The Agile methodology is well known within the software development world. It’s application, however, shouldn’t be limited to technology teams. Agile principles can help any division of business improve efficiencies, meet customer demand, and reduce redundancies. The ability to make quick, informed decisions, to regularly communicate with key players, to implement customer feedback, and to shift with demand can benefit departments across an organization – from R&D, to marketing, to customer service, human resources, and more.
People Before Process
The Agile manifesto declares that individuals and interactions are more valuable than processes and tools. Getting the most out of individual employees requires managers to focus less on siloing and more on teamwork. Cross functional teams collaborate to prioritize work, timelines and tasks and then work together to get them done. Teams must be self-organizing, collaborative and autonomous.
This requires an iterative approach to both product development and the processes that support it. Instead of individual employees focusing only on single, isolated tasks, they play a part in the wider picture and gain an understanding of how their work fits into the whole. This is especially beneficial in larger, more complex environments (e.g., manufacturing), where even the smallest errors can create big challenges down the line.
Achieving this level of teamwork and production requires a shift in hiring processes. Instead of hiring managers simply “checking the boxes” as they scour resumes for typical skills, they must search out entrepreneurial skeptics that have a knack for collaboration. These are the people that will question, innovate, and push the company forward.
Attracting and retaining such forward-thinking employees requires more than financial compensation. These individuals need real value to join and remain with a business team. HR and finance teams must create unique, compelling compensation structures that can reward and feed forward thinking candidates.
Working Products Over Paper Trails
Producing functioning work products and components in less time brings more value than drawn out, siloed planning efforts. Companies and departments that break production timelines down into shorter processes, or sprints, reduce the likelihood of costly failures and reworks.
In this environment, potentially infinite to-do lists are pared down into core ideas and projects. Daily, face to face meetings ensure that all team members and key stakeholders communicate progress, challenges, change orders, or even work overload. Internal communication boards that include meeting notes, wireframes, and any other project-related assets, enable every player to check in and see the latest updates of a product or project in cycle, as well as what is coming up on the project roadmap.
This approach to agility treats development teams across the business as their own in-house startup. Teams are tasked with solving a certain problem that has a specific objective and measurable goals to ultimately determine success. At the end of timelines or funding periods, teams can present outcomes to the finance department for re-funding. This allows a business to make shorter commitments based on real-time results, as opposed to predictions of a potentially unlikely future.
Shorter timelines reduce waste over the long term. Producing demos and prototypes within weeks instead of months — and getting them into the hands of users — ensures that final products are truly functional and based on actual customer needs. All of this serves the bottom line.
Involving Customers = Bottom Line Bonuses
Meeting the needs of today’s customer demands constant collaboration and feedback after the contract is signed. Failing to involve customers along every stage of development can equal certain failure.
This is why even the smallest shops and businesses constantly solicit customers with surveys and questionnaires. Knowing and satisfying your customer requires regular communication.
Getting bare bones versions of a product into the hands of a prospective user as soon as possible enables businesses to gather feedback. Users can identify how a product can be improved and identify flaws that wouldn’t normally be revealed until launch. These efforts save time, money, brand reputation, and customer relationships.
This level of agility requires quick decision making in response to customer feedback. Teams working on products and projects must utilize inbound market insight to inform decisions. Management structures must support quick decisions that can be made in hours rather than days as teams are empowered to observe, measure, interview, learn and optimize.
Keeping customers happy requires business departments to regularly seek out and listen to their input. Whether it be for a marketing initiative, product team, or hiring effort, consistently listening to and applying customer feedback helps to ensure the end product is truly what your customers want.
Change is Inevitable
A business that cannot shift with the changing marketplace loses customers. Responding to change when it produces value is more important than sticking to the plan — and teams must be able to adapt.
Agile teams identify critical customer needs, brainstorm solutions to challenges, target areas for improvement, and quickly modify plans and tasks. This requires corporate leaders that reward team effectiveness in delivering end-to-end outcomes for customers over the siloed completion of individual tasks.
Implementing the principles and processes advocated by the Agile manifesto can benefit departments across an organization. Small, agile, cross-functional teams that collaborate to create working products within shorter timelines, incorporating constant customer feedback, and shifting plans when necessary will achieve greater results than those that don’t.
Ready to Embrace Agile?
Today, businesses must have a future-thinking approach to innovation, strategy and talent acquisition to remain competitive. PSI has extensive experience providing companies with consulting and talent solutions based on Agile methodologies. We can help you tap into the power of Agile on individual projects, when optimizing your team, or throughout the organization. Embracing Agile ensures you have the flexibility to innovate, drive growth and successfully navigate changing market conditions now—and in the future. Contact us today and put our expertise to work for you.