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August 21, 2018
Digital platforms: Get agile to go faster and farther
By: Elaine Turville

In exploring the three pillars of digital transformation, we’ve addressed customer centricity and user-centered design and the importance of cleaning up processes before plunging into technology deployments. Thanks to that work, you now understand your users and their needs. You have a clear picture of the problems to solve and goals to achieve. And you’re investing time and energy in leaner, meaner processes.

That means it’s time to get down to the business of designing and developing your new digital platforms.

That used to require a long, protracted exercise—a massive RFP followed by waterfall development that spans months or even years. All the while, you faced the risk that by the time the system is finished, it would already be obsolete. Fortunately, the design and development process can—and should—be different today. Agile methodologies make it possible to deliver your digital platforms with greater speed, innovation and productivity.

Agile is highly effective at translating user needs into requirements and actual capabilities—and doing it all quickly and in close collaboration with your users. With agile, rather than staring down an endless list of requirements, you tackle each chunk as a “sprint.” Each represent a two- to four-week iteration of highly focused work with well-defined parameters for the stakeholder requirements to be addressed. And each sprint culminates in some kind of work product that users can test and try, yielding valuable feedback for ongoing iteration. Once you’ve completed your sprints, you have a minimally viable product (MVP) that you can deploy and ask for additional feedback to make the overall product better.

Why is an agile approach better? For starters, it enables faster development, easier design and fewer code errors. It helps you ensure you’re aligning desired business outcomes with user needs for a shared vision with your customers. It encourages uptake of the new platform by reflecting your users’ point of view in the design and development. And it yields much higher efficiency in development—preventing the need to re-baseline by involving developers in upfront feasibility planning, baking quality into the code base through iterative design and development, and avoiding change orders after release.

There’s no question that digital transformation will always be more marathon than 50-yard dash. Even so, don’t underestimate the value of embracing agile for design and development. In addition to reaching the finish line faster, you’ll better engage users as co-creators—not just consumers—of your evolving digital capabilities.

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