Until recently, the release of each finished project was preceded by months of planning and work. Currently, however, the pace of changes on the market is so great that in order for the products to meet their business assumptions, their production cycle had to be significantly shortened. Taking too long to make decisions about the projects you are running? We suggest what you can do to keep up with the changes in the market!
Innovations in the field of production allow companies to outdo each other in the pace of producing new products. Over the years, process optimization focused only on the production part, while the decision-making cycle extended with the increase in the complexity of enterprises. At the end of the 90s, the point was finally reached where the projects (especially in the field of programming) produced in this way ceased to keep up with the pace of changes in the market. The market situation and customer requirements are changing so fast now that the specification written a few months ago may be completely inconsistent with today’s expectations. Fortunately, the approach to project management has changed and now assumes a significant reduction in the time from decision to implementation and much greater flexibility of projects.
How to shorten the decision cycle in your company?
1. Carry out continuous measurements
The old principle states that you cannot manage something that isn’t measured, so the first thing is to check how long it takes to complete the cycle from idea to implementation. Currently, most project management software has options that automate the measurement and planning of subsequent cycles. They also present information, for example, in the form of clear burn-in charts showing the work required to complete the project versus time remaining. It is best if you can measure the length of each process step. More information will allow you to optimize where it will bring the most benefits.
2. Use Agile project management methods
The traditional approach to projects involves creating the entire product from scratch to implementation in one long cycle resembling a marathon. Meanwhile, the modern approach involves a series of iterations that allow for faster release of the minimum product, and then the incremental introduction of frequent changes to it, such as key fixes or new features.
3. Think who should be included in the process
Does your product go through a long approval chain before a final decision is made? Think about who decides the final shape of the product: user experience designers, translators, testers, and maybe someone else? Include them in the process, or at least ask for feedback frequently. Usually, they will have ideas on how to streamline the process on the sections they decide.
However, remember to protect your team from the flood of unnecessary information. Moderate what messages are sent to team members so that they do not have to filter their notifications for details relevant only to their narrow specialization.
4. Automate what you can
More and more tasks (e.g. builds, tests) can be automated thanks to modern software. Automation provides greater accuracy and reduces the time needed to complete routine activities. In this way, you can redirect the team’s energy to where it is really needed, i.e. to search for original solutions.
5. Prioritize fast resolution of known problems
Releasing product versions frequently and regularly, ensuring that a single change corresponds to a single issue (e.g. removes a specific product defect or introduces a single feature). This way you will avoid a situation where the change causes more errors than it fixes.
6. Delegate tasks
Decision chains naturally lengthen and become complicated as your business grows. In the case of very complex tasks, it is worth thinking about creating a department responsible for them or even transferring them to a specialized external company.
You probably know about the possibility of outsourcing IT services or accounting, but did you know that you can also delegate research and development projects? This model, known as innovation outsourcing, is gaining popularity because it is perfect for companies whose business environment is evolving rapidly and forces a dynamic response to changes.
Agile project management methods
We mentioned earlier about Agile project management methods, or, in other words, an Agile approach. The Agile approach itself is not one methodology – it is rather a set of principles that should be followed when running a project. The most important of them are:
- people and interactions over tools and processes,
- working software over extensive documentation,
- cooperation with the client over contract negotiation,
- responding to change over following a plan.
This does not mean, of course, that contract provisions or documentation are not important! Rather, the Agile Manifesto emphasizes that it is more important to create a product that will best meet the customer’s business needs, even if it differs from the initial arrangements. If the business plan needs to be changed for this purpose, it should be done.
That’s why Agile practitioners encourage you to divide the project into small parts (small enough to be completed in a maximum of 4 weeks, ideally 1-2 weeks). This is associated with shorter decision cycles and more frequent feedback on tasks already performed. If any part of the project needs to be done from scratch, there will be less work to be redone.
An Agile approach in IDO Electronics
At IDO Electronics, we have been conducting software projects in an agile manner since the start of the company. Whenever it is possible, we also incorporate elements of this approach into hardware projects.
We use, among others:
What have we gained from this approach?
- Increased product production rate. Shorter decision cycles allow us to release basic product releases faster and profit from them.
- Customer’s satisfaction. Our customers do not wait months for a product just to find out that it does not meet their expectations. Close cooperation and frequent assessment of the effects make the product accurately reflect the business needs of the client.
- Fewer corrections. Frequent customer consultations make errors less frequent and have a lower impact on the overall product. The customer is happier and the team can focus on developing new features instead of fixing bugs.
- Greater employee satisfaction. The Agile approach assumes that the project team is able to set goals for itself and strive to achieve them. Employees feel that they have control over their tasks and their opinions are respected, which translates into greater job satisfaction.
- Less time spent in meetings. It may seem that frequent conversations with the client aimed at planning subsequent iterations and discussing the work to date will consume a lot of time, which can be spent on working on the product. However, if the team has a predetermined schedule of meetings and keeps an eye on their agenda, the discussions are more productive. It also prevents misunderstandings and therefore wasting time discussing amendments.
With the current pace of market changes, planning the entire project many months ahead may not be enough, even if decisions are made by experienced managers. New work methodologies allow for shorter decision cycles and greater flexibility, which in turn leads to the creation of products better suited to customer requirements.