Developing the Product Your Customer Really Wants: The Value of an Agile Partnership

Developing the Product Your Customer Really Wants: The Value of an Agile Partnership

Sondra Ashmore (Principal Global Investors (PGI), Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, IA, USA) and Martine Wedlake (IBM Corporation, Hillsboro, OR, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IRMJ.2016070101


The art of creating software has changed dramatically over the last twenty years, particularly as organizations move from a Waterfall to an Agile development methodology. This study explores the benefits to customers of moving away from traditional Waterfall usability approaches to an integrated development model incorporating elements of Agile, user-centered development, and extended stakeholder feedback from customer councils. Thirty-four customers, seven business partners, and four internal customers participated in a multi-year project where participants were given the option to share product requirements during the early phases of the project, actively engage in monthly project design feedback sessions, or both. Results show that active participation by the customer yields more of their requirements into the final project, especially the high priority requirements. The results suggest that an iterative approach, that is both self-directing and self-correcting, can help teams develop products that are beneficial for both the product and customer.
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In 2011, Interactions featured an article by John Zimmerman arguing that we have actually taken a step backward. He states that “It is time to cast off the mantle of UCD before it makes us irrelevant.” (Zimmerman, 2011, p. 11) He proposes that we move to what he refers to as client-centered design where the focus is on how usability can move forward the value of the client’s products and services to the end user. For most organizations, the shift from user-centered development (UCD) to client-centered design has come in the form of Agile development.

Gartner research predicted that 80% of software development projects will be executed using an Agile development process by the end of 2012 (Murphy et al., 2010). Furthermore, research by the Project Management Institute (PMI) supported the prediction when they found that the use of Agile methodologies has tripled from December of 2008 to May of 2011(3). A study performed by Ambler and Associates (2014) determined that about 89% are using at least some Agile methods. This move away from Waterfall development is not surprising given that Waterfall was first used for defense applications in an era where hardware and static requirements dominated (e.g., see Benington, 1956 for first-known application of Waterfall).

Agile evolved as new IT requirements needed to become more fluid, rapid, and customer-driven (Ashmore and Runyan, 2014). The move toward Agile development has also elicited increased research in the area of Agile development with the focus on what it means to be Agile. While there are studies comparing Waterfall and Agile teams (e.g. Ashmore, 2012, Ji and Sedano, 2011), no studies have compared Waterfall-developed and Agile-developed products in terms of quantity and value of customer requirements using regular stakeholder feedback sessions.

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