One of the many challenges that Product Managers face in trying to move organizations toward a more agile approach to product development is that some stakeholders simply don’t see the value in the shift. They believe that, since their way has worked for them for so long that there’s no need to change — after all, it can’t be broken if it works, right? But the simple fact is, the bad old ways of product development are dying, as markets and customers move faster and have more options available to them to solve their problems every single day. There’s not a single industry that isn’t facing high-investment newcomers who are able to move fast and adjust — and leave they’re slow-moving, waterfall-based competition in the dust.
Agility Saves Time
First and foremost, adopting more agile methods of product development saves us time. Rather than wasting time and effort up-front, writing up deep technical requirements that often don’t wind up being implemented as we perceive them ahead of time, we start by defining the problems that we want to solve. We take a step-by-step approach to our new features, starting with an MVP and working from there. We establish functional, potentially shippable components every single iteration that could ship if we wanted to. This means that, at any time in they cycle, we can push code out to our field, our internal stakeholders, our customers, or anyone that we want — and get immediate feedback from them that informs our continued development. There’s no “we’ll have something for you in a few months, and by then it will be too late for your feedback,” like there is in a waterfall approach. We’re focused on getting something done now that we can improve on until we’re comfortable with it. Or, we shelve it completely if it’s not working out — allowing us to quickly switch gears toward something more valuable in the moment. If we keep our pulse to the market and to our customers’ needs, being more agile allows us to save time that’s wasted in waterfall approaches building things that people don’t need anymore — because the market has moved on.
Agility Saves Money
Moving into an agile method of product management also saves us money, pretty much across the board. If we’re doing it right, we can have a lean and mean set of development teams who are ready to take on the thing that matters most, at the time that it actually matters. There’s no projecting out 12 months in advance, and lining up resources to do a death march on something that nobody wants. Instead, we’re always working on the thing that’s most important, that people believe in, and that drives revenue. And we’re delivering this work in small increments that ensure that when it does hit the market, it will make a splash. No more money wasted on messaging that’s forced because the problem was solved three months ago by a competitor. No more lost deals based on some 12-month promise that can’t be delivered. And no more lost deals because something small “couldn’t fit” our capacity — if it’s important enough to close a deal, it’s probably important enough to shift a team onto for a few sprints. When our teams are laser-focused on something that they know will have an immediate impact on the company, everything they’re doing is going to save money in the long run.
Agility Ensures ROI
If we’re doing agile product development “right” then everything that we’re working on should be a well-understood, clearly-defined problem that we’ve validated with our customers and our market. The biggest source of ROI waste in development comes from building the wrong thing at the wrong time — or even the right thing at the wrong time. With a strongly agile and customer-oriented process, we mitigate that risk and ensure that every piece of work that we’re doing has the highest ROI possible — or we don’t do it. We invest in the right thing, at the right time, and reap our returns through prompt delivery and repeated iteration. Customers who have grown up with the Internet no longer expect everything to be perfect when it’s initially delivered, but they do expect that it will solve a problem that they have, and that it will improve over time. If we can sell that capability to our customers, and sustainably deliver on that promise, we’ll never worry about negative ROI work again.