Every year, it seems that there is some new method or practice designed to augment or enhance existing product development efforts. There are also dozens of new technologies and how-to guides released to stimulate changes and advancement within the field. Innovation and change are good: at least most of the time.
Sometimes, as in the case of agile product development, the potential does match the hype. Case in point, a quick search for agile product development on LinkedIn reveals that 47,473 people on the platform are associated with the practice. In light of its efficacy, here, we present the Top 3 most important agile development practices.
1. Defining agile product development within your own context
If you are not aware of the origin of agile product development, it stemmed from the debut of “The Manifesto of Agile Software Development” back in 2010. At the time, the concepts were Earth-shattering. Face-to-face, open communication and direct interaction between and among individuals was preferred over processes and tools. Comprehensive documentation and plans were eschewed in favor of real-time refinement informed via customer collaboration.
Under the terms of agile software development, engineers didn’t code, test, identify bugs, assign bug tickets, allow time for improvement then run their scripts again in a linear, defined process. Instead, every step was being done in parallel and iteratively in an adaptive manner. Product developers and market researchers alike took note of the tremendous gains in efficiency and reductions in cost, time and risk, then went on to adopt the practices as their own.
As a result, our first agile product development practice is defining what it is and how it will be implemented at your company. Naming the members; mapping elements of your product development strategy to actionable tasks, roles and responsibilities; identifying which obstacles are blocking the path ahead and who will be assigned the role of Chief Obstacle Eliminator and incorporating lessons-learned from prior efforts all enable your product development team to be agile. Without establishing clearly defined roles, your colleagues will waste their time searching for clarity, and the project’s outcome will be the antithesis of why you pursued an agile product development approach in the first place.
2. How market research spurs agile product development
Constant improvement is something that marketers and product developers all strive for. We take great pains to ensure that we are listening to our customers so that the end-product addresses real consumer needs and desires. Moreover, we engage in co-creation efforts to maximize and optimize the parallel benefits of collecting and applying insights in the same cycle.
By adopting a flexible, customer-driven approach, companies are better prepared to address both the predictable and unpredictable hurdles that appear throughout product development.
According to the results of a recent study, agile market research makes us faster and more productive. Now we can more accurately craft use-cases through narrower definitions and expand the scope of insights-based learning beyond domain experts to create richer outcomes. Not to mention that agile market research is increasingly becoming a standard part of product development strategy as the benefits of an adaptive, evidence-based approach are now clear to everyone.
Expanding agile product development to include more external stakeholders can keep efforts better aligned with the varying expectations across the group. However, there is a point where expansion enters the territory of diminishing returns. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has a rule that if it takes more than two pizzas to feed the people attending a meeting, then there are too many people in the meeting.
3. How to incorporate agile product development into your workflow
To incorporate agile product development, a critical first step is explaining the need for these practices and highlighting their inherent advantages. Stakeholders need to understand the full purpose and context of these practices before they embrace their adoption. Establishing a team and roadmap outlining the targeted goals, milestones and strategies to be deployed allows members to become deeply invested in the practices.
Closely monitoring the output of the team ensures that practices are on track to hit the targeted goals is important. Doing so allows you to intervene as necessary, taking essential steps such as procuring additional resources as soon as they’re needed in order to keep your team motivated and agile versus bogged down with an unforeseen obstacle.
Although there are numerous important agile product development practices, the three outlined here are most critical. Without definition, integrated market research or a clear workflow, your team won’t have the agility it needs to deliver.
Here at KL Communications, we’ve found that established communities of customers enable agile product development processes through their flexibility and desire to contribute value to the companies and brands that have earned their trust. Collaboration with customers is essential, but it all begins internally by creating strong ties and productive working relationships between market researchers and product developers.