What Dual Track Agile is, and how it's done successfully and when's best to use it

Written by Rob Costello

How to use the Dual Track Agile Delivery Method in Project Management

Agile is a term we hear more and more in the enterprise space as organisations look to transform the way they operate to achieve better efficiencies and outcomes using digital. I’ve seen varying degrees of success with these transformations, but it’s rare that I’d call them truly successful. With the merge of Agile Delivery and Agile Workplace this has also caused some confusion about what Agile Delivery is. Add to this Dual Track Agile and people may wonder what the best option really is. In this article I talk with you about Dual Track Agile, why we take this approach, and the obvious benefits for both the client, and the delivery team.

What is Dual Track Agile?

Let’s start by defining what Dual Track Agile is: it’s an agile software development and organisational model that separates the effort to discover the best solution from the effort to deliver working software. It consists of two tracks of activity: discovery and delivery. This sees a bringing together of Lean UX and Agile Scrum delivery.

What’s the main goal of the discovery track, and the delivery track?

The objective of the discovery track is to validate ideas quickly and efficiently, while the objective of the delivery track is to build, test and deploy production-ready code. By leveraging Dual Track Agile, teams are more focused, reduce their rework and significantly improve their ability to plan while still retaining their agility.

In Dual Track Agile, ideas are prototyped & tested in the discovery track and the findings are fed into the delivery track. The discovery to delivery process continuously repeats throughout the product's life.

As you refine your backlog, stories that are deemed not feasible for delivery or not validated as desirable by the customer or business, are added to the Discovery backlog and prioritised accordingly. The discovery team works to research, prototype, and validate these ‘immature’ ideas with users and developers. Once the ideas have been vetted and matured, they are then moved to the Delivery team's backlog.

Diagram of Dual Track Agile Project Delivery in Agile Methodology

Diagram of Dual Track Agile Project Delivery in Agile Methodology

Why do we use Dual Track Agile?

Often discovery is performed as a detached process from Agile and treated as a time-boxed activity that happens before the ‘real’ development takes place. This usually includes the gathering of ideas and requirements from stakeholders, securing funding for the project, and planning the delivery. This approach promotes a very project centric way of looking at things and assumes that our assumptions about the outcome are true. This inevitably leads to a hybrid of Waterfall and Agile and does not allow for true discovery to take place.

By using Dual Track Agile, discovery is a track in its own right. This enables the team to truly hypothesise about a proposed feature. They should always look to answer the following:

• Will people use it? (Value)

• Can people use it? (Usability)

• Can we build it? (Effort)

• Can we get buy in? (Support of Stakeholders)

In taking this approach, validated ideas for features are prototyped and tested by users in order to provide the right thing to the delivery track for the new feature.

Show me the benefits!

After having worked with Dual Track Agile over the last 12 months and seeing the enormous benefits, I’d recommend it over other delivery methods in the future and this is why:

• You only deliver features that you know are valuable and meet a real objective providing a significant user or business impact.

• You don’t spend time building things that are not valuable.

• You can kill ideas quickly as discovery experiments kill or thrill an idea without the need for endless meetings.

• The delivery team are engaged in the discussions. They understand the value of the feature the are going to build and this reduces misunderstanding and mistakes.

Your team will always be learning. Instead of just being a delivery team, they’ll get better at building features whilst providing great ideas throughout the overall process.

I hope you got the gist of what Dual Track Agile is, and how it can be used successfully. If you’re still a bit hazy on the details and would like to chat more – feel free to email me at rob@pixelfusion.co.nz or watch this video where I explain it in even simpler terms, in relation to Vertical Slicing: