How to Innovate to stay Relevant

Staying relevant! The biggest challenge we all face – staying relevant within our market. Relevance to your customers is what keeps you in business.

With the world changing as rapidly as it does today, mainly due to the profound influence of technology on our lives, the expectations of the consumer is changing at pace. They have access to an increasing array of choice, not just in how they spend their money but also in how they are communicating and interacting – change fueled by a digital revolution. The last thing that anyone can afford, in this fast paced race, is losing relevance – that will cost us customers or worse…

Is what you are selling today, adaptable to the continuous changing ecosystems? Does your strategy reflect that agility? How can you ensure that your business stays relevant in the digital age? We have all heard about digital transformation as a necessity, but even then, how can you ensure that you are evolving as fast as your customers and stay relevant within your market?

Business, who has a culture of continuous evolvement, aligning their products and services with the digital driven customer, is the business that stays relevant. This is the kind of business that does not require a digital transformation to realign with customer’s demand to secure their future. A customer centric focus and a culture of continuous evolution within the business, throughout the business value chain, is what assure relevance. Looking at these businesses, their ability/agility to get innovation into production, rapidly, is a core success criterion.

Not having a strategy to stay relevant is a very high and real risk to business. Traditionally we deal with risk by asking “Why?”. For continuous improvement/evolution and agility, we should instead be asking “Why not?” and by that, introduce opportunities for pilots, prototypes, experimentation and proof of concepts. Use your people as an incubator for innovation.

Sure, you have a R&D team and you are continuously finding new ways to deliver your value proposition – but getting your innovative ideas into production is cumbersome, just to discover that it is already aged and possibly absolute in a year a two. R&D is expensive and time consuming and there are no guarantees that your effort will result in a working product or desired service. Just because you have the ability to build something, does not mean that you have to build something. Focusing the scares and expensive resources on the right initiatives makes sense, right! This is why many firms are shifting from a project-minded (short term) approach to a longer-term product-minded investment and management approach.

So, how do you remain customer centric, use your staff as incubators of innovation, select the ideas that will improve your market relevance and then rapidly develop those ideas into revenue earners while shifting to a product-minded investment approach?

You could combine Design Thinking with Lean Startup and Agile Delivery…

In 2016, I was attending the Gartner Symposium where Gartner brought these concepts together very well in this illustration:

Gartner - Design-Lean-Agile 2

Instead of selecting and religiously follow one specific delivery methodology, use the best of multiple worlds to get the optimum output through the innovation lifecycle.

Design-Lean-Agile 1

Using Design Thinking (Empathise >> Define >> Ideate >> Prototype) puts the customer at the core of customer centric innovation and product/service development. Starting by empathising with the customers and defining their most pressing issues and problems, before coming up with a variety of ideas to potentially solve the problems. Each idea is considered before developing a prototype. This dramatically reduces the risk of innovation initiatives, by engaging with what people (the customer) really need and want before actually investing further in development.

Lean Startup focuses on getting a product-market fit by moving a Prototype or MVP (minimum viable product) through a cycle of Build >> Measure >> Learn. This ensures a thorough knowledge of the user of the product/service is gained through an active and measureable engagement with the customer. Customer experience and feedback is captured and used to learn and adapt resulting in an improved MVP, better aligned to the target market, after every cycle.

Finally Agile Scrum, continuing the customer centric theme, involves multiple stakeholders, especially users (customers), in every step in maturing the MVP to a product they will be happy to use. This engagement enhances transparency, which in turn grow the trust between the business (Development Team) and the customer (user) who are vested in the product’s/service’s success. Through an iterative approach, new features and changes can be delivered in an accurate and predictable timeline quickly and according to stakeholder’s priorities. This continuous product/service evolvement, with full stakeholder engagement, builds brand loyalty and ensures market relevance.

Looking at a typical innovation lifecycle you could identify three distinct stages: Idea, Prototype/MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and Product. Each of these innovation stages are complimented by some key value, gained from one of the three delivery methodologies:

Design-Lean-Agile 2

All of these methodologies, engage the stakeholders (especially the customer & user) in continuous feedback loops, measuring progress and capturing feedback to adapt and continuously improve, so maximum value creation is achieved.

No one wants to spend a lot of resource and time delivering something that adds little value and create no impact. Using this innovation methodology and associated tools, you will be building better products and service, in the eye of the user – and that’s what matters. You’ll be actively building and unlocking the potential of you’re A-team, to be involved in creating impact and value while cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.

The same methodology works very well for digital transformation programmes.

At the very least, you should be experimenting with these delivery approaches to find the sweat spot methodology for you.

Experiment to stay relevant!

Let’s Talk – renierbotha.com – Are you looking to develop an innovation strategy to be more agile and stay relevant? Do you want to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth?

We can help – make contact!

Read similar articles for further insight in our Blog.

