In Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning & Analysis, Ellen Gottesdiener (author of The Software Requirements Memory Jogger and Requirements by Collaboration) and Mary Gorman tackle one of the largest problems facing Agile and Scrum software projects, how to successfully integrate the ideas and tools made so popular over the last decade into working, valuable solutions.
The book starts with “Section 1 – The Case Study” about the needs of fictional Squeeky Kleen. Ellen and Mary demonstrate the scope of a project and focus on key tenants within Agile, particularly engagement with stakeholders, iterative development, and learning. This approach is successful because they cover many stages of development, a host of useful techniques, and intertwine examples and tools without talking down to readers.
“Section 2 – Big Concepts” is an overview of the Discover to Deliver techniques and how the parts fit together with business partners and goals to achieve a successful product.
“Section 3 – 7 Dimensions” This section covers the seven product dimensions: User, Interface, Action, Data, Control, Environment, and Quality Attribute. While not the first model I have seen, Ellen & Mary do a great job covering all the important bases. Frankly, many projects I have been on struggled because one or more of these key areas were missed. Coming into the project and ensuring the right amount of focus on these dimensions will save your project a great deal of time and heartache.
“Section 4 – The Structured Conversation” does more than simply tell the reader how to have a conversation. Rather, this section gives advice on how to integrate the 7 Dimensions (Section 3) into productive sessions with a variety of stakeholders (Section 2) and handle the varying levels of detail appropriate for different time periods of the project lifecycle. (Section 2).
The last two sections, “Section 5 – Adapting Your Practices” and “Section 6 – Tools and Techniques” give additional information for readers to apply the central message of the book in real world situations. I did not consider this a part of the core teachings of the book, but absolutely vital if you want to move from thinking, “Cool!” to “How do I start using this on Monday?”
Stylistically, I found Discover to Deliver to be a refreshing change to traditional books, though this is a personal observation and may not resonate with every reader. The ongoing case study is detailed enough to provide context for how tools are used without being confined to a business novel and the preachiness typically accompanying them. The explanation around the tools was tools was succinct and enough to give readers a chance to see the application, without bogging us down with minutia.
The writing is clear and easy to understand. Ellen and Mary avoid all the latest buzz words and insider terms used today. The book itself used a visual “bread crumb” metaphor I found delightful. The graphics, callouts, chapter & section breaks, and even whitespace served to reinforce the message of the book rather than distract the reader. All together, the choices made this a highly approachable book and much better because of their choice.
Discover to Deliver does not pretend to cover every situation or go into deep details about how to tackle problems on Agile teams, those topics are covered in depth elsewhere. This book gives a good overview for practitioners who want to integrate bits of knowledge and take their projects and teams to the next level. I heartily recommend Ellen and Mary’s book to people who want to understand the big picture of working with Agile and turn it into a success software product.
Personal Note: I liked Ellen Gottesdiener’s Software Requirements Memory Jogger so much I used to buy the book by the dozen — I have purchased and given away 30 copies of this book. Collaborating with Mary Gorman on this Discover to Deliver, she’s done it again!