To be truly customer-centric, your business needs to be agile. In other words, your business must be able to respond to changing customer needs. In the book “designed for digital” by Jeanne Ross, et al. of MIT CISR, “business agility” is described as a key capability for an organisation to compete in the digital age.

So what does that mean in the context of product development? Well, the words “agile development” have been bouncing around for well over a decade. Yet many organisations are still not clear on exactly what it means. Some interpret it as following an “agile” methodology like Scrum or SaFE, Others believe that working in sprints makes them “agile”. In truth, being agile is less about the framework or a set of beliefs, but more about understanding how the development process supports getting features or products to market in the shortest amount of time, regardless of the framework followed. 

This is however a rather simplistic view, getting a feature or product to market is a lot more nuanced than just optimising the process to get work “out the door”. For one thing, we need to make sure that the product or feature we are building is something that users need or want.

Whether building a feature or a product there are a few key principles that should be followed to be agile. Let’s discuss three key principles.

Build end-to-end working software

The most important principle in agile development is to build end-to-end working software. This means that instead of building the front end and back end independently, they should be built and delivered at the same time. This means that users and stakeholders can provide feedback as soon as the feature is completed and not at the end of the project when it costs more to make changes. 

Cross-functional teams

A second principle that links to the first one are to have a cross-functional team. A simple way to think of a cross-functional team is to look at all the skills required to deliver working software. A team should be able to deliver a working feature into a production environment independently.


The third principle is automation. Teams should look to automate as many components of the delivery process as possible. This should include automated testing that is built into an automated deployment pipeline. Teams should be able to create development environments as and when required through automated processes. 


These three principles address key areas of downfall for traditional project management. Typically projects follow a development phase of a few months before moving to a testing phase. Therefore the time it takes to get a new feature into a production environment will take several months, which may mean the potential opportunity has been missed. 

 Following the above principles help to ensure that features reach customers in the shortest amount of time. It is important to note that following these principles requires constant work, the teams required will change, the processes will change and new tasks and tests will need to be automated. It should therefore be approached as a project on its own. Take small steps to improve and not follow a big-bang approach


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