Executive Summary of 4 commonly used Agile Methodologies

AGILE – What business executives need to know #2: Overview of 4 most commonly used Agile Methodologies

In the first article in this series we focussed on an overview of what Agile software development is and referred to the Agile SCRUM methodology to describe the agile principles.

Let’s recap – Wikipedia describes Agile Software Development as an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross functional teams and their customers / end users.  It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. For an overview see the first blog post…

Several agile delivery methodologies are in use for example: Adaptive Software Development (ASD); Agile Nodelling; Agile Unified Process (AUP); Disciplined Agile Delivery; Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM); Extreme Programming (XP); Feature-Driven Development (FDD); Lean Software Development (LEAN); Kanban; Rapid Application Development (RAD); Scrum; Scrumban.

This article covers a brief overview of the four most frequently used Agile Methodologies:

  • Scrum
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Lean
  • Kanban

 

SCRUM

Using Scrum framework the project work is broken down into user stories (basic building blocks of agile projects – these are functional requirements explained in an in business context) which are collated in the backlog (work to be done). Stories, from the backlog, are grouped into sprints (development iteration) based on story functionality dependencies, priorities and resource capacity. The resource capacity is determined by the speed (velocity) at which the team can complete stories, which are categorised into levels of complexity and effort required to complete. Iterations are completed with fully functional deliverables for each story until all the needed stories are completed for functional solutions.

SCRUM

Scrum is based on three pillars:

  • Transparency – providing full visibility on the project progress and a clear understanding of project objectives to the project team but more importantly to the stakeholders responsible for the outcome of the project.
  • Inspection – Frequent and repetitive checks on project progress and milestones as work progresses towards the project goal. The focus of these inspections is to identify problems and differences from the project objectives as well as to identify if the objectives have changed.
  • Adaptation – Responding to the outcome of the inspections to adapt the project to realign in addressing problems and change in objectives.

Through the SCRUM methodology, four opportunities for Inspection and Adaptation are provided:

  • Sprint Retrospective
  • Daily Scrum meeting
  • Sprint review meeting
  • Sprint planning meeting

A Scrum team is made of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and the Development Team.

Scrum activity can be summarised within the following events:

  • Sprint – a fixed time development iteration
  • Sprint Planning meetings
  • Daily Scrum meetings (Stand-Up meetings)
  • Sprint Review meetings
  • Sprint Retrospectives

 

XP – EXTREME PROGRAMMING

XP

Extreme Programming (XP) provides a set of technically rigorous, team-oriented practices such as Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration, and Pairing that empower teams to deliver high quality software, iteratively.

 

LEAN

LEAN

Lean grew from out of the Toyota manufacturing Production System (TPS). Some key elements of this methodology are:

  • Optimise the whole
  • Eliminate waste
  • Build quality in
  • Learn constantly
  • Deliver fast
  • Engage everybody
  • Keep improving

Lean five principles:

  1. Specify value from the customer’s point of view. Start by recognizing that only a small percentage of overall time, effort and resources in a organization actually adds value to the customer.
  2. Identify and map the value chain. This is the te entire set of activities across all part of the organization involved in delivering a product or service to the customer. Where possible eliminate the steps that do not create value
  3. Create flow – your product and service should flow to the customer without any interruptions, detours or waiting – delivering customer value.
  4. Respond to customer demand (also referred to as pull). Understand the demand and optimize the process to deliver to this demand – ensuring you deliver only what the customer wants and when they want it – just in time production.
  5. Pursue perfection – all the steps link together waste is identified – in layers as one waste rectification can expose another – and eliminated by changing / optimizing the process to ensure all assets add value to the customer.

 

KANBAN

Kanban is focussed the visual presentation and management of work on a kanban board to better balance the understanding of the volume of work with the available resources and the delivery workflow.

KANBAN

Six general work practices are exercised in kanban:

  • Visualisation
  • Limiting work in Progress (WIP)
  • Flow management
  • Making policies explicit
  • Using feedback loops to ensure customer and quality alignment
  • Collaborative & experimental evolution of process and solutions

By limiting WIP you are minimising waste through the elimination of multi tasking and context switching.

There is no prescription of the number of steps to follow but it should align with the natural evolution of the changes being made in resolving a problem or completing a specific peace of work.

It focuses on delivering to customer expectations and needs by promoting team collaboration including the customer.

 

A Pragmatic approach

These techniques together provide a powerful, compelling and effective software development approach that brings the needed flexibility / agility into the software development lifecycle.

Combining and borrowing components from different methodologies to find the optimum delivery method that will deliver to the needs of the organisation is key. Depending on the specific business needs/situation, these components are combined to optimise the design, development and deployment of the software.

Helpful references:

A good overview of different agile methodologies can be found on slideshare at https://www.slideshare.net/SmartBizVN/introduction-to-agile-and-lean-software-development.

 

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!