Lean project methodologies such as Agile development Scrum and Kanban are all the buzz right now. So what does a just-in-time approach mean for your business?
Companies want to save money while still best serving customers, but they often forget the easiest way to illicit customer feedback: just ask the customer. The Agile/Lean world focuses on higher interaction with customers and the ability to easily change course based on customer feedback. The processes are truly empirical, which gives a team the opportunity to quickly adapt as it studies and observes, rather than basing a project on assumptions and theory.
Why go Agile? Here are the six top benefits I’ve experienced after implementing Scrum and Agile methodologies for some of our customers:
1. Smaller, Faster Failures
Have you heard the saying, “Fail forward fast"? I know every project begins with successful intentions, but the reality is that it doesn’t always work out that way. Perhaps it’s not even the project, but an idea or feature that you’re working on implementing and it’s just not adding the value you thought it would.
“Fail forward fast” infers that this failure happens quickly and you can learn from it and move on. In Agile frameworks there are not gigantic up-front analysis efforts; you learn as you go and change as you need to. Companies no longer need to spend $20 million and wait 18 months for a new application to launch. Agile can produce the application incrementally and businesses can experience return almost immediately. The application starts producing Return on Investment (ROI) quickly and with a small investment.
2. Faster Time to Market
Agile frameworks emphasize the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the Minimal Marketable Product (MMP). These are two Lean concepts that allow for a small, safe investment that can be delivered quickly.
An MVP tests an idea and provides a learning mechanism. You essentially release a very early version of software to see how the market responds to it. It’s often missing or contains ‘placebo’ functionality, but the full intent is to determine if the concept is worth pursuing. It is a vehicle for testing your assumptions.
An MMP is a fully functioning piece of software. It contains the bare minimum feature set that a user needs. It gives a business the ability to get to market faster and be empirical about adding future features. Rather than spending months waiting to ship a product with all the bells and whistles that we think a user wants, we deliver what we know they want right now.
Remember: In general, the Agile framework emphasizes working in short iterations (one to four weeks, with the most common being two weeks). Each iteration ends in a potentially shippable product increment, which affords a business the ability to incrementally release.
3. Stakeholder Satisfaction
Stakeholders are users, customers, or anyone that has a vested interest in the software. In Agile approaches, stakeholders are heavily engaged in the process and their feedback is constantly solicited. To ensure that we’re adding value every step of the way, we ask the stakeholders their opinions during iterations.
Stakeholders feel engaged and part of the process. They know that we’re working for them and are concerned with their needs. The bonus of this is that we’re building the right thing and can test our assumptions in ‘real time’.
4. Greater Employee Satisfaction
During the Agile development process, employees are heavily engaged in the process and decision making. They have buy-in and get to directly work with stakeholders who can answer vital questions. An emphasis is put on conversation rather than exhaustive documentation.
The team atmosphere with Agile methodologies is brilliant. Teams commit to complete work as a unit, which lowers workplace vulnerability and heightens team member knowledge. They collectively work towards a common goal and succeed or fail as a unit. It’s a fun environment that leads to lower attrition rates.
Lastly, the iterations provide them with a channel of work that is not constantly interrupted with the latest fire. They can focus entirely on a feature and the task at hand without having to worry about being diverted by management’s latest idea. Micromanagement cannot exist.
5. Organizational Transparency
Agile is a total, holistic process that creates organizational transparency and camaraderie. People are honest and work towards a common goal and achieve what they have set out to achieve. The political landscape is lowered. The open office environments that are encouraged flatten the organizational hierarchy and create a greater sense of community.
6. Save Money
By lowering risk, embracing change, having faster time to market, and involving stakeholders—businesses save money by building the right product rather than basing development on assumptions. The team is highly productive and they feel completely engaged in the process. The costs are lower because the emphasis is on building precisely what is needed, not designing bells and whistles that will never be used.
So the question isn’t, "Why go Agile?"....the question is, "Why not?"