The Ultimate Guide to Agile Product Development Process

November 21, 2022
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Current B2B SaaS companies use agile product development methodologies or they aspire to use this method. Even for engineers who started their profession in product development decades ago using the waterfall product development approach, getting a grip over agile product development is a must. 

The agile methodology now significantly impacts product development and its process. However, the success of agile development techniques raise several challenges. For instance:

  • How and when should product developers implement agile development methodology?
  • What does the life cycle of agile product development look like?
  • How is agile implemented in a larger organization? 
  • Are agile approaches compatible with the organization's current accountability systems and management processes? If so, how? 

Organizations respect the concept of user experience as a vital business goal, but its implementation at the enterprise level is frequently problematic. Agile approaches' inherent adaptability and reactivity may appeal to the C-suite, but it is not always apparent that they apply to a particular business or product.

To use agile product development methods successfully, you need to know how they work, know when to use them, start using them from the top down, let and encourage teams that have mastered the process to change and customize their own practices, and get rid of any remaining corporate barriers to agile development methods.

If these concerns are of utmost importance to your business, you've come to the right place. 

This is a complete guide to the agile product development process. It discusses the four agile values, principles, pros and cons of agile product development, and agile product development templates.

Let's get started!

What is Agile Product Development?

Agile product development is a focused delivery cycle that shortens the time between coming up with an idea and putting it out on the market. Iterations happen over and over again when an agile approach is put into practice.

It is designed to collect feedback from users and consumers to fuel the next product release cycle. This shorter time to market also allows product managers to test their ideas and ensure they are viable.

The agile method is iterative, unlike the typical waterfall methodology, which plans, creates, and delivers a single project simultaneously. A monolithic project is often stiff, takes a long time to complete, cannot adjust to market changes, and is strongly reliant on other aspects of the project to function. 

On the other hand, agile product development attempts to create the smallest practical, functional element of a product. Product improvements are done regularly based on feedback. This technique makes products far more responsive and flexible to market demands.

The Four Agile Values to Keep in Mind 

With its foundation in the four values and twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto, the Agile product development technique is guided by a set of shared values and principles. Each Agile approach uniquely applies the four principles, but they all rely on them to drive the development and delivery of a high-quality, functional product.

  • Interactions and individuals take precedence over processes and tools.
  • Working product trumps extensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration is preferred above contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change by following a strategy.

Let's take a closer look at each one:

Value 1: Individuals and interactions

Previously, product managers were concerned with ensuring they had the best tools or procedures for building their products. According to the Agile value, these elements are crucial, but the people behind the processes are even more critical.

Your product team must include the proper people. Even the best instruments are rendered useless if they fall into the hands of the wrong people. How team members communicate allows them to work together and solve difficulties.

Value 2: Working product over comprehensive documentation

In the past, much time was spent writing down information about the product for development and eventual delivery. Technical specifications, interface design documents, technical prospectus, documentation plans, technical requirements, test plans, and approvals are needed for each. The list was long, which slowed down development for a long time. 

Agile does not eliminate documentation but rather streamlines it so that developers have all they need to accomplish their work without becoming mired down in detail. Agile documents requirements as "user stories," providing a product developer with enough information to develop a new function.

Documentation is important to the Agile Manifesto, but working products are more important for the team.

Value 3: Customer collaboration

Contracts used to be the most important thing. You'd make contracts with your customers, and they'd tell you what the finished product would look like. So, there was often a difference between what the contract said, what the product did, and what the customer wanted.

According to the Agile approach, the emphasis should always be on development. You must create a mechanism for your clients to provide feedback to ensure your product works for them.

Value 4: Responding to change

Can you imagine a time when you would draw up a roadmap, and it would never change? Well, in the past, that's precisely what happened.

Static roadmaps needs and requirements are constantly shifting, and priorities are always changing. So that static roadmap will soon grow outdated.

Agile approach suggests that a product manager should be able to pivot and change direction with a flexible plan. Product managers can keep up with quarterly or monthly changes in a dynamic roadmap.

