An artist begins with a blank canvas, a musician with an acoustic guitar slung in hand and a writer with an empty notebook. They all have a basic idea, an inspiration they want to convey in their chosen medium. So they begin to sketch it out, strum through the chords, write down a simple plot structure until a basic outline is completed; the songwriter's demo, the artist’s finalised outline and the writer’s treatment.
If we were to look at this process through the lens of a software company we would call this part of the development the MVP (The Minimum Viable Product). The MVP is the first iteration of the initial vision, a lean product with the fundamentals in place in order to test the validity of the idea.
This isn’t to say that a MVP can never be suitable for product launch, in fact the best thing you can do is get it in front of real users and gather real feedback. But it's important to understand that an MVP is the first stepping stone on the road to a successful product, and not the final destination. It will take testing, feedback, and perhaps several iterations to land on the perfect combination. After all it’s only when an artist begins to fill in their sketch, add more instruments to their demo or add dialogue to their novel that the true masterpiece reveals itself, often quite different to the original outline.
This process of first focussing on the MVP before building out the surrounding features is the core of Agile Delivery. It allows a development company and client to work quickly and cost effectively towards a release-ready product before adding other features that may not add value to the business but are nice to have. This ensures that budgets and timeframes can always remain fixed while scope can vary from the starting point of an MVP.
Key factors for the success of Agile Delivery are.
Communication with the client should be kept simple, non-technical and focussed on benefits to the business and end user. One approach to this is ‘Job Stories’ where functionality of the product is described in plain english from the point of view of the user which makes it easier for both the development company and client to clearly understand and agree upon what completion of that functionality achieves.
To deliver a highly impactful MVP, it is best to maintain frequent product demonstrations and planning sessions in order to keep focused, iterate, and pivot when needed. An effective way of achieving this is to employ a Sprint Model. A Sprint model typically consists of 2-week blocks of work with the aim of having a working, tested, part of the product ready to deploy by the end. At the start of each Sprint, the development company talks with the client to discuss what they want to achieve, and at the end of each Sprint the client is shown a demo of the production ready code. Both parties review and assess the state and direction of the project then collaborate again on the next Sprint and so on as the MVP takes shape towards an initial release.
Highly engaged client
Having an active client that is a day-to-day part of the team with complete visibility and control over the project not only produces a better product but makes the process collaborative and seamless. Any issues, questions or suggestions are worked through without delay or miscommunication and timely decision making keeps the project on track.
When a development company follows the process of Agile Delivery, the final digital product is delivered on time, on budget and with a scope that meets the needs of the business. Great communication and consistent high quality delivery are the foundation for a long term rock solid partnership.