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Here are 4 ways CPD can power the agile design process.

October 12, 2021 By: Alex Torres

If you work in product design, whether that’s as a team leader, a developer, a designer, or a corporate executive, chances are that you’ve heard of the agile Design Process. 

An alternative to the more traditional waterfall process of the 1990’s, the agile Design Process leverages design thinking to produce flexible, adaptive design that meets user needs while maintaining and prioritizing team efficiency. It basically means applying the overarching set of agile principles to design.

In this post, I’ll outline the basics: 

  • What is the agile design process? 
  • What can agile design process do for your organization?
  • Where should you start if you decide to make the switch?
  • What is Continuous Product Design, and how can implementing it maximize the benefits of agile to transform your business for the better?

What is the agile design process?

Put simply, the agile design process is an incremental approach to designing how products look and feel.

In the past, designers were encouraged to develop and produce high-quality, high-fidelity designs from the outset rather than embrace an iterative process. The traditional approach can work fine if product requirements, user needs, or market conditions don’t change along the way. 

However, requirements almost always evolve during the course of a project. A lack of flexibility in the design process often led to poorly designed products, customer dissatisfaction, team burnout, and unhelpful feedback loops.

The agile design process offers a more nimble approach to design. Instead of perfecting and completing products or designs before introduction and release, agile allows teams to develop things in phases (or sprints), making small adjustments along the way. Teams can react to feedback from users and stakeholders to improve design as they go, rather than waiting until the product is live and then going back to make changes. 

Applying the four Agile Values to Design

Agile has four key values, which can be applied as easily to design as to software development:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation;
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

Why is the agile design process important?

First and foremost, the agile design process creates highly responsive designs that are able to adapt to consumer feedback with ease. An incremental framework helps to foster open lines of communication with customers, internal stakeholders, and with changing market conditions. 

Not only does this approach maximize consumer satisfaction, it also streamlines the work of design and development. Teams no longer have to waste time trying to get to the bottom of an issue on a completed and launched product: instead, they can catch it in the early stages. This both makes the development process faster and minimizes team burnout.

An iterative process also allows designers to test and implement different approaches on the fly, rather than having to wait until the final release.

Finally, the agile design process enables companies and teams to be more proactive when a product or design just isn’t working. A team may sink incredible amounts of time and money into a design, only to realize in its final release that it isn’t useful, isn’t functional, or isn’t necessary. With agile, every iteration of the design offers the opportunity to stop, examine, and reevaluate.

How can we implement the agile design process?

Many companies and teams have successfully made the switch from waterfall to agile. To some, however, the process may still seem daunting. 

Some aspects of the old process—like product roadmaps, planning, and management—can be difficult to translate into the agile design process, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done effectively.

In order to transition from waterfall to agile, team leaders should focus on theme-centric, rather than deadline-centric, design. Instead of eliminating the product roadmap entirely, consider removing some of the specificity. If a progress landmark isn’t imminent, don’t try to create a strict guideline on how to get there: allow your team to work through their immediate goals and adapt to the problems they encounter. This will allow them to be more flexible while still keeping an eye on the big picture.

Finally, understand that the agile design process requires a lot of feedback and support. Any major transition comes with bumps and setbacks; team leaders should make sure that they are celebrating their team’s successes and supporting them through the challenges.

How can Continuous Product Design help boost your agile design process? 

While agile has helped companies develop, design, and deliver faster, it isn’t always enough. Built into the agile philosophy was the assumption that once products were delivered, customers were happy. The problem with that assumption is that customer impact was often difficult to assess, and data was scattered and siloed across teams.

Teams need a single version of the truth that’s fast, quantified, and based on what customers actually experience.

Continuous Product Design extends agile principles from technical teams to the rest of the business, including UX design, product, marketing, and sales. By connecting customer signals to every phase of the digital product lifecycle, teams can learn faster, agree on priorities, and deliver the products that customers want.

Here are 4 ways Continuous Product design boosts the power of the agile design process.

When organizations embrace Continuous Product Design, business and technical teams work continuously and in sync to deliver better products faster. In practice, Continuous Product Design extends the power and reach of the agile methodology with these 4Ds:

  1. Define with data, not hunches;
  2. Develop while minimizing risk;
  3. Deliver new code with confidence;
  4. Discover customer impact quickly.

Whether your business has already implemented the agile design process, or you’re just now beginning the transition, Continuous Product Design is a critical part of applying these ideas to an entire organization.


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