Preparing for Another Wave of Tech Innovation
As the technological and AI advances of 2023 transition into 2024, tech leaders everywhere are considering their product development approaches for the year ahead. Adopting an agile mindset as a strategic approach transcends technical frameworks and methodologies, empowering teams with the creativity needed to navigate the future of technology. By instilling an agile mindset, organizations can cultivate a culture of strategic resilience, adapt swiftly to technological advancements, and drive pioneering solutions. This post delves into how embedding an agile mindset across teams lays the foundation for adaptable, innovative digital product development, and sets teams up for success in a rapidly changing tech world.
The Agile Mindset Philosophy: Versatility in Framework Adoption and Execution
“More than a framework, agile is a mindset,” says Jon Karlin, Presence’s VP of Product and Strategy. “At this point in the modern competitive tech space, agile product development is practically a requirement to maintain quality and achieve innovation. It’s less about adhering to a specific agile framework and more about harnessing agile principles to drive efficiency, and transparency, and deliver high-quality outcomes.” While agile frameworks shape the structure of how teams work together, an agile mindset shapes the way teams approach their work. All frameworks, whether Scrum, SAFe, Lean, or Kanban, are effective methods for structuring team processes to achieve iterative development during product development. Embracing an agile mindset as a company has allowed Presence to adapt to whatever frameworks our clients prefer while delivering excellence across diverse digital product development projects. With a decade of success, we are confident that our agile mindset has been critical to our success in developing and shipping the right digital products for our clients.
Hybrid Approaches: Staging Frameworks for Optimal Outcomes
Employing an agile mindset means engaging the right approach or framework for the project. Not every project phase is well-suited to strictly agile frameworks. Sometimes Jon advocates treating a project's beginning phase differently than the structured implementation phase. “I’ve discovered that the more ambiguous, upfront project definition work is best suited to a design thinking framework done in a waterfall manner, followed by a clear transition into agile frameworks for the majority of the project's heavy lifting.” Starting with a design thinking approach puts the emphasis on user research and feedback to understand problems and evaluate potential solutions. Transitioning into agile frameworks provides an iterative, collaborative structure that delivers validated, quality results. Clarity and communication are key to a successful hybrid approach. This ensures that dedicated teams are prepared, clients are on board, and everyone understands when each phase is being implemented.
Why consider a hybrid framework approach for the different phases of a project? Sticking rigidly to a single framework, whether waterfall, agile, or something else, might restrict a team's ability to nimbly address projects effectively. Engaging a hybrid approach like Jon recommends is about establishing a solid foundation while maintaining the flexibility to iterate and refine as insights evolve. Whichever approach you choose, aligning your team’s process to what is right for the project ensures that planning and execution are responsive to change. Fostering this agile mindset across teams sets everyone up to succeed transitioning from creative problem-solving phases to structured development phases.
Implementing Agile: Getting Flexible with Frameworks
How flexible can you get with agile frameworks? Pretty flexible! Jon says, “A one-size-fits-all approach seldom works in the real world of product development. Carefully tailoring frameworks to the unique contours of the project is a part of product and project management excellence and can significantly enhance project outcomes.” One real-world example is the Scrum process Jon employed for Tono’s unique healthcare e-commerce project. He ran design and development sprints staggered, keeping the design phases one to two sprints ahead of development. This customization was a strategic choice stemming from a deep understanding of the project’s pace, objectives, and team dynamics. As part of the scoping process, the team had sized up all the work and knew roughly how much time they had, even factoring in a margin of error. Using this information to precisely arrange the design and development phases resulted in spot-on product delivery with all the promised features. Factoring unknowns into your project timeline empowers you to be both realistic and flexible when engaging the right approach for your team and project.
Speed and Quality: The Strength of Frameworks
Quality takes time, but taking too much time can render your product obsolete. While agile mindsets enable teams to be adaptive and responsive, the agile framework provides a reliable structure for achieving quality results. In an era when every company wants to create innovation before its competitors, the agile framework is valued for guiding development efficiently without sacrificing quality. Why are agile frameworks especially suited to delivering efficient, effective products? “When teams work on things in smaller increments, they’re already testing, validating, proving, and regression-testing along the way,” notes Jon. By the nature of this process, quality is managed early on, while adhering to the often aggressive timelines that define the industry today. It should go without saying that an agile mindset is a foundational aspect of the agile framework.
Agile Frameworks: Achieving Effective Collaboration
Clear and effective communication is the cornerstone of successful agile framework implementation. While no framework is successful without effective communication, agile practices turn routine meetings like standups and sprint retrospectives into powerful engines for team collaboration. These practices foster an environment of openness and transparency, ensuring that all team members, clients, and stakeholders fully align with the project’s goals and progress. Additionally, these rituals can mitigate the pressure of speed by fostering connection and creativity between colleagues. At Presence, we encourage our clients to be part of our daily standups, sprint planning, sprint grooming/refining, and even sprint retros. Jon explains, “In all of those, we have everyone collaborating with each other to emphasize transparency and create the highest quality work.” Engaging agile frameworks with an agile mindset is about more than standups or sprint reviews; it’s about fostering a culture where everyone is involved in the creative process.
For Leaders: Driving Innovation with Agile
Jon believes agile mindsets and frameworks can drive quality innovation efficiently, but notes that it takes organization-wide commitment to embrace the process and culture change required. “It’s not just about adopting new terms or holding stand-ups, having an agile mindset is a fundamental shift in how teams operate and think.” Companies must engage and provide training, clarify agile mindset principles, and unify their approach, processes, and tool stacks to set their teams up for success. Jon recommends that organizations evaluate and adjust their operational practices to support agile team workflows. An example would be not booking all-hands meetings during times reserved for agile ceremonies, such as daily stand-ups, so project teams can maximize their effectiveness without disruption. Implementing and socializing new agile practices might not be easy, but they will make product development more collaborative and effective once properly engaged.
Looking Forward: Navigating 2024 Product Innovation with Agility
As we gear up to embrace the technological challenges and opportunities that 2024 will undoubtedly present, the significance of an agile mindset in digital product development becomes ever more pronounced. This approach transcends frameworks and is about more than adapting to change; it's about being at the edge of innovation. An agile mindset equips teams with the flexibility and creativity necessary to turn challenges into opportunities. Over the past decade, our journey at Presence has underscored the transformative power of this mindset. It has enabled us to develop and deliver products that are not just relevant but transformative for our clients’ businesses. As we look forward, we remain committed to fostering an agile mindset across our teams, confident that this will be our key to navigating the evolving tech landscape with agility and innovation. In 2024 and beyond, an agile mindset isn't just a strategy; it's our roadmap to continued excellence in digital product development.