Be Agile

  • Sara Zbinden

A bullsh**-free blog post about how to deliver faster and better solutions to make your customers happy. All thanks to agility. Seriously.

Agility? A buzzword? Certainly not for us. Since Liip’s foundation, more than ten years ago, we have had a pragmatic approach to Agility. More than post-its and daily stand-ups, agility represents a set of principles and a mindset.

In this blog post we give you three tips on how agility can help you create value for your customers by delivering something they love. Lazy to read the full blog post? Just watch Emilie in this video!

Make the implicit explicit

Working agile requires a clear definition of what is expected. How many times did you experience issues because of implicit expectations?

  • The product specifications aren’t clear
  • The priorities aren’t explicit

The goal of your project is defined by your customers’ expectations regarding a specific product or service. Define it as an ideal state in which your customers should be in. For instance, if you’re an ice cream producer and want to bring to the market a new ice cream flavour, you could define the project goal as “as local foodie, I am delighted to taste a basil-cucumber flavoured ice cream from The Magic Ice Cone”.

Often people have different target customers in mind when they describe a feature, product or service. It leads to misunderstandings, waste and delays. For example, you might want to sell your ice cream in retail supermarkets, or gelaterias. The packaging will then be very different in these two outlets. Even the consistency of the ice cream might be different (e.g. must be easy to shape for a gelateria). Make explicit to whom you're designing a feature, product or service. And always keep your customers in mind.

To make the implicit explicit implies to define the project better. Divide it into smaller deliverable items. For instance, an item regarding the preparation of the basil-cucumber mix. Quality is defined with acceptance criteria. Again, make explicit what is implicitly expected. For example, the basil-cucumber mix will be accepted only if: the ingredients are locally sourced, it fits the regulatory food standards and the tasters love the taste of it.

Well done, you have a list of what’s expected – probably a very, very long list. Now it’s time to prioritize.

Focus and set priorities

In other words: Decide what you will NOT do. This is probably the hardest mindset change that stands behind agile techniques.

You have limited resources – like time or money – to fulfil your project goal. Ask yourself: What are the few items that will make a real difference for my customers? What are the few items that are expected to be done very well?

For the basil-cucumber ice cream, you might decide to focus on the taste and the consistency of the ice cream. And leave the package out of scope: You might not allocate resources for a custom packaging, nor create a cone to go with it, if a standard paper cup is good enough.

The "nice-to-haves" can be considered as noise that distract you from the essential work.

Fail fast

Meeting your customers’ expectations is only possible with continuous feedback loops. Counter-intuitively, you have to start with something imperfect. Show your first iteration to potential customers. Don’t take their feedback personally but as a part of the working process. Make the necessary adjustments in the next iteration. And start the feedback loop again.

Anything that you optimize early is a waste of time. For instance, don't work on improving the consistency before you’re sure that the basil-cucumber combination works. If you end up replacing the cucumber with celery, that will change the consistency and you will have to start all over again anyway.

The consistency will indeed affect the whole sensory experience. But first, check if your customers like the combination of basil and cucumber. If not, there is no need to invest more resources in developing this flavour. You could even start with a basil-cucumber milkshake: It’s quicker to do than ice cream since it saves you the freezing effort.

It might seem obvious in this example. But we tend to think that delivering quality means doing everything great from the start. Rather, reach better quality with less effort by making imperfect prototypes and getting feedback very early in the process and on a very regular basis.

The goal is to learn along the process. Agility is synonymous for continuous improvement.

Summary

Setting clear expectations, splitting the work into smaller items, prioritizing them and implementing feedback loops will allow you to not only ease communication and collaboration among your team, but also to deliver something that fulfils your customers’ expectations and makes their life better in some way.

Thanks for reading! This was the third issue of our format “Liip tips”. Are these insights helpful? We’d like to give you ideas on what to do next. And we’re always happy to support you in digital challenges. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback!

Thank you very, very much to Emilie, Jenny, François, Sylvain and Trent for the production and post-production of the blog post as well as the video. You rock!


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