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Agile Product Development: Best Practices for Speed and Innovation

Agile Product Development: Best Practices for Speed and Innovation

Project management, product development methodologies. Woman makes notes on a whiteboard.

The concept of agile isn’t new. The term became popular in 2001 via the “Agile Manifesto,” where software developers collaborated to address modern developmental challenges. Within a few years, the agile concept gained significant traction across industries as digitization brought product development into a new phase of evolution.1

Today, virtually every company uses the method. Applying the agile model is no longer just an organizational preference, but has become standard practice among those looking to stay competitive in an era of increasing digital transformations.

In this post, you’ll get an overview of agile principles and learn from examples of the best practices that enhance speed and innovation in product development. Then, you’ll learn more about how combining the benefits of agile with an MBA can benefit you.

Understanding Agile Product Development

The best way to grasp agile product development is by knowing the mindset. Since its inception, agile has revolved around four core values emphasizing individuality, functionality, collaboration and change readiness.2

These values are further expanded through 12 core principles, most of which still apply today. By combining the core values and principles of the agile mindset, we can explain agile product development via five main processes:

  • Creating iterations: Breaking down the project into smaller parts, tasks or cycles
  • Fostering collaboration: Emphasizing frequent, omnidirectional communication
  • Adapting to changes: Proactively responding to changes across various metrics
  • Being customer-centric: Prioritizing customer feedback and user experience
  • Embracing evolution: Improving the product, progressive elaboration and continual development

The Benefits of Agile Product Development

Two main advantages of agile development are the speed and flexibility with which a process can evolve or adapt to change. The future of many products and services, the applicability of new technology and emerging trends are increasingly more difficult to predict, requiring a more robust product development process that can adapt and evolve proactively as things change. Additionally, the agile model naturally leads to better product design and quality by emphasizing iterative development and continuous testing.

The above benefits translate into a final advantage: increased customer satisfaction. As agile practices focus on addressing user concerns and improving their experience, applying these practices impacts customer retention, leading organizations to seek employees with the skills and education to embrace the concept.

Best Practices for Agile Product Development

Let’s break down the best practices that make a company’s product development workflow faster, smoother, more responsive and more adaptive—in a word, more agile.3,4

Develop Cross-Functional Teams

Cross-functional teams are an invaluable asset to dynamic growth and development. People with diverse skill sets, expertise and viewpoints positively affect productivity and efficiency.5 Whereas the old model kept the different aspects of a project separate, agile development encourages everyone to work side by side.

Provide Regular Feedback and Adaptation

Agile development requires ongoing feedback that prioritizes and encourages openness and honesty at all levels. A safe environment for providing and receiving feedback is critical in getting timely information to make operational decisions.6 Under the agile model, having to make changes, even late in the process, is always preferable to sitting on actionable information.

Prioritize the Product Backlog

Prioritizing the product backlog means reviewing and adjusting any desired product features, enhancements or fixes based on their perceived value, importance and feasibility. In agile development, the backlog is usually a living document that contains all the possible tasks or “user stories” that could be done in a project. Prioritizing the backlog is crucial for the development team as it helps track what they need to work on next.

Embrace Change and Flexibility

Nothing speaks to the agile mindset quite like the flexibility to embrace change. Certain technological advancements explode onto the scene, demanding an immediate adaptation to new norms. A product development infrastructure built around agile principles welcomes change and does its best to prepare and anticipate its inevitable arrival.

Foster a Collaborative Culture

As one of the core values of agile development, collaboration is built in and encouraged at every stage of the process. This means team members can openly talk, share ideas, brainstorm, disagree and help each other to drive projects forward. Examples of how to do this include creating time for daily stand-ups and addressing issues as they arise.

It’s also important to mention the value of omnidirectional communication. Agile development only lives up to its name when there is a free flow of information, including to and from upper management. For instance, keeping everyone informed about progress, being honest about unforeseen setbacks and involving the whole team in big-picture conversations go a long way to fostering a genuinely agile culture.

Commit to Continual Learning and Improvement

While remaining flexible is important for effectively managing change, continuous learning and improvement make product development more efficient and agile. By committing to learning from every iteration, experimenting with new techniques, and investing in skill development, a team can keep constantly improving. Learning also involves introspection, where reflecting on successes and failures helps create the building blocks that contribute to continually refining a process. Continual learning helps agile teams improve their productivity, product quality and innovation capacity, making them better with each sprint and highly employable in today’s business climate.

Agile and the MBA

Combining an MBA education with a focus on agile product development gives you a holistic understanding of effectively managing and leading teams in dynamic and innovative environments. This combination of business acumen and agile expertise can be a powerful asset in today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape. Some MBA programs focus on product development and management and include agile in the curriculum, such as Milwaukee School of Engineering’s online MBA in New Product Management.

Earning your MBA, especially one focused on product management, will propel you forward by helping you develop the following skills:

  • Adaptability in fast-paced markets: Learn the art of navigating rapidly evolving industries. An MBA with an emphasis on agile will equip you with the foresight and flexibility to pivot strategies effectively, ensuring you stay ahead of market trends and customer needs
  • Strategic thinking: Harness the power of agile methodologies to improve decision-making processes. With an MBA, you'll develop a strategic mindset for prioritizing tasks and maximizing efficiency, key attributes sought by top-tier companies
  • Enhanced leadership skills: Agile management is built on collaboration and empowerment. By mastering these techniques, you'll emerge as a leader who can build high-performing teams and drive innovation from inception to market release
  • Cross-functional expertise: Delve into the intersection of technology, business and customer experience. You’ll acquire a holistic view of how different departments coalesce to deliver outstanding products and services, making you an invaluable asset to any organization
  • Improved problem-solving: Tackle complex challenges with a toolkit designed for uncertainty. The agile approach inspires creative problem-solving and continuous improvement, skills that are imperative to overcoming business hurdles
  • Tech-savvy perspective: In today’s digital age, understanding the nexus between technology and business is non-negotiable. Your MBA will bridge this gap, offering insights into leveraging technology for strategic advantage

Learn Critical Agile Management Skills with MSOE’s Online MBA in New Product Management

Innovation and development aren’t linear, so why should your education be? If you think you're ready to go agile, consider earning your MBA online with Milwaukee School of Engineering. MSOE’s online MBA in New Product Management provides you with a framework to enhance an organization’s ability to identify, develop and deploy new products and services. When you choose this specialization, you will study agile product development as part of your curriculum.

Are you looking for something else from your MBA education? You can choose our other pathways to earn the best MBA for your career goals. Choose from the General MBA Track, the MBA in Advanced Business Strategy Using AI and Analytics, or the MBA in Education Leadership.

Ready to pursue a worthwhile MBA? Get started today. Schedule a call to learn more, or get started on your application.

Admissions Dates and Deadlines

Priority Deadline
August 1
Fall 2024
Application Deadline
August 12
Fall 2024
Term Start
September 3
Fall 2024

Milwaukee School of Engineering has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.