8 Jun 2017

Agile with a Brain: What the Heck Does That Mean?

by Ciklum

The Agile Manifesto was created in 2001 by 17 independent-minded software practitioners. Agile Manifesto encourages software engineers to deploy the right software on the most efficient timeline. Its principles advocate evolutionary development, adaptive planning, early delivery, and continuous improvement. While the creators didn’t agree about much, they obtained consensus around four main values:

 

Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Authors: Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Steve Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, Dave Thomas.

 

These days, many software teams employ Agile principles, but there is one concern that continues to plague us: are products we’re creating reaching maximum customer value? 

 

Our products end up looking like this guitar. In fact you can imagine this to be the Microsoft Word version of a guitar. 95% of the “features” on this guitar are useless to 95% of the population. How do we know what we’re shipping actually adds value? Credit: Jeff Gothelf

 

This is the question developers consider when conceiving of the idea of “Agile with a Brain.” The way many of us deploy Agile is brainless. We add feature after feature, but those features don’t add value. We finish projects quickly but we haven’t acquired sufficient feedback from the customer. Agile processes need to be reconsidered. Like in the Wizard of Oz, we need to give Agile a brain.

But what is an Agile brain? What can software development teams do to make Agile smarter?

 

Interview your customer regularly

Your goal isn’t to add all the bells and whistles; rather, you only want to add the features that will add value for the customer. That means that after the initial discussion with your customer about features, you shouldn’t stop having conversations. Instead, communicate with your customer at all stages of the project, repeatedly checking in with them to describe your process, ask questions, and receive feedback.

 

Combine Agile practices with Design Thinking

Design Thinking focuses on finding creative solutions to people’s needs, while Agile offers methods and practices that encourage collaboration. Both methodologies encourage people over process, so combining the principles of Agile with Design Thinking can help ensure that you’re doing what you set out to do: solve your client’s problem.

 

Rely more seriously on feedback loops

Implementing feedback loops throughout product development can help teams stay more focused on the client’s needs. To ensure team members are complying with client’s needs – rather than adding unnecessary features – evaluate and reevaluate each team member regularly. These feedback loops ensure your team is on track to meet the customer’s goal by critiquing each team member’s process compliance, performance, and teamwork.

 

Create a mechanism that determines if the features you’re including are the right ones

One of the biggest issues with Agile is that it does not have a mechanism that encourages teams to consider if the features they’re building are the best they can be. That’s why it’s so important to develop a mechanism of your own that encourages your team to consider if the features they are including are the right ones and if they are going to be implemented in the most effective way.

 
If there’s something missing from your Agile practices, your processes may not be sufficiently consumer-focused. Ciklum’s Project Management Consulting can offer you ways to improve customer value through our predictable product development modeling and structured action plans. Contact us today to see how we can transform your Agile development.

 

Want to know more about Agile? Read also:

Agile And Deadlines: How Does It Work?

Lean or Agile – How to choose?

Merging Agile and Old-School Methodologies