It’s all about money! Is it really? Agile value calculation in 5 simple steps

MOMO-Value-DirectionsLet me start off with wishing you all, our wonderful readers, a healthy, happy and agile 2016 on behalf of Marijke and myself! We look forward to all the adventures, lessons, ups and downs 2016 has waiting for us! We’ll gladly share many of them with you!


Making choices.. Struggles of everyday’s life. Small choices like deciding between a cheese or ham sandwich for lunch (although some – like Marijke – might argue these are in fact the most important ones…). Big ones like struggling between buying a new house or saving for that dream trip around the world. No matter big or small, we always manage to make a choice. Somehow our brain is able to ponder between the options and inspire us to choose for the “better” one. How does that work? What defines “better?” And how can we use that in our professional struggle to choose between projects, products and epics?


Remember my post on the market place? Well, here is the promised follow up post. It’s about value. One of the key enabler of a successful market place is having a common way to calculate value. And I don’t use the word calculate in a light way. It comes down to some hardcore mathematics! In my experience, the hardest part of prioritization is that we struggle to quantify the value of an epic or a user story compared to others. We get even worse when we need to take multiple aspects into account (so not only the $$$ based traditional business case). We get blind sided by all the pro’s and cons and get lost in doing everything instead of making decisions that help us deliver value. The steps described below have worked for me, I hope they will help you too!

5 steps to prioritize your backlog based on value
Picture this: There is a potential new feature for your product  and you need to decide how important is it compared to the features already there. What do you do?

  • Step 1: Identify the main drivers within your organization. These drivers are your company’s vision and purpose. Let me give you my personal example. For me, important drivers in life are personal growth (not in length, I’ve accepted being tiny 🙂 ), family life, career growth and financial stability.
  • Step 2: you might give a different weight to each of the drivers. In my example: if my family life is more important than my career (which it is :-)), personal satisfaction or financial stability. Then I would consider that for me, family life score counts for double.
  • Step 3: score the value of your backlog items against the drivers you have identified. If a new item on my life backlog would be a journey around the world then an eventual value scoring can be:
    • Personal satisfaction: 9 (in a scale of 1-10) * 1 =9 [Yep. This is my childhood dream]
    • Family life: 0 (in a scale of 1-10) *2 = 0 [it doesn’t help my marriage when I’m away for a year
    • Career growth: 0 (in a scale of 1-10)*1= 0 [My boss might not be too amused if I’m gone for a year]
    • Financial stability: 0 (in a scale of 1-10)*1=0 [Unless I’m involved in some dodgy stuff, I will come back far poorer after my journey]. Based on this scoring, my hypothetical journey around the world scores a total value  of 9.
  • Step 4: challenge your scores with stakeholders to get a consensus and buy in to your priority decision. In my example, my most important stakeholders would be my husband, my son and my boss. What if my boss considers this journey as very valuable for my personal development and encourages me to go. This would bring the score for career growth from 0 to 5. And my husband is willing to bring Adam and join me in part of my journey, a few months. This would bring the score for family life from 0 to 4. So our revised value total is 9+ (4*2)+5+0 = 23.
  • Step 5: use this value calculation principle for ALL items on your backlog. Then you can use the outcome to make your priority decisions. Back to my example. Imagine that another item on my personal backlog would be having a second child [just for the sake of the example :P]. If I would score the value for this item. it could be:
    • Personal satisfaction = 8 [makes me happy 🙂 ]
    • Family life = 9 [our little boy needs a brother or sister]
    • Career growth = 0 [I still remember what all those sleepless nights, combined with a crazy load of hormones did to my brain… :-p ]
    • Financial benefit = 0 [babies are very expensive, believe me!]. That gives this second item a value of 26. Based on that I should forget the journey around world and start working on my second backlog item 🙂 simple isn’t

Well, of course it doesn’t make every choice an easy one 🙂 . But it helps! Most important thing to remember here is that it isn’t all about the money. Value comes in many forms. Find out what drives you and your organization and choose accordingly.

That’s it folks! My best wishes for 2016.

Cheers, Saloua

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2 thoughts on “It’s all about money! Is it really? Agile value calculation in 5 simple steps

  1. Calculations again! I know you like to do that! Better forget about numbers!

    Why not put your backlog under your pillow,. take a good night sleep and in the morning you know the prio!


    1. My dear old man,
      Sometimes numbers can help. It can help to make a choice when an organization is struggling to make choices and when they think everything is as important or when they narrow their view into the pure business case which sometime leads to wrong choice if you compare it to the vision of the company.
      Im currently experiencing with this and all decisions made based on it were in line with my feeling as well. The day the value will show a choice that is against by gut feeling i will not take it that easy because i do agree with you that our intuition is as well very powerful
      Have a nice Sunday old man and see you soon

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