Agile Engineering in Action: What It Is and Why It’s Time to Make the Switch

Today’s world moves at an extraordinary pace. And at a time when the rate of innovation is unprecedented, your business simply can’t take months to get to market with new products or features. If you do, you risk irrelevance, as your customers’ needs and expectations are likely to change and a competitor could beat you to the punch.

So what can you do to speed your time to market? It’s time to try Agile Engineering on for size.

What is Agile Engineering?

Agile Engineering solves the problem of speed to market by making it possible to succeed -- and fail -- faster.

Specifically, Agile Engineering is a development methodology that focuses on delivering value as quickly as possible by following rapid development cycles. With Agile Engineering, everyone involved in a feature release -- from business stakeholders to developers and everyone in between -- collaborates closely on requirements, build, testing and even user feedback throughout short sprints. The requirements that guide these sprints are narrow, focusing on very specific user needs.

At its core, Agile Engineering is all about collaboration, flexibility and adaptability. Because sprints are short and requirements are tied to very specific objectives, Agile Engineering allows teams to adapt quickly to changing expectations and continuously improve on what they deliver.

Perhaps most importantly, by enabling teams to gather user feedback often and deliver in smaller chunks rather than one big bang, Agile Engineering reduces risk. For instance, it reduces the risk of working months on a project only to find it doesn’t meet user expectations or is riddled with issues. While those outcomes may still happen, with Agile Engineering the team finds out far earlier. So instead of uncovering issues after months of work, Agile Engineering surfaces issues after days or weeks, which significantly minimizes the fallout.

6 Benefits of Agile Engineering

The rapid development cycles, collaboration and flexibility of Agile Engineering offer several benefits, including:

1) Smarter Planning

It’s hard to predict what your customers will want months from now. Typically, however, that’s exactly what you have to do, as engineering and development take months under current methodologies. Agile Engineering changes that by allowing you to bring new releases to market faster, thereby eliminating the need to predict demand months in advance. And when planning for more immediate releases, you can plan smarter based on current requirements.

Agile Engineering’s tight focus on user value also improves planning by helping avoid wasted time and effort, since having such focused requirements ensures that every feature provides value.

2) Faster Time to Market

With its rapid development cycles guided by focused requirements, Agile Engineering makes it possible to get to market significantly faster. This increased speed can help ensure you deliver new features of value to your customers as quickly as possible in order to boost revenue for you and your customers alike.

3) Flexibility to Change Course

Because Agile Engineering breaks up work into small, rapid cycles rather than requiring a big bang approach, it provides flexibility to change course based on evolving market, competitor and customer dynamics in order to maintain alignment with customer value.

4) Opportunity for Continuous Improvement

Agile Engineering also encourages continuous improvement, as the short sprints and flexibility make it possible to deliver features and then continue to iterate on them without holding back the release. Additionally, there’s room for improvement within sprints because Agile Engineering emphasizes user feedback throughout, making it possible to identify and remedy issues early on.

5) Increased Value for Customers and Stakeholders

The improved planning and collaboration of Agile Engineering along with the fact that it calls for regular testing and feedback allow development teams to gain a better understanding of customer and stakeholder needs. In turn, this understanding can help ensure that everything that gets delivered adds the expected value for customers and stakeholders.

6) Reduced Costs and Risk

Agile Engineering’s shorter and more focused development cycles help lower costs and reduce risk because they eliminate wasted time and effort. Additionally, the faster testing and user feedback reduce the risks of not aligning to customer value, bringing a defective product to market and spending months on a project only to find it full of defects at the very end.

How Agile Engineering Changes the Game

How exactly does Agile Engineering work? What makes it so different? Let’s take a look.

Without Agile Engineering, your development process might look something like this: All stakeholders and developers have quarterly planning sessions in which they discuss what will get built over the next several months based on predicted market requirements. From there, each team tweaks the requirements and development plans, which are ultimately used to build a sample with several features. That sample goes to each team for feedback before a final product gets built and manufactured en masse. Months after the initial planning, the product is ready for release.

With Agile Engineering, that scenario looks something like this: A team recognizes an emerging market need and presents it to relevant stakeholders and developers. The group agrees on the most pressing feature to fulfill that need and an initial sample gets developed. That sample gets passed to each team as well as user groups for testing and feedback. Developers iterate the product based on the feedback, and the process gets repeated. Once the kinks are ironed out, the product gets manufactured (often in smaller volumes). Weeks after the initial proposal, the product is ready for release.

What was different between the two scenarios? Three things stand out:

  1. The project timeline and scope, as the timeline gets condensed from months to weeks and the scope is narrower with Agile Engineering.
  2. The feedback process, as Agile Engineering injects internal and external testing and feedback throughout to provide a better understanding of performance and value fit.
  3. The result, as Agile Engineering doesn’t require the product to be manufactured en masse. That’s partly because the condensed timeline makes it easier to accurately predict demand and partly because the narrow scope makes it possible to manufacture more quickly (not to mention the fact that with Agile Engineering teams are likely to make improvements to future releases).

The bottom line? The increased collaboration, flexibility and adaptability of Agile Engineering combined with its rapid development cycles, narrowly focused requirements and emphasis on user testing help bring new products to market faster all while reducing costs and risk. How’s that for a win-win?

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