Monday, April 16, 2007

Agile Publishing -- Working product is the principal measure of progress

Working software is the principal measure of progress -- Principle Number 3 of the Agile Software Development approach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development). Let's change this to "working product is the principal measure of progress" and explore what this might mean for an Agile Publisher.

Norbert Winklareth, one of the smartest people I know, asserts that the measure of value for which customers pay for is not any traditional metric of development but features:

  1. Value => Functionality That Works
  2. Functionality => Set of Features
  3. Therefore: "Features are the true measure of development"
It would seem that the same principle can apply to a publishing project -- a publication has, among other things, a set of features. In software, features are specific characteristics, such as a search function or an RSS feed. In publishing, features could be harder to describe. In essence, these are the characteristics of a product for which customers pay. As a practical matter, features could be publication components (or assets) for example, written text, artwork, multi-media software functions, summaries or abstracts, and so on. Each of these can be considered as a feature of the published product.

Deciding on the priority of the features of our product is important here. By developing the most important features first, we can plan the creation of our product in stages (or iterations) in which we get our most desirable or most important features built first. The result is that we have a working, functional product at the end of each iteration that could be considered a final product if need be. It certainly permits us to respond to budgetary or other outside business pressures and still end up with a publishing product.

It also provides us with a true metric for progress. As features are developed, we can measure that easily against our plan for the product. We then know how well our project is fairing.