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Abstract

While an acute, continuous focus on customer needs is often cited as a key benefit of agile approaches, very little research has examined the customer focus construct in an agile project environment, or looked at the implications or recommendations for project managers. We draw on contemporary theories on customer focus to develop a framework for understanding customer focus in an agile project management context. This framework is applied to cases in Ireland and Norway and the results suggest that while agile approaches appear to increase customer focus, this is by no means guaranteed. In fact there may be significant challenges and problems for project managers to overcome. For example, new communication issues with customer proxies may impair understanding of customer needs and requirements. The project manager needs to consider the identity, location, perceived personality of the customer, and the team’s prior experience with the customer, all of which this research shows can affect the customer focus of the agile team. From this research, a new, empirically validated agile development customer focus framework is presented, providing project managers with a set of factors to be considered in becoming a truly customer focused agile IT project team.

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