So You Want To Be A Digital Pioneer…How The Intersection Of Lean & Agile Principles Set The Stage

By Victor Allen, Chief Technical Officer

You know how fast technology is moving these days. By the time you simply think of a new direction to upgrade the digital capabilities of your project, your competitor already has a similar product launched, in market. The secret to quickly formulating and building killer digital experiences is found at the intersection of Agile and Lean principles.

We identify both the Agile and Lean principles that not only define us as a creative digital agency, but can act as a guideline for a work flow process that focuses on what is most important. Following these sets of principles allows you to quickly get to the heart of what’s needed, reassess as necessary, and define processes that will lead directly to a finished product.

Agile Development Principles

1.  Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

2.  Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

3.  Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

4.  Business people and developers must work together, daily, throughout the project.

5.  Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support their needs – trust them to get the job done.

6.  The most efficient and effective method conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

7.  Working software is the primary measure of progress.

8.  Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

9.  Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhance quality.

10.  Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.

11.  The best architecture, requirements, and design emerge from self-organizing teams.

12.  At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts behavior accordingly.

 

Lean Development Principles

1.  Eliminate waste

2.  Amplify learning

3.  Decide as late as possible

4.  Deliver as fast as possible

5.  Empower the team

6.  Build quality in

7.  See the whole, not the parts

 

So, now that we’ve outlined the principles that can guide a rapid, iterative approach to digital, here’s where the real power lies – the intersection of Agile and Lean principles:

Lean: eliminate waste (#1); Agile: simplicity (#10)

As an agency we’re the stewards of our client’s investment, it is our responsibility to maximize that investment. Adhering to the principles of eliminating waste and simplicity are key to maintaining a sharp focus on delivering the best product possible within the constraints of time, budget and staff. This applies equally to the vision of the product (delivering value without bloat) and processes (minimizing activities that do not directly contribute to product quality).

Lean: amplify learning (#2), decide as late as possible (#3); Agile: welcome changing requirements (#3)

The best products are developed through a combination of experimentation and expertise. The essence of both philosophies is the desire to apply the lessons learned through the development and use of the product to the development process itself. A team that adapts to change (whether small course corrections or full pivots) will be able to capitalize on opportunities and succeed where others do not.

Lean: deliver as fast as possible (#4); Agile: deliver frequently (#3), working software as progress (#7)

Maximizing value to users and return to customers means delivering at a steady, rapid pace. Eliminating delay in execution and release is key to amplified learning. Whether by placing working software in front of test users, releasing an MVP, or running limited-pilot programs, the goal should always be to deliver quickly to maintain a rapid pace of feedback and product improvement.

Lean: empower the team (#5); Agile: motivated individuals (#5), sustainable development (#8)

The best teams are those with the greatest freedom to exercise their expertise and working at a sustainable pace which promotes teamwork, communication and creativity. Proper adherence to lean and agile principles motivates a team to push the edge of impossible.

Lean: build quality in (#6); Agile: technical excellence (#9)

The key to building software both rapidly and at quality is to understand the purpose of what is being built. The tension between quality and timeline is managed by focusing on delivering the most appropriate product at the right time, with minimal technical debt. Integrating tools, tests and quality procedures into the development process will pay off in the long run and is vital to maintaining a sustainable product development process.

And last, but certainly not least:

Lean: see the whole (#7); Agile: satisfy the customer (#1)

The first principle of agile and the final principle of lean, you have the alpha and omega of SI’s development principles. Always be focusing on providing value to users and understand the place the work being done holds within the bigger vision of the product. Where the other principles speak to the “how” of development, these principles answer, “Why?” Making products that matter to users and clients requires a holistic, systemic view of the product.

 

The benefits of a combined Agile and Lean approach allows for products to get to market at a rate that creates a competitive advantage and eliminates waste. To see how this type of approach could benefit your business, begin by seeing how the Agile and Lean Principles could redefine your development approach and then define the principles that are of greatest importance to your product, your company, and your end-user.

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