The agile methodology is mainly used within the software industry for software development and can simply be described as the typical product management process broken down into smaller increments. Each increment involves everyone within a cross-functional team to go through all the steps of the product management process, from planning and analysis to testing and deploying. Continuous customer feedback can be captured and incorporated in to iterative one to four weeks periods called a sprint. This continuous approach is key to why agile software development has some major advantages over a traditional linear waterfall methodology.
The 5 main advantages of agile methodology
1. Fast feature development
The first great benefit of agile software development is that new features can be released at a fast pace. The software industry operates within a fast moving marketplace and just when you start to think or plan a new feature, your competitor has already released that exact feature on their platform. The agile methodology allows you to stay competitive by keeping up and being first on the ball.
An otherwise huge feature can be broken down into sprints, where the first sprint only includes the most simple and scaled down version of the feature. In this way, a new feature is already on the market in its simplest form, after only a one to four weeks sprint.
By breaking down a large feature into smaller pieces the product manager also gets a clear overview of the features to develop. The product manager can then easily prioritise and focus on the features that will provide the biggest impact and value for the company.
2. Continuous customer involvement
A second benefit, continuous customer involvement is closely linked to and complements the first. The capture of continuous user feedback means they are incorporated into the sprints of a feature development.
3. Constant improvement
A third great benefit, is that not only does your feature improve after each iteration, but also your team work. For each accomplished sprint your team learns and improves in the work process, resulting in each sprint being a little bit more effective, efficient, communicative, sustainable or just better planned than the last. A common practice is a scheduled retrospective after each sprint to look back at what was done in the sprint and what can be improved for the next iteration.
A fourth great benefit of agile software development is that it is an innovative and flexible methodology. If the path forward for a new feature is not certain, it allows you to iterate, try things out and then gradually evolve and improve your feature. This also allows you to be flexible and adapt towards a changing environment.
This iterative approach also allows you to catch and correct errors at an early stage of the development process. Not only does this result in a better feature but it also keeps you from losing both time and money in the process.
5. Customer satisfaction
The fifth and final benefit is what it all comes down to: agile software development generates customer satisfaction. Subsequent sprints could focus on improving and developing the new feature to its full potential by observing user interactions. Involving users through beta testing at the early stages of the feature release generates feedback with improvement potential to be included in the next sprint.
How to work effectively using agile methodology
Due to the rapid development cycles, a product manager must have exceptional facilitation skills. This is especially true in a remote working world where product teams are dispersed and we must all be more deliberate and thoughtful in time and space. To this end product management tools are essential in streamlining a product team’s agile workflow and in particular structured feature documents (also known as product requirements documents) can help steer product teams to develop features and build products that their customers love.