Even though the concepts of Agile was born in the context of software, it is also beneficial for other areas of product development and project execution.
We have experiences in implementing agile approaches in various areas including the development of circulation pumps, consumption meters, robotics, music equipment, broadcasting equipment, dialysis machines and resuscitation training.
When implementing Agile in your organisation, you must be aware that there is not one best way for your company. You need to find out what “Agile” means in your context, and that will be a balance of challenging the organisation by doing things in a new way and adapting to the organisation by continuing what you are already doing well.
Developing a physical product, there is most likely no way that you are going to have a new potential releasable version of the product every two or three weeks, as it might be possible in pure software development. The importance, however, is that you begin developing the product in an iterative and incremental way, pursuing to shorten the feedback loop so that you verify the decisions and assumptions you made, by reaching agreed goals on a two to three weeks basis. In our opinion, it is one of the best ways to deal with risks.
Another important matter is that you address where either you are organised best possible way or not – and that you have invested in making this setup work. We are huge fans of self-organising teams which are cross-functional in the form of being able of delivering user-value with as few dependencies to others as possible. Re-organising towards that, often feels like a huge and impossible thing to do. But don’t worry, we have experiences in helping you doing this in a safe manner.
Finally, the matter of lead-time for components, tooling and prototypes. That is a killer, isn’t it? Not all of these challenges will disappear by going Agile, but we can help you challenge these impediments so that you will be less impacted and freer to maneuver.
Above you see four stages of the development of new platform for broadcast equipment. The team developing this was a full cross-functional team including skills for mechanical construction, analog and digital electronics development, firmware, system software and algorithm development. They were highly focusing on managing risks by shorten the feedback loop and verify their decisions as early as possible.
First stage was simply evaluation boards with the decided technology wired up. With this the team could start setting up the operating system, build the first parts of the firmware, configure digital signal processors (DSP), but also start integrating the product into the existing system. All development activities was going on in parallel, which shortened the project time and helped the team to make good decisions with the perspective of the whole. They avoided the situation of bad decisions made in electronics had to be fixed in firmware.
Second stage, the prototype of the main board: A 12-layer highspeed board with one host processor, two DSPs and an interface to the extension board. The day this prototype was received it took the team 30 minutes to start up the host processor and by the end of the same day, algorithms were running on the board.
Third stage is the production ready boards. They went into production with very few corrections on the prototype of the main board.
Fourth stage is the final product ready for launch.
The development effort of this platform was half the time of a similar project and the total effort was within a 10% tolerance of the initial estimate. By the way, the estimate was made with relative estimation in size and complexity.
You can have similar experiences once you have successfully implemented Agile in your company.