Written by Matthew Adendorf (topic: product development)
Product Development – Moving Beyond ‘Agile’
Agile product development has in recent times positioned itself as the number one and best way for innovation teams to successfully ship product to market. Let me be clear, I think that Agile is great as it focusses on frequent releases which are necessary in today’s fast-paced environment. The days of shipping code every six months in a waterfall approach and expecting to learn anything is rapidly becoming obsolete.
However, the risk with agile is that teams may be doing a good job of building the wrong stuff. Working with corporates my experience was that new features were often considered ‘DONE’ once the code was complete. The correct measure should be whether or not it has solved a specific customer problem.
Build, measure, learn
This is why we encourage our clients to combine User-Centered Design and Lean Startup principals. It eliminates the risk of building the wrong things. Following Eric Ries’s philosophy of ‘Build, Measure, Learn’ is how you get there.
Integrating design, experimentation and user research into your Agile methods will help you understand what is likely to work and what customers don’t require. We encourage our clients to fall in love with the problem and not the solution.
Redefine the word ‘done’!
Did the latest release achieve the objective you set out to achieve?
Has the user’s behaviour changed the way you wanted it to?
Early in the development of a new product, organisations must capture all hypotheses and notes about the predicted future. After each customer test or experiment it’s critical to conduct a post-mortem analysis:
What made us think that this would work?
What was the thinking around a particular feature?
What business goal did we intend to accomplish?
How did it measure up against our metrics of success?
Fail, to succeed
I encourage you to not see fast failure as wastage. You are not wasting if your process facilitates refinement and learning. On the contrary, fast failure, refinement and learning often lead to significant financial and time savings. If you are responsible for driving innovation, I encourage you to convert your executives into evangelists by continuously questioning them on the business goals and key strategic drivers. Walk them through the ‘Build, Measure, Learn’ processes and teach them to be hypothesis and benefit-driven, not feature driven.
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