12 Principles of Agile Principles

The Twelve Principles guide the approaches used in "The Agile Movement." They discuss a corporate culture in which change is accepted, and the client is prioritized. They also demonstrate that, as one of the signatories to the Agile Manifesto, Alistair Cockburn, the purpose of the movement is to align development with business demands.

These are the twelve agile development principles:

Customer satisfaction through continuous delivery of the product

In traditional ways of running a business, customers don't see the finished product until after it's finished and is put through several tests and quality checks. This keeps customers in the dark and makes it hard for the team to make any changes to the product.

To keep customers happy, it's important to give them a version of the product that works all the time. Plan in small steps for each sprint and make changes as needed.

Divide large portions of work into smaller, more manageable jobs for faster completion and more accessible modifications

Managing project tasks would take time and energy if you had to deal with a big, complicated task. A better way to do it is to break the job up into smaller parts that are easy to do. Then, customers would always know what's happening, making it easier for team members to find possible bottlenecks and deal with any delays.

Don't miss the deadline for delivering a product that works

The Agile philosophy likes short time frames and a lot of working products. This iterative process requires product managers to keep getting better at what they do.

All project stakeholders must frequently collaborate to ensure the project's success

One of the biggest problems with traditional ways of managing projects is that the project's stakeholders often don't know what stages the project is in. The Agile principles encourage everyone involved in the project to stay involved at all stages so that feedback is always given and a more product management focused product is made at the end.

Ensure team members have a good work environment and are motivated

The project manager's job is to create a supportive and encouraging environment where team members aren't afraid to share their thoughts and make suggestions to help the team improve. Giving the team members confidence and motivation would make them work much better, which would be better for the project in the long run.

Prefer talking to people face-to-face over other ways

In the Agile methodology, good communication is given much weightage. Because of changes in communication technologies, traditional face-to-face communication is easier to do. When development teams are positioned in the same physical space, communication is more likely to be successful. All the people who need to be at a meeting don't have to come to the office for a short meeting. Instead, they can use video conferencing.

The main sign of progress is a product that works

The main sign in determining whether or not progress has been made is whether the product being sold to the consumer is actually functional.

Agile processes to enable a steady development pace

Teams choose a speed at which they can provide a product that can be repeated and maintained, and then they continue to work at that speed with each release.

Pay attention to technical details to maintain the product's quality 

Any Agile team's primary goal is to provide customer value. It's imperative to have a team with a wide range of skills that can handle all the technical parts of the project and allow constant improvement.

Emphasize on simplicity

During each interval, the team members should direct most of their attention to the tasks at hand. During the development of the product, it is important to prevent over-planning and to introduce unnecessary features whenever possible.

Encourage self-organizing teams

A self-organized team with the power to make decisions would do better because each team member would be responsible for ensuring customers are happy instead of a single project manager. With good communication with other team members and contributing innovative ideas to developing high-quality goods.

Consider your performance often to improve

Agile methods are based on the idea of iteration, which means that teams learn from their mistakes and keep getting better. Project managers should encourage team meetings where everyone can talk about how they did and how they can improve their technical and management skills.

Agile Product Development Methods

Agile product development methods range from concrete, almost set-in-stone methods like a waterfall to very flexible methods based on user feedback.

The four most common product development methods used today are as follows:

Agile methodology

Agile product development is based on making minor changes to a product repeatedly. Each sprint or build cycle is a complete iteration that is repeated. Instead of being step-by-step, where one stage is finished and not looked at again until the whole product is done, the agile method focuses on:

  • Bringing out new "versions."
  • Monitoring performance and getting feedback from users and customers, and going back to the drawing board to plan how to deliver updates that make things better.
  • Finalizing updates for the next sprint and getting the team ready for the next sprint
  • Delivering improved version
  • Repeat

Scrum process

Scrum is an agile process that focuses on how the team works together and meets to plan and carry out each sprint. The scrum master, who usually works for the product manager, plans and records the meetings that make up a scrum. In the scrum process, everyone works together to find and prioritize new updates, find and manage backlogs, and share feedback on lessons learned, successes and gaps.

