Delivering products in agile (Smart) projects

In most cases where a form of agile software development is applied, projects are challenged with difficult issues, such as a swaggering scope, unclear and incomplete requirements, unstable software architecture, are quickly approaching dead lines. Within these strict boundaries projects try to deliver high quality software at high productivity – or velocity. This is not an easy challenge.

Delivering just what is needed

Therefore, during agile projects there is high pressure on delivering just that what is needed. The emphasis of an agile project team is on creating just the right (amount of) software, and minimizing the amount of work spent on other products, such as documentation and work in the peripherals of the project. Although many project teams seem to call on this principle to actually not deliver any documentation, the fine art of being agile is delivering just-enough, just-right documentation.

In our experience, a lot of time is spent in agile projects on deciding what’s enough, and moreover, what’s right. Especially when projects are executed in complex organizations, and applying complex (service or cloud oriented) technology, finding the right level of documentation is actually a quite intriguing task, and goes beyond writing (structured or not) user stories.

Delivering products

In the vision of the agile process Smart (and other agile processes, including Scrum and feature driven development) projects should focus on delivering products, not just on performing activities. Please note that working software is not the only product a project delivers.

The agile process Smart suggests to deliver a number of products that will guide projects through these just-enough, just-right in a more standardized fashion. In essence, Smart projects are product driven, as are other agile processes such as Scrum, FDD and OpenUP. During each of the iterations in a Smart project, the team delivers a number of working products. These products fall into a few categories:

  • Project deliverables. In each of the different types of iterations Smart suggests to deliver additional products that will help drive your project to success. These products might include well know deliverables such as a project proposal and non-functional requirements.
    Although none of these product are actually mandatory in a Smart project, they are considered good practice, and over the years have been produced in numerous Smart projects. Using these standard suggested products, organizations get an even better grip on the projects at hand. Note that emphasizing the existence of other project deliverables besides working software (in smart use cases) does not mean projects become less agile.
  • Smart use cases. The body of products delivered in a project is formed by smart use cases, small discrete pieces of functionality that drive development. Smart use cases is a technique to rapidly model your functional requirements at a equal-granular level. Smart use case supply a small and very useful unit of work, and furthermore serve as the main unit of estimation, planning, but also drive realization, testing and even delivery.

All products, both project deliverables and smart use cases run through (a subset of) the product life cycle.

Project deliverables

All products that need to be delivered to run your projects and do not deal with implementing functionality directly (which moreover is partitioned in smart use cases) are referred to as project deliverables. Most of these project deliverables are one-off, although they might be maintained and updated during the project, such as the project’s software architecture and the domain model. Any Smart project needs to decide which of the suggested project deliverables will be produced, and in which iterations.


An easy way to achieve the optimal set of project deliverables is to add the products suggested by Smart to the project’s backlog during the different iterations defined in the Smart process. Or alternatively, add them to the backlog at the start of the project. This allows project teams to add them to the list of products to deliver in any of the iterations.

For example, during the first Propose iteration the smart use case model, a project estimate and a project proposal can be added to the iteration backlog. At the start of the Scope iteration, the software architecture and reusable services might be added. At the start of each of the iterations, the customer and the project team decide which of these products will be picked up and produced.

Examples of project deliverables

Some examples of project deliverables are:

  • Project proposal. A first proposal covering the primary scope of the project and a first cut estimate is produced as a the final project deliverable for Propose iterations.
  • Project plan. The project plan describes the project approach, the stakeholders and goals, business case, risks, resources, timelines and project estimate. The project plan is mostly delivered at the end of Scope iterations.
  • Iteration plan. For each iteration a very brief iteration plan might be documented, sometimes not longer than a single page. This iteration plan describes the list of products (mostly smart use cases) to be implemented and resources needed. In most projects, iteration plans result from the planning session at the start of each iteration.
  • Software architecture. Document describing the architecture for the project. Ideally, your software architecture is an instance of a reusable reference architecture that might be in place at a organization. Having a reference architecture will allow a project team to focus only on deviations. This saves valuable time and effort.
  • Business process model. Most projects implement one or more business processes, and a number of additional functions that support these processes. Smart use cases can be derived from these business processes, independent of how these processes are modeled. The business process model is either obtained from the organization, or created during the project.
  • Smart use case model. The smart use case model is leading in Smart project. It delivers software estimates, and presents an overview of the scope of the project.
  • Domain model. Most custom software development projects will have a model describing the business domain and business services. Sometimes this model stems from previous version of the software, for instance modeled in a data model. In service oriented projects, the domain model in most cases overlays the services called in different back end systems, as forms the basis for a service consuming front end.

Again, in most cases these deliverables are one-off. They are created once during a project, but quite often maintained or updated later on, think of the domain model and a reusable services model.

Smart use cases

Most of the work in delivering working software in iterations that are of type Realize or ‘Finalize” relates to the realization of smart use cases. The smart use case has become our main unit of work. They are implemented following the product life cycle. The work on each individual smart use case includes analysis, design, test design, build, test and acceptance. This work is always visualized using an agile dashboard, either using post-its on a wall, or using an (online) automated dashboard.

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