Value is in the eye of the beholder.

When deciding which piece of work gets included in a product’s portfolio value is touted as the most important arbiter of priority.   Value is so important that the first of the twelve principles in the Agile Manifesto includes the concept of value.

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”  

Clearly, the value is a core tenant in the Agile community.  But . . . the word has definition issues, does not have a single accepted unit of measure, and can relate to lots of different attributes; therefore, it can generate LOTS of different opinions.  In Value: Looking for Value in All of the Right Places, we provided a number of questions to prime the pump when mining for value.  The essay is a starting point, not an ending point.  Because there are many potentially different aspects contributing to value we need to recognize that sometimes the value is driven by perspective.

When discussing value in Agile, there are three points of view that seem to drive differing perspectives value:

  1. Where a person is in the products value chain,
  2. The role an individual is playing, and 
  3. The product’s position in its lifecycle.

Where a person is positioned in the value chain will affect their perception of value.  A value chain is a high-level view of a company’s flow of goods or services from raw material to the customer. Each step along the process will have a different point of view and therefore a different perspective on the value of any individual piece of work.  For example, a piece of work that increased the ability for the sales force to track orders might accrue value from customer satisfaction, reduction in late deliveries or but probably would not affect the value delivered by software development in any meaningful way.  Having only one perspective on value might yield a distorted understanding.  Market or crowd valuation are solutions that include multiple perspectives are used to help ensure that a broad range of perspectives is included.

Similarly, different roles see different types of value.  This is similar to the differences in perspective driven by position in the value chain, however the “biases” in the categories tend to be a bit more personal.  Roles that closer to the transformation of raw material into the product (for example, a developer versus a CIO) tend to have a narrower focus.  How an individual chain affects their job will be critical to the value they perceive. For example, selection of an application lifecycle management toolset ALM would have significantly more impact on a developer or testers job than on a senior manager’s job on a day-to-day basis even though both roles are in a same part of the value chain.

Products, like humans, have a beginning and an end (we are not discussing the Highlander). Where a product is in its lifecycle will impact the perceived value of work that impacts the product.  For example of taking a narrow view of the term product, early in my career I was involved in the definition and implementation of a very large data warehouse project.  After the implementation, there were several very valuable follow-on pieces of work.  A few years later there were fewer very valuable follow-on pieces of work and even later more of a preponderance of work to restructure and refactor the data and code. Fifteen years later, I am told the product was retired and replaced. A major extension of the data warehouse late in its life cycle would be perceived as having the same amount of value as the same extension would have had a few years after implementation.  

Where the beholder is in value chain or their role in in the process will have a major impact on how they perceive value.  Where the product is in its lifecycle adds a further wrinkle in our perception of value. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Value is no different than beauty.