A real-world approach to Agile New Product Development
Small companies who know their NPD costs are unsustainable seldom have time to check their watches, let alone rip up the innovation playbook. Large companies committed at the highest level to agile can’t move the organisation onto a new path overnight when it perhaps involves thousands of people.
What’s Involved in Agile Product Development?
Design, Develop, Test, Review. Am I describing current NPD methods or Agile strategy? Well, to some degree, both. My bet is, your current workflows aren’t so far from agile, however, significant focus is sometimes missing due to familiarity, unconscious bias and the ever-present pressure to deliver.
So what’s the difference with Agile? In a nutshell – emphasis on the process, frequency of testing and commitment to data-driven decision making.
Be honest, throughout your NPD which stages are frequently tested at the consumer level? Do those results drive refinements or actually carry the weight to kill a concept?
By increasing the frequency of testing two things happen. You reduce the resources ploughed into a dud and you increase the likelihood of a successful new product. Iteration and refinement from concept and formulation through packaging, pricing and positioning will deliver better products faster when you involve key stakeholders. The biggest stakeholder of all is the consumer.
Sure, there are a lot of stages in the full stack implementation of Agile for any organisation at any scale. We write about them here. However, if you are still reading this, I expect you are looking for a way to get results now, not writing a consultation document for a restructuring programme? So, read on.
Seven things to do on your next project
- Planning – Draw out the phases of your project and follow the plan. Lay them out visually and overlay the essential information you need at each stage. This frees you up to focus on the steps and remain on track. It also forms the basis to keep your team and other stakeholders across the project, keeping them informed of needs and building momentum.
- People – Involving the right people in the development process is pretty obvious, but forethought and the discipline to bring in stakeholders at the right time makes their input so much more valuable. This also ensures their contribution is clearly received and understood, keeping the stakeholder engaged and confident in your process. Did I mention that the most important stakeholder input comes from the consumer?
- Communication – Quick and effective updates across your team are vital if you don’t want (and you definitely don’t want) everyone in the room all the time! Communicate updates that are simple and consistent. Use clear visualisations of progress and key decisions and keep laborious reporting to a minimum. By doing this you will promote rapid relevant stakeholder feedback, reducing circumstances where decisions are left unchallenged or raised when it’s too late, or become too expensive to take back.
- Preconceptions – Use history and experience to ask good questions, not generate answers. Looking backwards in order to decide what happens going forwards is a poor strategy for innovation. This is especially true today as society experiences a clearly massive technological and social revolution changing buying behaviour at a never before seen pace. Use rapid, low cost, detailed consumer testing to challenge your preconceptions.
- Customers – Everything you do is focused on the customer. They are the barometer of your individual and departmental success. How many times during the development of a product do you consult customers directly? When adapting your development process to become more agile, include a way to micro-test your proposals at key stages, with customers. Traditional customer insights solutions may not be a good fit – they can be slow, expensive and out of date. You need valuable information quickly and cost effectively that informs you of genuine buyer intent.
- Iteration – Evaluate and refine your ideas at every NPD stage, learn from each outcome and test again. You will develop a more successful product and be better placed to kill resource hungry bad ideas, sooner. There is value in failure, what you take away from a failed proposal should inform the next steps you take. By waiting too long to get a proposal in front of your customer, you may well be too far down the track to be able to react to their feedback. Take the agile product development step to embrace low-cost failures as progress to a great solution.
- Trust – Blending these steps into your current NPD innovation process will make a positive difference (we’ve seen up to 39% increases in new product success), but it’s very easy to fall back into old practices. In order to avoid that, treat the changes you make in an Agile way! Try them, step back to evaluate their success and then adapt. Keep things simple and iterate based on what you learn.
We know Agile
At Vypr, using a simple set of tools designed to complement your existing systems, we help you ‘sell’ by presenting and validating ideas, concepts, and models at every development stage with consumers. Using the results, you iterate, select or reject proposals until you have a proven winner. Only then do you commit to making product, marketing and sales investments. We achieve this in the Virtual Lab that is Vypr – our consumer-facing app regularly enjoyed by over 50,000 UK consumers, with growing cohorts in France and Germany.