Agile can bring innovation to customers faster

Arshpreet Kaur, Lead Business Analyst, Net SolutionsHolding a BE – Computer Science degree from the Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology, and MBA – International Business from University Business School, Arshpreet has a decade of experience working withh global corporations such as Infosys and TCS.

Change is the only constant thing in this world. The world around us is changing at an astounding rate. Digital transformation is revolutionizing the way business is done by modifying processes and customer experiences, keeping pace with emerging customer demands.It is also enabling organizations to better compete in an economic landscape that’s constantly changing as technology evolves.Continuous innovation is necessary to stay relevant in this age of digital transformation.

The 2nd principle of Agile says,‘Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage’. Enterprises are susceptible to disruption by new organizations and industries that can sprout-up virtually overnight. That’s why enabling rapid product innovation is important. Delivering a good digital business experience to customers requires the use of new innovative business applications. Software development is an especially challenging form of innovation, since technologies and customer demands seem to change at the speed of Moore’s law.

How is Agile Framework Relevant?
Agile framework is the one-stop solution for organizations to bring in digital transformation and roll-out new initiatives across the business to ensure that all teams involved can quickly adapt and deliver value often – the key to innovation and survival in a rapidly developing digital world.

Agile has dramatically transformed the global business landscape. Over the past two decades, Agile practices have aided organizations to considerably increase the pace of innovation. Using Agile practices, organizations are able to bring new ideas to market faster, thus improving the overall project quality and optimizing processes as a means of harnessing new innovative products & services. Agile methodologies are adaptable to change, people-oriented, speedy, and responsive – all the essential ingredients, especially for a software development project.

How Agile Helps in Bringing Innovation
Innovation is best defined as the profitable application of creativity. It aims to design break through solutions to customer problems and develop those solutions quickly and economically. It is about design and development, and it must be tightly integrated and rapidly adapted to the direction and pace of market changes. That is precisely what Agile enables.

Agile – The Iterative & Incremental Approach
The idea of an Agile approach is to be in a fixed state of reassessment, resolving any impediments quickly, at the lowest cost. It provides the flexibility to manage uncertainty and adapt to changing requirements quickly and easily, since the customer is closely involved in each iteration and the feedback cycle is short and real-time. The best thing about Agile is that it is a framework rather than a defined process. Hence, it allows for customization to meet the specific needs of the organization, the team, as well as the customers. Developing an innovation
strategy with an Agile approach allows organizations to handle changes in incremental stages, thus mitigating the risk and facilitating easier implementation. Innovation is no longer a choice; it is a necessity to stay ahead of the competition. An Agile strategy can help in achieving it.

The Agile Mindset
An Agile mindset is necessary to cultivate high-performing teams, who in turn deliver amazing value for their customers. Being Agile means being comfortable with continuous iteration, as new customer insights are learned. Value can be delivered to customers by applying continuous exploration, the process of constantly exploring the market & user needs, and defining a vision, a roadmap, and a set of features that address those needs.

The innovation process should be viewed as a collection of multiple deliver ables and associated activities. Each serves as an opportunity to learn and adjust along the way with the voice of the customer at the center of it all. This is a mindset shift from the traditional waterfall approach of sticking to a more rigid plan of action established up-front.

Agile Is Speed
Innovation needs to be about speed. A shorter time-to-market is more important than ever in this digitally accelerated age where new technologies are emerging at an unprecedented rate. A new product that hits the store shelves too late, quickly becomes unsaleable. Nokia and BlackBerry are both good examples of this. By increasing the level of cross organizational collaboration, Agile helps teams to quickly develop new ideas and get products to market faster, whilst removing impediments and barriers to progress.

Agile helps customers gain the First Mover Advantage, helping them occupy untapped market segments, which in turn brings significant market place positioning advantages which can be quite crucial. Some companies have managed to tap into immense profit margins and establish a monopoly-like position. Forgoing Agile Project Management and trying to put-out a perfect product after years of myopic development often results in a constant game of catch-up, provided that your product doesn’t fail completely from the get-go.

The Success Stories
Those who can credit a large part of their success to the Agile Approach include ground-breaking companies such as Google, Salesforce, Apple, and Spotify. In particular, the Agile method helps businesses thrive where innovation and speedy go-to-market strategies are critical competitive differences. Companies like Sales force have employed this method and subsequently created high-performance teams and a growing enterprise.

Spotify, a rapidly growing music streaming company with more than 100 million active users globally, had an idea to solve a long-standing problem: ‘How could users find the music they would really love in a library of millions of songs?’ They thought of delivering a fresh playlist to all users weekly by using an algorithm to match the individual tastes of users with the several billion playlists created by other users.

The team did not need a whole lot of ROI analysis or go up a steep hierarchical chain to get management approval to change the firm’s strategic plan. In an Agile setting, it was quick and easy for the team to carry-out a series of tests. When the innovation, now known as Discover Weekly, was deployed within a few months, it was a wild success, becoming not just a new feature but a global brand, resulting in an influx of millions of new users. The Discover Weekly team is just one of more than 100 small teams at Spotify which have deployed Agile approaches to all work since its inception in 2008.

Ericsson, the 140-year old Swedish firm, manages networks for telecommunication companies across the globe, covering 40 percent of the world’s mobile phone traffic. In 2011, a unit in Ericsson with several thousand people embraced Agile. Before 2011, Ericsson would build its systems on a five-year cycle, with every unit housing several thousand employees. When the system was finally built, it would be shipped to the telecoms and there would be an extended period of adjustment, as the system was adapted to fit their needs.

Now with Agile management, Ericsson has over 100 small teams working with its customers’ needs in three-week cycles. The result is faster development that is more relevant to the specific needs of the customers. The client gets value sooner. Ericsson is deploying one or two years earlier than it otherwise would. That also means that its revenue comes in one or two years earlier than it normally would.

In a rapidly transforming world, Agile is aiding businesses in not only helping companies respond to change nimbly and delivering innovation to its customers faster, it is driving that innovation to happen at a faster pace itself. That in turn is strengthening customer loyalty and improving the bottom line.