Selling Agile to the CFO: A Guide for Development Teams - Slide 8

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Too many agile transitions start out with a lot of enthusiasm, but die on the vine. It takes many months, sometimes more than a year, to get traction on practices such as driving development with tests. Everyone involved has a lot to learn: programmers, testers, business analysts, and project managers. Plan for feedback throughout the process, and hold retrospectives at frequent intervals (at least every iteration).

For the CFO, that means measuring progress and return on investment (ROI). Gutrich suggests looking back over the first year of using agile development to gauge ROI. When Crispin's current team tallied up the results of their first agile year, they discovered they had delivered even more story points than planned, and the production defect rate was dramatically reduced. Given that they focused solely on quality, not speed, and often struggled as they learned techniques such as TDD and refactoring, these results surprised them, and delighted their CFO.

Your agile transition won’t always be smooth sailing. Even as the years pass, new challenges will arise. By this time, you’ll have built trust with your CFO and business experts so that they will continue their support. Don’t take anything for granted. Keep using appropriate measurements and quick, visible feedback to guide your continual improvement.

Your programming team is on board with agile and the notion of iterative design and development, but the financial executives prefer to think in terms of “Just tell me when it’ll be ready and how much it’ll cost.” If you can sell the CFO on the agile methodology, you’ll have an ally in the board room.

Agile adoption requires a big investment by your company, not just by the development and QA staff. Your team needs time to master agile values, principles, and practices, and to apply them to your unique situation. A culture of learning, time to experiment, and tolerance for mistakes are essential to successfully improving software quality and responding to changing business requirements. How can you get the resources and long-term support you need from the business?

Here’s a good strategy: Get your chief financial officer (CFO) on board. Telling the CFO, “We want to do this” probably won’t work. After speaking with both financial and software experts, including her own company’s CFO, Lisa Crispin, an agile testing practitioner and coach, is confident that you can make agile an easy sell.

Here are seven tips from Lisa Crispin, highlighted in her post on the Software Quality Connection, to help you sell agile to your CFO.

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