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Is agile software development outdated?

December 3, 2021 By: Alex Torres

Agile software development was adopted by many companies since its introduction in the early 2000s, and it has many positively impacted the process of software development. However, some organizations may be wondering if agile is really the best option when it comes to modernizing and streamlining the development process. After all, can anything created 20 years ago be relevant for modern challenges?

In this post, I’ll answer some important questions:

  • What is agile software development?
  • What are its limitations?
  • What is Continuous Product Design (CPD)?
  • How can CPD improve on the agile software development method?

What Is agile software development?

Agile software development is a flexible, iterative approach. It centers problem-solving and communication over rigid, long-term goals. 

Developed as an alternative to the more restrictive development processes of the 1990s, agile’s main goal is to help teams adapt to and overcome problems. In short, the goal is continuous improvement.

By working in small “sprints” instead of creation-to-market development cycles, developers can respond to change without having to go back to square one. Not only that, but the results of each “sprint” are immediately available for use, making it easy to solve problems on the fly. 

The agile methodology is associated with the importance of user needs, especially in the context of software development. With agile, consumer feedback is constantly collected and analyzed, resulting in flexible, functional software that customers actually need. 

What are the limitations of agile?

Agile can’t surmount all the roadblocks associated with software development on its own. 

For starters, agile’s methodology is confined to the development cycle of a product. It doesn’t help developers analyze consumer demand and market paradigms, which can leave some big questions when it comes to prioritization. 

  • Which projects are most important? 
  • Which projects address customer needs? 
  • Which projects have the highest predicted returns?

Because agile is limited to the development process, software developers may end up doing some serious guesswork in these areas. Even if market analysis is already well-integrated into an organization, this data may end up scattered, and teams may not have access to the information they need.

Secondly, agile doesn’t fully overcome all of the barriers to speed and customer obsession that many organizations struggle with, including:  

  1. Organizational pushback / misalignment 
  2. Inability to tie back efforts to business value 
  3. Cultural constraints 
  4. Talent 
  5. Data problems (disconnected data, can’t action off data, lack of data accessibility) 
  6. Architectural / technological constraints
  7. Too much waste (working on things that don’t have meaningful outcomes)
  8. Fear of introducing new risks
  9. Inability to anticipate customers’ articulated and unarticulated needs
  10. Competitive pressures (more nimble players that excel in all of the above add urgency)

Agile does counteract some of these problems. Its iterative approach to software development maximizes value and efficiency and minimizes the losses caused by more advanced competitors—but it can’t solve all of them. The limited nature of agile means that data still ends up disconnected or siloed across different teams, which makes it difficult to anticipate customer needs.

It’s clear that agile can be successful on a small scale. However, it doesn’t do everything possible to address higher-level problems. It’s only when agile is paired with Continuous Product Design that an organization can enjoy the full extent of its benefits.

What is Continuous Product Design?

Continuous Product Design, or CPD, is a way of extending the principles of agile to every stage of the software development cycle, as well as to every silo within an organization. 

In practice, this approach leads to accessible, democratized data that can be shared throughout an entire organization, the increased relevance of customer signals on every step of software development, and intuitive market research that allows teams to prioritize projects with ease. Instead of being confined to the development process, CPD can be implemented in every part of a business, maximizing the advantages of agile while also covering for weak spots.

How can Continuous Product Design improve on the agile software development method?

CPD allows teams to:

  1. Discover problems, friction, or unmet customer needs in your current offering (and quantify the potential opportunity or impact). 
  2. Define solutions and learning objectives with a clear business case. 
  3. Develop the solutions while minimizing the risk of introducing new issues that negatively impact the customer experience. 
  4. Deliver these solutions with confidence. 

These are considered the 4 D’s of Continuous Product Design, and they attempt to address some of the problems that agile can’t solve by itself. 

Instead of focusing on the software development process alone, CPD looks for friction points before, during, and after a project begins. It’s a comprehensive implementation that can also bring a powerful sense of unity to the entirety of an organization.

With CPD, stakeholders and consumers are involved in every step—teams have access to accurate, consolidated data that tells them exactly which projects deserve the most time and attention. This eliminates the need for risky guesswork, and minimizes the amount of time wasted on low-return projects.

Extend the Value of agile with Continuous Product Design.

Agile Software Development is a proven philosophy for teams to use during the development process, because of how it centers consumer feedback and short development cycles in order to increase efficiency across the board. However, it does have some limitations on the macro-level. 

With Continuous Product Design, the principles of agile can be extended to the entirety of an organization, making sure that everyone receives the benefits. Implementing CPD is vital to maximizing the rewards of the agile Development Process and changing your organization for the better.

Learn more about how Continuous Product Design can boost your current agile process. 

Download the CPD eBook today.

Join our discussion about boosting your agile practice at our annual conference Quantum LEAP on Feb 7-9, 2022.

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