Six Levers for better Agile Product Development

2018 02 02 head

Every company is a software company.

Software is a key to success. This is the new reality in the digital world.

How can you create better digital products and services?

How can you delight your customers, your collaborators, and your stakeholders?

How can you increase the odds of success for your digital products?

We identified six levers to multiply the effectivity of your agile development teams and empower them to create great services and products.

Please add these tools to your toolbox and create great products.

Design Thinking and Customer Experience

You solve customer problems through intuitive services and products. Customer expectations should fit with their experience with your products. That is why they should be involved in the whole definition and realization process. In the beginning, to understand the need and to test first ideas. During the implementation, they are directly asked for feedback, which then flows into further development steps.

Go out with your incomplete product as soon as possible. Each iteration should deliver an upgraded version of the product. The pressure to deliver is huge. A design thinking iteration has a duration of at most one week.

Lean Startup and Lean UX

Minimum viable products MVP are first developed as minimally functional products. Within 60 days, a physical prototype will be created that customers can test during this time. The software component shall be delivered after the first or second iteration, which means in less than one month.

New technologies such as 3D printing, affordable hardware and IoT boards, continuous delivery, and simulation enable your teams to deliver on time. These are not pure mockups but executable applications. If it appeals to the customer, the MVP will evolve gradually to a minimum marketable product MMP. The focus is always on adding customer value.

Beyond Budgeting Approaches

There is no long-term budget plan for products and projects. After each cycle of customer feedback, the goals and budget are evaluated again. The value streams have agile teams that work like small companies.

Each team has a Product Owner - PO - who has overall responsibility for their respective product. Realizations are further funded, modified or canceled on the basis of initial results, meaning after customer and technical tests.

The product financing is following a start-up approach and not based on the yearly budget as usual in larger companies.

Co-location and Team ownership

Work is done across departments, in cross-functional teams. All those who can contribute to the success of the product, e.g. company organization, IT, market management, or sales, sit in one room. They form the agile team. Co-location ensures lean coordination processes as well as speed and quality.

Co-location also means: You are moving. The teams move into a room and work focused together on their product. There are no phones, no other projects, and no outside distractions. They use collaboration tools such as chats, wikis, and Scrum boards. Scrum teams are wholly focused on their product.

People check three times a day their emails; otherwise the email client is closed and inactive. All phones have voicemail.

Agile Methods and Craftsmanship

Employee training is essential. In the value streams, we provide staff with experienced coaches to build knowledge in agile methods and software craftsmanship.

Work is done according to proven agile methods. Software development relies on modern and agile techniques such as pair programming, refactoring, test-driven development, continuous integration, and Scrum. For bigger product development we use LeSS approach.

Read this One Way to Improve Your Scrum Approach for a description of modern agile development procedures.

Elastic Infrastructure

We shall use the state of industry technology. This enables test-driven development suc as ATDD or TDD, meaning predefined automated software tests that run in real-time.

Cloud infrastructure provides unlimited processing capabilities for development, test, and deployment of software artifacts.

Developers have fast notebooks, fast SSD, plenty of RAM, and 4K external screens. In addition, the technical infrastructure enables software to be scaled and adjustments made immediately using CI, CD, and DevOps. The goal is to deliver a software release in production every few hours if needed.

Learnt Lessons

  1. The power of co-location is tremendous. The work atmosphere is focused, friendly and productive. Team members are continuously working on the solution without spurious task switches in their team room.

  2. Establish stable and long living teams.

  3. Realize the importance of training and coaching. Establish a continuous learning culture. Pursue technical excellence.

  4. Embed your teams and processes in the organization.

  5. Change processes for beyond budgeting approaches and lean enterprise. The organization has to stop requiring exact budgets and detailed yearly planning.

  6. Reflect on the impact on the whole organization. See also my blog discussing what agile companies are.