exact reason.

That starts with understanding what is important to the project’s stakeholders. As ‘value’ is defined by the person receiving the benefit or outcomes from the project, it’s essential that stakeholder priorities are clear to everyone on the team.

Priorities can change with time. The 14th Annual State of Agile Report says 70% of respondents believe a key benefit of agile is the ability to respond to changing priorities.

Remember, there could be a lot of stakeholders, all with conflicting opinions about what is important. In a value delivery network, in a supply chain context, there are internal and external suppliers - and often a lot of individuals and teams involved. Make sure you have a full appreciation of the stakeholders involved in the project so no one is left out.

Tip: Look for references in questions to disagreements between stakeholders or words that relate to prioritization. Those might give you a clue that the question is asking you to go back to the principle of value-driven delivery to make the best choice for the project’s next steps.

2. Work out how to define ‘value’

“Value-driven delivery in agile is a method of getting projects started (and keeping them on track) by first defining the benefits that will result from the work,” says Abby Ha, Head of Marketing & Business Development at WellPCB. “This contrasts with the traditional ‘prioritization’ approach to getting projects started, which is more about defining what absolutely has to be done even if it's not going to be of much benefit.”

Different projects are going to expect different outcomes and consequently they will measure value differently. That’s OK: what’s important is that everyone on the project knows what value means for this particular piece of work.

Tip: The question may make reference to how value is measured in the situation. That could be by increased stakeholder confidence, by a financial target, customer satisfaction, an improvement in efficiency for a process or anything else. Try to spot what might be valuable in the scenario as that will help you select the most relevant response.

3. Involve customers early

Involving your customers helps you prioritize work based on the value of the deliverables. It’s important because they might not have the same views as the project team. As they are subject matter experts, they see the project work through a different lens.

“Take a look at what features are included in software packages,” says Abby. “One of the most common problems of over-specification is that features are built into software that are never used. This wastes time, increases costs, and can lead to disaster.”

Abby says that the best way to clarify what features are needed in a project is to get input from the target customer. “By getting this input in the early stages of planning, we're able to better ensure that we're building something that our customers actually want.”

The ECO talks about Minimally Viable Products and Minimally Marketable Features to help recognize value as early as possible in the project: review these concepts so you can recognize the terminology on the test.

“My advice for exam takers looking to grasp this concept for the exam is to make sure they understand that value-driven delivery is about defining the benefits, not just the features,” says Abby, who started her career as a software engineer.

Tip: It should be clear who the customer is from the scenario in the question, but look for clues that point you to understanding the team roles. The Product Owner is the voice of the customer. However, there may be other customers who are involved as stakeholders or who play an active role on the team. In a complex project, there could be several customers. If you can identify who the customer is in the question, that might give you a clue as to the best answer. Ask yourself: “Who is this value delivered to?”

4. Collect feedback regularly (and act on it)

Feedback is a fundamental concept of value delivery. After all, you can’t create value if you don’t understand what it is, and the best way to get a good understanding of it is to check that you are doing the right thing.

Collecting feedback is only part of what you need to do: the other part is making sure that it is acted on! As a team, use client feedback to better understand what’s required and how to get there. And if you are on the right track, the feedback lets you confirm that and continue in the same direction.

Tip: Feedback can be collected in many ways. Look for wording in the scenario that talks about reviews, retrospectives, backlog grooming, operational reviews, checkpoints and collaboration. These terms (and similar terms) may point to the collaborative working relationships and how well they are functioning. Identifying points of conflict or improvement could lead you to the correct answer.

In our PMI-ACP exam review tips from experts, you’ll find more suggestions for reading the questions in a way that makes it easier for you to work out what the key points are.

5. Deliver in increments

An increment is a small chunk of work that provides a defined result. It’s a way of delivering something while minimizing risk. Incremental delivery is fundamental to agile approaches.

“Value-driven delivery is incredibly important as it’s all about examining the values of your business and then translating these to see how they deliver value to your customers,” says Jack Zmudzinski, a senior associate at software development firm, Future Processing.

“Keep in mind that, as you progressively assess and seek improvement opportunities, you’ll automatically be focusing on the next most important area for improvement and the agile team will follow naturally,” he adds.

Keep the conversation channels open and build your increments based on what is most important. As you get more skilled at doing this, you’ll find the work flows naturally, as Jack says.

Tip: Look for hints in the question that incremental delivery is (or isn’t) being used. The scenario may point to a situation being caused by the frequency of delivery. Operational reviews and checkpoints throughout the project can help you collect feedback in a timely manner to make sure the project is progressing to everyone’s satisfaction.

Value Delivered = Great Results

Value-driven delivery is more than a concept you need to know for the exam. It’s a crucial approach you will use throughout your career to get great results for your internal and external customers.

“Build your agile team around the sections of your business which are most likely to create value for the business,” says Jack Zmudzinski. “You’re basically constantly investing in the company’s improvement and change processes.”You need to understand clearly the things that are valuable to a business and then learn to assess the organizational structures and processes that you’re going to need to create that value.”

Once you’ve grasped the concepts, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Jeff Furman recommends using an exam simulator and taking targeted quizzes that only focus on value-driven delivery. That’s easy in the PMI-ACP Simulator, which should be a core part of your test preparation. Simply select ‘Domain II’ and work through the questions relevant to the topic.

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