Nowadays in this rapid continuously changing world of consumer products, the bar for consumer expectations is set very high. It is very common for consumers to provide feedback on their new goodies to the consumer goods companies. All different kind of Social Media channels are used to strengthen and encourage these processes and thereby gather consumer opinions. Enabling fast response times on consumer support now is considered a ‘must have’.
Consumer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of a potential shippable product is in fact one of the agile principles. Regular software updates and new features are rather rule than exception.
Software Development Process
Producers are very aware of the Agile way of working and the need for it, however their overall product realization processes are more deviated than they might realize. For example, it starts with a feasibility research to determine the minimum viable product. Deal with the high risk features first and eventually add some additional ‘could have’ features in case budget permits it. However, the business department demands a complete cost and time estimation upfront, which is very hard or even impossible to deliver.
So before production is even started, the need for Agile methodologies seems already forgotten. But then again, I can’t blame the business for asking such a thing. How should they react to these circumstances? They can for instance take a look at how other success stories deal with this, start small and come to market early. Adapt and adjust more quickly as consumer opinions are coming in.
By developing the consumer product in small iterative cycles it still is possible to reflect and determine if consumer needs are still met. To support these cycles and openness, all teams must be equipped with the right set of tools for good collaboration. This is necessary for communication between business and development teams, but it also opens opportunities to verify that product requirements, market needs and consumer desires have not changed and are still accurate.
Although it seems more difficult to develop consumer hardware in an Agile way, this sector has already adapted hardware design to nowadays expectations and needs. Of course the physical hardware cannot easily be replaced or changed once it enters the market. One can resolve this by using generic platforms and components as much as possible, so producers can deliver firmware updates. Using smart cloud solutions can partially compensate other hardware restrictions.
Consumer products are now more influenced by its consumers than ever before. What consumers probably don’t realize is that their behaviour and demands are already more agile than the processes behind building those products. Consumer goods companies should consider adapting the advantages of agile development models onto their product realization processes. Collaboration is key and focus should be on what brings value to the end users. Finally, this will lead to more, faster and better innovations from which we all can benefit.
Written by Davy Faassen & Wouter Pol