Benefits of Agile Project Management in Product Development

A question that often floats around various new product development circles is what are the best steps to take to ensure innovation and customer adoption of a product? New product development, unfortunately, is not a series of predictable steps that can be fully identified or planned for in advance.For many product development projects, particularly those with some level of technological uncertainty, resulting capabilities of the product and ability to derive at the product may not be known with complete certainty at the beginning of the project.Due to the limitations inherent in project planning for product development projects, product development managers and project managers must focus their attention on managing the project during its execution to adapt to these uncertainties as they arise and to assure a consistent positive outcome.Ultimately, this requires a shift from thinking solely about detailed project planning – typically done ‘before’ a project begins – to the context within which the project work is expected to be accomplished, that is, the project execution phase.A recurring, problematic challenge tends to be in determining the degree to which to apply a formal management process to the project, while allowing leeway to conduct project work, provide flexibility to integrate creativity and drive customer value.One approach to solving these layers of complexity is to adopt an agile project management approach, such as scrum, to manage the product development life cycle.The excerpts below from the agile manifesto highlight the idea of remaining focused on development of your product while remaining agile enough to adapt the product to the needs of your customer throughout the process.  While the agile manifesto targets software development, it has been applied to a wide variety of industry and focuses on something all too often lost when developing new products; the idea that value to the customer is relative and in a state of constant flux.

Excepts from the Agile Manifesto: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (or product(s)).Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Working software (or product(s)) is the primary measure of progress. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Leveraging the latest project management techniques, such as those that a Certified Scrum Master may use, and emphasizing an ‘agile’ approach ensures new product development efforts remain adaptable to the potential changes in technology or your customer’s requirements, but also aids in the attainment of producing better outcomes and thus better products.

Prepared December 2012 by:

David M. Reynolds
Certified Project Manager – CSPM, MBA, CSM, PMP®