Selecting the right product development methodology is often the difference between a product’s success or failure.
These days, Agile (or some Frankenstein variation of it) is most frequently selected based on its promise of flexibility, speed, and the evasive allure of continuous improvement.
In fact, 78% of respondents from a Harvard Business Review survey believe their organization is benefiting from (or could benefit from) Agile working across the company.
In theory, this makes sense. Agile is a simple, elegant framework that produces customer-focused solutions. But what happens when – in practice – Agile falls short of expectations?
The proliferation of Agile as a product development framework is attributable in large part to its promise of allowing organizations to adapt to the needs of customers. In practice, however, Agile's flexibility has often exposed organizational shortcomings. This is, after all, exactly what it was designed to do: to shine a light on the ways of working. But when exposed shortcomings go unaddressed, then organizations are bound to fail because they are incapable of balancing the needs of the customer with the needs of the business.
You’ve probably seen this movie before: sprawling, poorly-defined product backlogs; PMs and POs who have incredible domain knowledge but know nothing about building software or driving better customer experiences; and features and fixes that aren’t prioritized based on ‘value delivered’ or ‘customer need’ but instead by those internal stakeholders who scream the loudest. This is especially true in larger organizations with significant structural complexity.
Additionally, Agile’s process-laden (and often poorly-implemented) approach leads to a “checking the boxes” mentality that forsakes product vision and just plain forgets about the customer. If you’re not careful, your Agile practice becomes nothing more than process for process’ sake. The job becomes focused on ceremonies and story points rather than delivering quantifiable product value. Put simply, development teams are spending more time in sprint planning, prioritization and review meetings than they are actually solving customer problems.
Taken together, these shortcomings have set the stage for the need to move beyond Agile.
Expanding on this, here are 3 reasons why Agile may no longer be the best approach for your business:
Only 2.5% of companies complete their projects 100% successfully, with (1) change in the organization's priorities [39%], (2) change in project objectives [37%], and (3) inaccurate requirements gathering [35%] being the three main attributes to failure. These failures demonstrate that your business can’t deliver.
Due to Agile’s time-boxed delivery, product owners and project managers are often shifting and expanding project needs, resulting in failure to deliver the intended product scope. This delays getting something – anything! – in the customer's hands for feedback and iteration. The constant “spinning” creates too much churn. Business partnerships and revenue streams suffer as a result.
44% of Agile projects fail due to a lack of experience with Agile methods. The success of product development often lies in its approach to training. Only 48% organizations have invested in accredited Agile training - equating to an estimated 5 days per year – while more than 25% don't invest in any training at all.
Activating Agile to its full advantage for any business requires adept experience and alignment across all parts of the organization that touch product delivery (and not just individual teams operating independently of each other). Fail to do so and project timing, quality, and cost is compromised. And in most instances, unfortunately, the larger the business the more significant the failure.
59% of scrum masters run between 2 and 5 projects. 11% run 6 to 10 projects, and 15% run more than 10 at a time. Only 15% of scrum masters work on only one project at a time.
Whoa! The odds most certainly seem stacked against your average scrum master then. And to make matters worse, very few organizations have the discipline or support infrastructure to see the Agile play all the way through. Without dedication, the individual support staff rotating in and out of a team are subject to a collective, overriding momentum that has a mind of its own. No wonder progress grinds to a crawl, market commitments are missed, and actual development costs dwarf those estimated at the endeavor’s outset.
So, how do you move forward? Here are three ways we are helping our customers deliver high-value, high-impact products:
Two weeks is an eternity in modern product development. How many sprints have you started knowing the team was bound to miss its targets? Best case scenario, it’s only a few days of lost productivity. All too often, though, it takes another six weeks to unwind the damage that was done. Time boxing can be a tremendous advantage when done appropriately. So ask yourself: is time boxing working for you or against you?
Story points are neither a true measure of value delivered nor an accurate indication of whether developers are working on ‘the right things.’ Allowing teams the time and space to test is the key to consistently delivering real product value. Not just regression, unit, or end-to-end testing (though, yes, you should do that, too). But testing with actual customers to generate data-driven insights… and then making sure your organization has the bandwidth to understand that feedback and do something about it. Put simply, incorporate customer insights throughout the software development lifecycle.
Is your Agile practice in top fighting shape? Take a ruthless look at your ways of working and then take a pair of pruning shears to ‘em.
In the name of simplicity, here are a few do’s and don’ts that go against the traditional Agile grain but help your team drive real accountability:
Ultimately, moving beyond Agile requires you getting the right partners in place with a streamlined approach and the right tools to solve for the mission critical digital product you need to deliver your vision.
When you don't have the team to build your vision, you can lean on Crux Digital’s decades of multi-disciplinary expertise to ensure your product thrives. If you’re ready to deploy high-quality, simplified software applications that are easy to scale, maintain and grow, contact us today.