One of the most effective approaches I’ve found for chunking up a project for incremental value is using a Scenario and Feature Matrix.
A Scenario and Feature Matrix organizes scenarios and features into a simple view. The scenarios are your rows. The features are your columns. You list your scenarios in order of “MUST”, “SHOULD”, and “COULD” (or Pri 1, 2, and 3) .. through vNext. You list your features by cross-cutting and vertical. By cross-cutting, I mean that feature applies to multiple scenarios. By vertical, I mean that feature applies to just one scenario. It helps to think of scenarios in this case as goals customers achieve. It helps to think of the features as chunks of value that support the scenario. The features are a bridge between the customer’s scenario and the developer’s work. You can make this frame on a whiteboard before baking into slides or docs.
You now have a simple frame where you can see your baseline release, your “cuttable” scenarios, and your dependencies. You can quickly analyze some basic questions:
- Do you have a good baseline set of scenarios?
- Do you have an incremental story?
- Do you have cuttable scenarios?
- Can you cut a feature without cutting value for this release?
Because it’s visual, it’s an easy tool to get the team on board and communicate in terms of value, before getting mired in detail. When you get mired in detail, as you figure out features and dependencies, you can ground yourself back in the scenarios.
From what I’ve seen over time, most projects can’t cut scope without messing up quality, because they weren’t designed to. Cutting the leg off your table doesn’t help save time or quality, it just makes a bad table. If you didn’t have enough time or resources to make four legs should you have started? Should you build the four legs first and get the table standing, before you add that extra widget?
A Scenario and Feature Matrix makes analyzing and communicating these problems simpler because you create a visual strawman. Anytime, you can quickly bring more eyes to the table, it helps. I also like to think of this as “Axiomatic” Project Management at heart because I used simplified axiomatic design principles for the approach. If you’re starting a new project, challenge yourself by asking if you can incrementally deliver value and if you can cut chunks of work without ruining your deliverable (or your team), and see if a Scenario and Feature Matrix doesn’t help.