Agile and Product Approach: How to Streamline your Company's Success
There is something incredibly fulfilling about working in a truly Agile workplace. These companies are consistently performing at a high level and generating value at a rapid pace, particularly in two core areas. They are able to quickly design and build solutions (time-to-market) but also to quickly define the right solution that will generate revenue (which could be referred to as ‘time to Product/Market Fit’).
Are you one of these companies? Are you really Agile, or do you apply a waterfall process disguised as an Agile process? I suggest you step back and analyze your company from a high-level perspective. From here, we can look at it with a product perspective.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating yourself. A truly Agile enterprise will satisfy these four elements:
- The vision replaces the roadmap
- Decisions are data-driven and based on facts
- Teams are involved in the product process
- Every team adopts Agile practices and supports the product vision
The rest of this article provides examples to illustrate each of these four points.
1. The vision replaces the roadmap
- No roadmap is produced. Instead, the initiatives to be carried out within the company are well prioritized and the company focuses only on the highest priority, moving on to the next one only when the first one is completed. The project is managed through a Kanban tool.
- No long-term roadmap is produced. The global company operates in small cycles (e.g. six weeks) and decides after each what it will do next. Nothing is planned beyond these six weeks.
- A roadmap states the impact on the business (e.g. increase in the number of users) without a precise forecast date. It provides the vision but does not detail the steps leading to the achievement of that vision.
- A roadmap is required. It lists all the work to be done for the coming year and notes every expected functionality and a specific date of completion.
2. Decisions are data-driven and based on facts
- The company knows the difference between assumptions and facts, actively seeking to validate or invalidate its assumptions in order to make fact-based decisions. Thus, it applies the Lean Startup approach which I explained in a previous article.
- The basic working element is not functionality but experiment. The main focus of the company's effort is not on building a solution but on finding the right solution. The company measures the success of product development through A/B tests.
- "Completed" means that the impact on the product has been measured and analyzed, leading to drawn conclusions.
- Decisions are based on convictions or suggestions, reproducing pre-established patterns, or by following the competition.
- There is no monitoring of user behavior.
- There is no A/B testing practice.
3. Teams are involved in the product process
- Design (designer, UX) as well as data analysis positions (data scientist, business analyst) are integrated into the teams.
- The teams do not just define the solutions to be implemented, but challenge the problems to be solved based on business and user data.
- Product developments are decided by directors or managers.
- A dedicated product, product management, or user experience unit is in charge of defining future solutions. Teams are either left out or consulted for their technical expertise only. In particular, developers are never invited to attend user test sessions.
- When a developer or any other team member questions a product decision, their opinion is ignored. Sometimes, they are even frowned upon as a result of this questioning.
- Teams, and especially developers, do not have direct access to users.
4. Every team adopts Agile practices and supports the product vision
- Budget management allows opportunities to be seized by adopting an iterative and much shorter-term approach.
- New equipment or services are easily available. For example, the purchase of new mobile devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets) can be made without delay. The legal department is more of a support than a bottleneck, facilitating the subscription to new services through their expertise.
- Marketing, sales, and customer support departments bring continuity to the development of new software versions.
- The team's performance measurement corresponds to the measurement of the performance of the product as a whole, and therefore of the company.
- Other departments (e.g. marketing, sales, support, accounting, etc.) demonstrate a real spirit of service, looking to facilitate and support, helping teams to achieve the company's objectives.
- Only R&D or ISD has adopted Agile. The other departments (e.g. marketing, sales, support, accounting, purchasing, legal, etc.) continue to operate as before.
- Budgets are negotiated from one year to the next.
- The most important thing is to follow procedure. For example, purchases go through lengthy procedures in which the legal department has full veto power.
- "Finished" means that a new version of the software has been delivered. There is no question as to the impact on the user or the company.
- "Efficient" means that new versions of the software are delivered quickly. There is no question as to the profitability of the product.
Where does your company stand when it comes to Agile?
The basis of a successful Agile approach could be summarized into a single sentence:
“Empiricism and focusing on the business come first”
These elements are the foundations of real agility, because:
- The truth is in real-world situations with the end users, but also in the hands of the teams that build the solution. This can only be discovered through experimentation...
- All company efforts must be aligned with the product vision. And this product vision should be the first thing to keep in mind when measuring success
What is the risk of not becoming Agile? The answer is simple. If you build the wrong product too late, the competition will conquer the market faster than you.
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