Even if you’re not in the world of software, it’s highly unlikely that you have not heard of the agile product methodology. It has made a massive impact on how development and product teams work together all over the world, with benefits to both business and their customers.
If you’re thinking about introducing agile in your workplace and you’re wondering how to get started, we have just what the doctor ordered. Today, we’re going to show you what agile is, what its benefits are, and how to start using it in your workplace.
What is agile product development?
Agile product development is a methodology for delivering software in short sprint cycles, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation to feedback. In agile, teams move fast and easily adjust to changing requirements, while collaborating with customers and each other.
Agile first became known to the world in 2001 with The Agile Manifesto, when seventeen people sat down together to find a new way to develop software. The general idea was to create something that would be better than the traditional development methods overloaded with complex processes and heavy documentation.
At the basis of the manifesto are the 12 agile principles. You can find them on this page, but here is a quick snapshot:
As you can see, the foundations of agile are rather simple: deliver great products early and continuously, be open to changes in requirements, collaborate with other team members and look at your work introspectively to become even better and more agile.
Agile vs. waterfall product development
The traditional product development framework is also known as waterfall. The main difference between the two is that in waterfall development, projects are split up into linear phases. One phase has to be finished before another one starts, causing teams to be more rigid.
Here are some other key differences:
Waterfall only allows for testing at the very end. Imagine working on a feature for 5 months and testing at the end of that process only to find out that something is broken in the code. With agile, you test continuously and spot errors early and you can do rapid prototyping.
Waterfall does not allow for frequent deliveries. Taking the example from above, it would take your team 5 months to deliver one complete feature. In agile, you release finished pieces of it on a biweekly or monthly basis.
Waterfall is rigid. In those 5 months, there is no space for customers to test out a feature and provide feedback as there is no finished product to ship and send out for testing. On the other hand, agile allows teams to ask customers for feedback constantly and get immediate feedback that can be applied rapidly.
As you can see, these are some very valid reasons for implementing agile in your own team.
The benefits of using an agile methodology for product development
With more than two decades of being used in the workplace, certain benefits of the agile system have come to shine through. Here are the most important ones.
Increased adaptability. With shorter sprints, development and product teams can gather feedback from customers and quickly make changes to the product instead of waiting for months to implement feedback.
Better team alignment. One of the basics of agile is communication - between the developers and product experts, as well as between the team and the customers.
Better quality of the finished product. Truly agile teams constantly question their processes and best practices and they aim to improve them for the end user. This leads to our next point.
Happier customers. As customers can quickly see product changes and feedback being implemented in real-time, your customer satisfaction metrics are bound to be higher.
Lower risks. As developers are reviewing the product more frequently, they can spot bugs, errors, and security issues more quickly and easily.
Best practices for agile development
Just implementing agile would be like deciding to get fit one day and then turning your entire life upside down the following day. To get fit, you need to introduce gradual changes in your lifestyle, and the same applies to agile. Take it one step at a time and follow tips from the experts in this field.
Here are some of the best practices if you want your business to become an agile one.
Don’t be afraid to outsource a few things here and there. Shipping code quickly can be a challenge, especially if you have a small team and budget. Outsourcing something specialized such as an embedded analytics dashboard can actually save you time and money in the long run.
Don’t go fully agile at once. Implement a few basic concepts such as sprints, roadmaps, and tightly-knit teams first. There is no need to apply the entire agile manifesto at once because you might get discouraged at the mountain of work ahead of you.
Prepare for (some) backlash. Moving from a traditional software development methodology to agile might not be so welcomed by your team. Prepare to answer some questions and explain the value of being agile to your team.
Get a strong foundation in your team. The people who pioneer agile in your business should be experienced scrum masters. If you don’t have any, invest in training your leaders first.
Encourage your teams to organize themselves. If developers have to wait for the team lead to provide directions, they’re not exactly agile. Encourage them to organize workload between themselves to move more quickly and iterate changes rapidly.
Have regular planning and sprint review meetings. In planning meetings, create backlogs for your future sprints, complete with tasks, deadlines, and descriptions. In sprint review sessions, take a look at the sprint(s) behind you and see what worked well and what didn’t so you can make improvements in the future.
Work together with your customers and communicate with them regularly. It’s practical to have a dedicated customer support team that can get in touch with customers at all times. Ask customers for feedback and notify them when their feedback is applied to create an effective feedback loop.
Communicating is best done in person. One of the basic principles of agile is in-person communication as it is more efficient than endless Slack threads or emailing back and forth (plus constant reminder emails). However, take this advice with a grain of salt if you’re working remotely and do the best you can with video meetings.
Set a pace you can follow. Launching a new feature in a two-week sprint is hardly manageable for even the best teams. When creating sprint plans, make sure they’re realistic and sustainable for your team.
In general, it’s best to take things slowly in the very beginning and have pioneers in your team who lead the transition from a traditional to an agile methodology.
Agile sounds like a great promise and it indeed is for many software developer teams. However, it’s important to take things one step at a time if you want to develop products at a quick pace and provide value to your customers.
And if you’re in a rush to deliver amazing products quickly, we can help. With Cumul.io, you can add an analytics dashboard to your product in days, rather than weeks or months that it would take you to develop your own. While we can’t make you more agile, we can certainly help you get there more quickly. Sign up for your free trial today!
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