Jun 27, 2014

How Incremental Development Gets You to Market Faster

Taking a Creative Agency Agile

In the first installment of “Taking A Creative Agency agile,” we discussed how creating valuable User Stories allows you to increase your client involvement, as well as set your project up for success from the very beginning. Once you’ve created a solid foundation for your project, it’s extremely important that your delivery meet the expectations of the client.

In a long-term, complex project, it’s very easy to get bogged down with revisions—in both the design and development phases. It’s often these revisions that end up blowing the project budget and pushing delivery dates well past expected launch. With so many different page layouts and designs that need to be created, it’s not uncommon to go weeks, or even months, at a time without a valuable client deliverable. This is where waterfall methodology (traditional project management strategy, with each section of the project broken out into phases) falls short. 

Agile project management takes the design and development phases in a completely different direction. UDLs (unique design layouts) are organized into smaller sets, which will correspond to a particular phase of development. This process is known as “incremental development.” Breaking up the creative process into smaller chunks allows us not only to provide more frequent, valuable updates to the client, but also to begin development as soon as the client approves the first set of designs. Don’t think, however, that the order in which the UDLs are created is a random, arbitrary process. There are some best practices that the account team should follow when determining the order of UDL creation. 

Primarily, it is very important that each UDL set can stand on its own as a smaller version of the complete website. This becomes extremely important later in the agile process, when it comes time to deploy versions of the software.

Additionally, the first UDL set should always represent the core functionality of the website. For example, if we were designing an ecommerce platform, we would need a homepage, product overview and details page, cart, and checkout process as the core pages of the site. This UDL set would be designed, approved by the internal team, and sent to the client for approval. Once the client signs off, we would immediately kick off the development of those core pages. As the creative team completes other sets of UDLs, they would be put into a backlog of approved assets waiting to be developed. The diagram below demonstrates how the process works.
Developement Backlog

Incremental development like this allows an agency to be extremely efficient in production by dual tracking the creative and development phases of a project. By using this method, you not only achieve leaner, more aggressive project timelines, but also provide much more value to your clients. Getting their end product to market faster allows them to start realizing revenue sooner, which is of course our end goal.

However, the client is not the only one who benefits from using this process. Providing creative work to the client in smaller chunks breaks up the process of revisions, which saves the designers both time and effort. Additionally, allowing the development team to start their work much earlier eliminates the need for all night coding marathons to meet a firm client deadline on a project delayed by hold-ups in the creative process.

Don’t forget that the developers will have already begun working on the system architecture and user profiles based on the creation of the user stories from the initial phase of the agile process. The combination of user stories and incremental development is incredibly powerful, allowing you to deploy weeks or months ahead of those still employing the waterfall methodology.

Want to know how to improve your agile process even more? In the next post, we will discuss how to streamline your development process even further. Using Sprints of Development and replacing tedious update meetings with Scrums will not only save you time, but also empower your development team and increase cross- department communication. Stay tuned!