With more and more startups and tech companies popping up across the world, the competition for success is getting stiff. As a result, many businesses have begun to rethink their development methods. This has led to the rise of agile development.
Although the agile movement has been around for a while, it’s taken some time to pick up speed. Now, the benefits of this development process are becoming more and more obvious and many entrepreneurs are making the switch to the agile method.
For example, the company that I founded, Coplex, started using agile scrums to better help our clients. In 2013, after a string of rough years, my CEO and partner, Zach Ferres, and I knew something had to change. We began implementing agile scrums and quickly found that focusing our cross-disciplinary team on one project for a short period of time made us more efficient and resulted in higher quality code. The change not only saved the company but has allowed Coplex to help multiple startups to go from idea to revenue in about 2 months.
However it does require an adjustment in how you think about and measure success during development. We’ll get to that, but let’s start with the basics:
What exactly is agile development?
The (scrum) agile movement is a way for cross-disciplined teams to develop software more quickly and efficiently during short build increments (called a sprint). During each sprint, the team focuses on creating, testing, and releasing thin functional slivers of the larger product vision. Once the sprint is over, everyone looks back at what worked and what didn’t. They then make changes to the plan based on what was learned before starting the next sprint.
Since much of the planning and development occurs at the same time, things are built in smaller increments, the team can make decisions internally, and the team is focused on one product at a time, the product gets in the hands of consumers faster. Overall, this method allows for products to launch quickly and with less financial waste. And since the team has taken the time to assess each piece of the project, there is less risk of the entire project failing.
All of this makes agile development very different from the way we traditionally developed products. That means businesses that use the agile method must also rethink how they think about and measure success. You can’t just set a goal like “we’re gonna develop an app that has these features” and then wait until the end to see if you achieved that or not. When you’re using agile development, you need to look at every step of the process and determine what value you’ve gained from the experience. Agile takes into consideration that product plans are fluid.
Here are three steps you need to take if you want to be able to measure success in an agile startup:
1. Rethink what failure means
Traditionally, failure is a bad thing. If a startup fails using the traditional waterfall development method, it’s left with an end product that nobody wants. All the time and resources spent creating the product are lost, and there’s rarely a chance at recovering.
In agile development, however, things happen on a small scale. One aspect of the product is designed and tested and if there turns out to be a flaw or no need for it, there’s less at stake.
Not to mention, you get more information that will make your product better.
With an agile project, when something doesn’t work out as planned, it’s a learning experience. It let’s you know what to do moving forward. And that’s what’s important: progress. If you continue to think of “mistakes” as setbacks, it’ll be hard to get where you want to go.
2. Focus on time
One of the major benefits of agile development is how quickly it gets products to market. But for that to happen, you have to be disciplined about how you spend your time. In a scrum, it can be easy to get lost in perfection. But if you extend your deadlines and give yourself “just a little bit longer” you’re missing the entire point.
Once you set a time frame for your scrum, stick to it. At Coplex, each scrum is a week long. We work hard during that time, but once those seven days are up, we stop and reevaluate. This allows our team and our clients to evaluate the progress that was made and what we’ve learned. It also keeps us from wasting time on something that might not be necessary.
3. Have fluid big picture goals
With agile development, more often than not, the end product is nothing like you imagined it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The most important thing is to develop something that people will actually want and use, not bring something from your imagination to life. It does mean you need to be flexible in your overarching goals. If you set big picture goals at the beginning and never revisit them, you won’t succeed.
For example, say your company starts out wanting to create a new app and originally set out to get a million downloads. Then, throughout the course of development, it becomes apparent that the real value in the app isn’t in the number of downloads, but in how long each person is using the app. All of the sudden, your goal and yardstick of success is irrelevant.
After each sprint, compare your progress and your direction to the original goals. If you discover that you’re no longer moving in that direction or if those metrics for success no longer apply, make adjustments. This way, when you reach the end, you can have an accurate way to measure what you’ve accomplished.
What are some other ways you have to rethink success with agile development? Share in the comments below!
About Ilya Pozin:
Serial entrepreneur, writer and investor. Founder of Pluto TV, Coplex, and Open Me (acquired by Rowl). Writer for Forbes and Inc. Husband 1x, father 2x, entrepreneur 3x. Follow Ilya below to stay up-to-date.
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