Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Deep are your Pockets ?

This is just a quick micro-blog introducing the Software ROI picture that I draw for executives to help them understand how deep they need their capital investment commitments in a Waterfall vs. an Agile project.  It's nothing revolutionary and you've probably seen it before.  The message is really quite simple.  Here's the picture:

The longer you wait to deliver value and receive money, the longer you are spending (investing) and the deeper that investment gets.  Instead of trying to release the entire system at once, we identify smaller features that can be released early to establish a return on investment sooner in the lifecycle.  The smaller you can make your releases, the less total investment you need to succeed.  Think about the current project you are working on.  How big do your pockets need to be for success.  Can you identify earlier release points that let you work with less investment and risk to the project?


  1. I like the graph.

    Ron & Chet have a game where they have people experience it.

    If you crunch the numbers, it's even worse. As I recall the Waterfall delivery cycle never catches up in terms of ROI.

  2. True, unless you can not compromise on functionality. Sometimes software has to be released with complete set of features, otherwise it will loose its marketing edge. Would it make sense to release a math program for instance that only adds numbers, postponing the release of subtraction to a later date? Would you ever come back to that page?

  3. Very nice. Tells the story very well. I'm stealing this. Thanks!

  4. I use Schwaber's version of this graph, myself - the one that he had on the videos he made for Conchango explaining Scrum some years back. It really "clicks" for execs to see it put this way. If my audience is in for some fun, I follow this up with the penny-flipping game to show process bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

    Per Alex's comments above, there are numerous instances where it is actually better to release a product without what would be considered a "full slate" of features. In today's economy, time-to-market is critical, and this forces us to look at the most valuable features to release.

    Examples? How about the iPhone originally releasing without Cut & Paste? Kobo eBook reader releasing with half the features of Kindle? These products have enjoyed significant popularity because they didn't try to get it all in - they tried to get as much as they could reasonably achieve to get the product to market faster.


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