Kanban and Scrum both focus on two different but complementary ways to give each process more detail within the agile framework. Kanban is about how to do the work efficiently, while Scrum is about planning the work well.

Kanban method

Kanban is an agile development process that focuses on minimizing the quantity of work in progress. Kanban is a more agile strategy that employs planning to decrease the amount of work to complete at once. The principal objective is to determine how much stress the pipeline can withstand while still flowing smoothly and without bottlenecks.

With the Kanban WIP limits, teams can break down larger development goals into smaller cycles and keep an eye on the pipeline for problems before adding more work to each cycle. The weight of each cycle depends on how much work the team can finish on time. To keep the code-base healthy, the team must also follow hygiene practices.

Waterfall methodology

The waterfall is a stage-based development framework, which means that the whole product is made in a straight line of stages, unlike the agile framework, which is a continuous process that changes the product based on what users say. Waterfall delivers the finished product in a straight line. Because of this, changes to the product are less flexible and can only be made after the development stages are done.

Waterfall also puts much emphasis on documentation for each stage of work. This differs from agile, which focuses on documentation for each sprint and usually keeps clean code used efficiently on top of regular updates. With the rise of customer-centered product development, which relies on changing customer preferences and opinions to drive product updates, fewer people are using the waterfall method.

Pros of Agile Product Development 

Adaptability

Agile methods don't require 9-12 or 24-month plans. A well-organized Agile team prioritizes tasks. After finishing the most crucial task, they go on to the next, and so on. This attention has several benefits.

Customers obtain fast replies to their difficulties

Stakeholders might prioritize based on how the market is going. Developers feel valued because they work on major projects and get frequent, detailed feedback from users (ideally, at least).

Learning to be comfortable with uncertainty

Agile development recognizes that you don't know everything about a project at the start. In "conventional" stage-gate and waterfall techniques, requirements are "complete" before anyone types a line of code. 

Agile relies on incremental learning. For example, you may find that a technological solution doesn't match consumer needs or that there's another problem behind the claimed one. By tackling that problem, you can tackle the presented problem and other customer problems. Agile principles allow you to embrace what you don't know and prioritize learning and trying before committing to a solution.

Review cycles

So that product managers can be both comfortable with uncertainty and open to change. Quick iteration and regular, detailed evaluations as work is done to ensure that discoveries are thought about, and present efforts are assessed. Most Agile techniques limit work time (Scrum) or "work in progress" (Kanban) to ensure work is done on time. Then, these activities are discussed with customers or their agents (such as internal services teams or stakeholder teams) (such as internal services teams or stakeholder teams). 

Focusing on collecting rapid reviews and feedback from real users (or as close to the user as possible) gets around one of the most typical difficulties with waterfall methodologies: after a 6–9 month closed development cycle, you end up with a product that nobody wants.

Adds flexibility to product release process

Delivering products in time-boxed or effort-boxed iterations makes it easier for the business to decide when to release them to end users. As a result, customer or proxy review cycles are shorter. In more traditional ways of doing things, releases happen when all the anticipated work is done, or even worse, on a date established by stakeholders, no matter how polished the work is. On the other side, agile methodologies give enough functionality.

Cons of Agile Development

Flexibility can lead to bad behaviors

Lack of formal training or understanding might drive teams to do bad things and "blame" Agile instead of their bad judgments. This happens when teams read the Agile Manifesto and ignore the "correct" items. No product can succeed without a process, tools, documentation, or plan. 

When teams focus on the left side of the Manifesto and neglect the right, they'll do awful things. Because most organizations employ Agile at the ground level, harmful habits can spread. When a company "goes Agile," "experienced" employees generally lead the shift. If they have terrible principles, their following Agile processes will have challenges.

