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Agile business development: trial and error instead of long-term planning

Small and autonomous teams form the backbone of agile business development.
Image: © SolisImages / Adobe Stock

Agility as a holistic management principle

In view of the advancing digital transformation and an increasingly dynamic market, companies today must react faster to challenges and changes. More and more frequently, agile processes and structures are shaping business thinking and actions and taking hold in the most diverse areas.

Especially in agile business development, the focus is on the synergy between flexible, autonomous project planning and development as well as consequential practical tests. The trend toward agile company development can be attributed to the evident need for speed and adaptability: requirements that cannot be met by the traditional development cycle consisting of business models and products, long-term planning, complex decision-making processes, and lengthy development processes.

Customer centricity: the customer leads the way for agile company development

The introduction of agile business development principles also usually entails a paramount shift in thinking. Rather than wanting to develop the “perfect product” during complex procedures and subsequently making it appealing to customers, the actual needs of customers and the user experience take center stage. In terms of meeting modern market requirements, customer centricity and UX improvements therefore already play a key role in agile company and product development at a very early stage.

This needs-based focus allows agile companies to accurately determine customer wishes and meet them quickly and efficiently, both in the B2C and B2B sector. By being more agile, these companies not only position themselves better on the market, but also continuously invest in long-term customer retention.

Agile principles as the basis for agile processes

Identifying and seizing market opportunities: a holistic management approach is required to ensure that agile product development takes place as close as possible to customers and with the greatest amount of input from them. This creates the conditions for flexible strategies and innovativeness that facilitate customer centricity.

Agile business development is therefore based on certain principles that promote customer proximity and adaptability in all development phases and throughout the product lifecycle. These principles include:

  • Small, self-organizing teams with a high level of operational freedom and responsibility
  • Short communication and decision-making paths as well as flat hierarchies
  • Cross-functional collaboration
  • Motivated team members, supported learning, and supportive leadership
  • Avoidance of bureaucracy and duplicated workloads
  • Systematic measurement of success
  • Technological excellence and automation
  • Focus on progress through continuous improvement

Agile product development: lots of small steps instead of large, mammoth projects

Why customer centricity is pivotal in agile business development becomes particularly apparent in the field of product development. Here, ideas and products are tested and evaluated in practice as quickly as possible in order to avoid expensive flawed developments that fail to fulfill the market needs. Potential customers are often brought in as early adopters at a very early stage of the development process, and their feedback is used as a basis for crucial product modifications.

Agile companies draw on in-depth target group analyses and surveys to develop prototypes or “minimum viable products” (MVPs) for initial tests in markets of a manageable size. These minimum viable products, which are initially only equipped with the most important core features, present numerous advantages to developers:

  • MVPs can be developed and launched relatively quickly and easily.
  • The investment costs for MVPs are not extortionate and can be specifically controlled.
  • Potential gaps in the market can be tested with minimal development effort.
  • Users receive access to the product as early as possible.
  • Valuable customer feedback makes it possible to perfectly tailor the product optimization process to market requirements.

If the products proved successful on the test market and could be improved in line with customer needs, they are then launched on a much bigger market. In some areas, such as app development, more advanced approaches have already caught on, which focus more strongly on the user experience alongside the most basic features as part of the development process. One example would be the “minimum awesome product” (MAP).

Dealing with mistakes openly as a recipe for success in agile business development

An essential part of agile company and product development is a consistent learning principle that is thoroughly incorporated in relevant processes. With this in mind, a trial-and-error approach is integral to learning and significantly contributes to agility and flexibility in the development process through experimentation and evaluation. In this context, if a company fosters a culture in which errors are dealt with openly, mistakes and false assumptions are regarded as valuable learning opportunities that can facilitate the market-driven further development of products and services.

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