Archive for June, 2019

Controlling Costs in an Agile World

26.06.2019 Comments off

Originally posted on DLabs Medium site by Matt in 2018.  At the time of this posting, there is still not unified thinking in this area.

aka. What every technical and non-technical founder needs to know about running an agile technical team.

Agile Development teams focus on continuous value (to the business) delivery not continuous progress to a fixed feature set. As a result, traditional cost accounting, cost control, and budgeting will not work. This shift to agile changes everything around how founders must do budgeting, cost control, communicating with investors and evaluating progress.


Understand your unit economics. The team should have a measured velocity (how much progress it can make per sprint) and a basic team structure with a burn rate. Double the burn rate should approximately double the velocity and double the other business benefits the development team delivers (eg. quality of code, usability, feature scope growth, performance, reliability…)

Just in Time Estimations. As the sprint starts, the scope is refined and effort estimation is perfected through a full bottom-up (granular), collaborative techniques (we love estimation poker). Prior to that, larger (Epic) scope stories are estimated in a faster top-down method in larger blocks with less precise descriptions.

  • Work planning (and commitments) need the highest precision and just before work start is when there are usually the fewest unknowns. Detailed estimates only when work is about to start.
  • Overall work prioritization and cash flow planning decisions need less precision and these decisions must be made when there are more unknowns. After a point, more effort spent on estimating does not usually improve the quality of those decisions thus features not in immediate development have only high-level budgetary effort estimates.

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4 Phases of Product Development Re-imagined

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Originally posted on DLabs Medium site  by Matt in 2018, but the concepts are easily generalized.

At D.Labs we’ve looked at agile product development from many angles and written about them on this blog (X Driven Development, When is agile worse?, Controlling costs in the agile world, What marketing agencies can’t offer startups?,…). This is another angle that could get you faster through validation and save you a lot of gray hair.

Most company founders have an intuition about what the market needs and what is wrong with existing solutions. They then start solving a puzzle in their head around what kind of digital product could solve this problem: features, specifications, perhaps even user layouts. At DLabs, we call this “Intuition Based Development”. It tends to be the least efficient and most expensive way to build business value. Not only is the intuition perhaps wrong, but the only ‘good enough’ point is securely in the head of the designer so everything gets built to a relatively high level (Although it never feels that way to the founder in-the-moment).

The high cost of using intelligence and experience instead of being systematic & incremental.

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