Lack of predictability

Agile approaches make prediction difficult. They accept uncertainty and focus on the necessary tasks to go on. As a result, we lose the predictability and stability that 12- to 24-month roadmaps provide. This can be difficult for other departments. It can complicate budgeting, marketing, and investor pitches. If a corporation wishes to know what will happen in the next six months or more, Agile won't work.

Scale-up challenges

Many have tried to construct scalable Agile system architectures like LeSS. Most of these ideas came about because it's challenging to do teamwork in larger organizations. How do you manage connections between 5 to 9-person scrum teams and 500-person developers? Agile approaches were designed for small, youthful, flexible businesses. Only in the last several years have large firms made genuine efforts to adopt Agile practices.

Tips for the Successful Agile Product Development Process 

Even though each of the following tips for a successful agile product development process is important, there is one that makes each of the others easier to do and more likely to work in the long run. In keeping with the Agile process, we won't make you wait.

Here are the most important tips for making the Agile product development process work well.

Plan constantly

Planning is always a part of any project that isn't a waterfall. Business speed, overlap, and changing needs require ongoing attention. You won't know everything, but that's okay. Plan ahead so your development efforts are always ahead.

Spending time planning will pay off in the long term. Start with a team planning session. Discuss designs and allow the team to ask questions. This workshop will show you where more research is needed. Planning helps you find out what you don't know (yet) and the risks it poses.

After your project starts, planning is still crucial. First, you must monitor the team's product backlog and delivery speed. Knowing what variables you're working with can help you prepare for the next sprints and adjust ongoing sprints as appropriate. You'll need to continue preparing, altering priorities, and setting (or revising) expectations. When you think you're done planning, make more.

Do the right thing for the product

"Right" isn't always the simplest, fastest, or cheapest. Don't abandon your product's vision. Plan ahead, consider the ramifications and decide how to proceed. Dates vary.

Savvy product managers know when to make tough decisions and pull back. There will always be another "wow factor" or client request. Step back and consider what's most important, then explore other options. You'll find a way even if the path isn't what you expected.

Tools are only as good as you make them

Teams must understand their roles in the project's processes and workflows. You don't want communication issues because you forgot something (which can ultimately cause delays). Ensure your team members report progress daily during standup meetings and handle work tickets. This improves team communication.

Your team should work the same way and communicate at the proper time to make progress clear. Give those who need it more attention and remove those who don't. Dashboards can rapidly illustrate how work is going and spot time, scope, or resource risks.

Make sure everyone agrees on what "done" means

Because there are numerous ways to implement Agile, "done" might imply different things in different projects. One team's "done" may differ from another's. Your team should define "done" so everyone knows when a feature is complete.

Start with a simple Agile definition. Clear acceptance criteria could determine if a user narrative is complete. The acceptance criteria would be a pass/fail statement list that shows if the output fulfills the needs. After coding and testing a feature, the product manager can review it. The product manager must approve a feature before it's "done" (ideally in writing).

Consider the outcome

You'll have to choose between two options in your project. When these things happen, ask, "What's the MVP?" (MVP) Give your customers and business value. Don't make something clients may not desire if you haven't asked them. Focus on immediate and long-term gains.

Takeaway!

Agile product development is more than a fad; it is a product management discipline with clear advantages. The product management methodology prioritizes transparency, an iterative process, communication, and the quality of the result. Your company's productivity will increase dramatically once you implement an agile method for the product development process.

You will not only be able to design products that are more focused on the end customer's needs, but you will also spend less time and resources. First, however, you will need the appropriate tools to help you convert to the Agile technique. This is where Zeda.io will come in handy.

Zeda.io is developed with the primary goal of helping agile teams realize their full potential. So, while you can concentrate on making your Agile team successful, Zeda.io will handle all the laborious aspects of the project for you.

Check out Zeda.io If you're a Product Manager looking for the best agile product management tools. We can assist you in finding the appropriate solution for your team at a minimal cost.

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