Manufacturers are at a crossroads in terms of product development as they are challenged with a variety of headwinds, including:
None of these issues are new, per se, but they have increased in intensity in recent years. While most companies have adopted digital technologies to enhance their products and improve their processes, many are finding it’s simply not fast enough. They’re realizing they also need to fundamentally change how they bring products to market.
Enter agile product development. In the early 2000s, software development was transformed by adhering to the principles and core values of the Agile Manifesto. Now, those same principles can bring similar benefits to product design, manufacturing, and distribution.
Agile product development prioritizes iterative development and customer feedback and favors cycles over stages. In the fast-paced market, Agile helps businesses remain resilient and responsive to both market and customer demands.
In this blog post, we’ll highlight three of the core benefits of agile product development. Let’s get into it.
Cross-team collaboration is one of the hallmarks of Agile. People with different expertise and perspectives are coming together to provide feedback and guide the product along in a way that makes the most sense. Engineers, product designers, marketing, and even customers are involved the process, working toward a shared milestone and offering feedback at specific checkpoints.
Over the past few years, the way we work has evolved and more than ever before work is distributed and decentralized. Instead of all employees reporting to a singular office building, employees are working remotely (part-time or full-time) and involved parties could be from anywhere in the world. Agile provides a flexible structure to fully utilize employees who no longer share a common space.
Several of the core principles of the Agile Manifesto are around communication, both with the customer and stakeholders and within the project team. It is through this communication that issues can be uncovered and raised throughout the process and at key stages, not just at the end.
An Agile approach calls for built-in communication, which not only keeps everyone clear on progress, but offers the opportunity for challenges to be discussed. Here are some common communication tools prevalent in Agile:
It is through these frequent checkpoints, in several different forms and team configurations, that the team can reduce uncertainty, sidestep potential problems, and ultimately, reduce risks associated with the project/deliverable.
Another core principle of Agile is optimized product development with the goal of delivering a working product. With physical product development, especially complex hardware, the definition of these terms can be broader.
To adapt this Agile principle to physical product development, companies are not thinking about delivering a final product, rather it’s about focusing on delivering incremental value and keeping overall project on task and timeline. Breaking down a large project into small, manageable chunks makes an overall product development process more iterative. By having regular checkpoints with the team and stakeholders, the process is more transparent and collaborative. It can also reveal any challenges, such as not having enough resources to complete the necessary work.
Agile is not some new and fleeting methodology; it is a proven product management design for more than two decades. While it’s still nascent in the product development field – and needs some adaptation – the benefits are there. In the competitive world of product design and manufacturing, Agile can help your business be resilient, innovative, and ultimately, deliver superior value to customers.
Read more about what's driving the shift toward Agile product development