Going beyond agile to
deliver real value
Around one-third of IT projects fail against expectations, despite the rapid advancements in technology and training. One of the key reasons, often cited by businesses, is that software development projects are fundamentally misaligned with the actual needs of the business and individual users.
One way IT professionals seek to properly align software development against user needs is by using AGILE approaches, such as Scrum. The agile approach allows teams to develop iteratively, testing each iteration against needs and expectations. The enhanced communication and collaboration that comes along with this approach helps teams develop towards more optimal outcomes, reducing the failure rate by half compared to waterfall projects, according to research from the Standish Group.
However, while agile has made a significant improvement to software development methodology, it is not a guarantee that the project will deliver on expectations or add real value. As the dubiously attributed quote from Henry Ford goes: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses”.’
Whether the famed car manufacturer uttered these words or not, it exposes the heart of the problem within IT ─ people simply cannot imagine radically new solutions that would create real added value. They will accept a “good enough” solution, resulting in small incremental changes rather than game-changing solutions.
Thread Technology aims to solve this issue by adopting Design Thinking to help us identify the right problem before we begin developing solutions. We then apply the agile methodology to ensure that our solutions meet, and even exceed, the needs of users and businesses. In this way, we both problem-find and problem-solve, creating an iterative process of ideation, challenging assumptions, redefining problems and developing novel solutions that truly add value.
There are five stages of Design Thinking through which this is accomplished:
Empathise – Understanding the problem is essential but developing a value-add solution requires understanding how the problem affects people, alters their behaviour and impacts workflow. If you know why the problem exists and understand the wider context, you can develop a solution that goes beyond the initial brief to solve a range of present and future problems.
Define – With a thorough understanding of the problem, the next step is to create a well-defined problem statement. This statement should be actionable and define both the problem and addressable needs, keeping in mind the business goals and individual perspectives.
Ideate – Creative ideation requires a different methodology than practical problem-solving skills. Developers need space to step back and see the bigger picture if they are to create impactful solutions that go beyond the brief to deliver real value.
Prototype – The first step on the agile process is to develop prototypes to gain a sense of what could be achieved. This helps bring ideas to life and allows teams to begin gathering real-world feedback.
Test – The final stage is to process feedback, learn from users’ experience, iterate, and repeat the process as needed until reaching a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
The iterative aspect of agile then allows us to improve the solutions that most closely match the needs of the business and users, incrementally building out the solution. Our MVP then becomes our pilot project and, after some more iterative improvement, goes into large-scale production and deployment.
Agile can also be used to seek continuous feedback post-deployment, iterating further improvements, and making it into a ‘living project’ that evolves with feedback, changing needs, new markets, etc.
To make our approach effective, we seek close alignment with the business ─ both physically and philosophically. Our development team gets under the skin of the business to understand the business, people and potential problems. Our development teams work closely with our clients, providing meetings that create general interactions, gain regular feedback, and share demos at the end of each sprint. This helps us identify unanticipated needs and solve them before they become problems.
The insights we gather from these interactions is what sets Thread Technology apart. Our development team uses those insights to rapidly adapt and better align our software solutions to evolving user and business needs and goals. What’s more, users feel included as part of the process, giving them a greater sense of ownership over the end product and making implementation smoother.
Additionally, by combining Design Thinking and Agile methodology, our approach focuses on uncovering problems and finding value-added solutions while keeping user and business needs squarely in focus. The result is the rapid development of optimal solutions that are perfectly tailored to the needs of users and the goals of the business.