Why It's Important For You To Think Small in Agile Development

Our CEO, Darrin Grove, recently sat down with Aaron Watson to share some of his experiences in 20 years of leading Truefit — our second installment on the Going Deep with Aaron podcast. They  discuss topics spanning the challenges in building an office space that uniquely fits our working style and the reinvention it takes to stay ahead of the curve, but we've specifically pulled an excerpt from our favorite part of the conversation: what and why agile. Darrin explains how an agile process allows clients to create successful software products in a faster, more cost effective way. Read: build a product people want and get it to market quicker.

AARON

"You talked about having agile thinking and I want to latch onto that and dig a little deeper. That has different definitions for different people, but that is deeply imbedded [in] how you problem solve. You’re getting hired to solve problems for clients, more or less. Can you talk about — on a 101 level for people to start — what agile thinking means, represents, and how you guys use that?"

DARRIN

"Sure! Agile is a term that grew up in software development and there were core tenants of agile that were published. If you google the agile manifesto you’ll see what the core tenants were, but it was a fundamental shift in the way we think about creating software. Some people contrast it with older methods of creating software – waterfall method, perhaps – where you tried to have everything figured out upfront. What we’ve learned is that when you’re creating new products you don’t have all the answers upfront. It's not possible to have all the answers upfront and even if you could come by the time you got done, the world would have changed, and the business [and users] would’ve evolved. What [agile] fundamentally is, is a way of creating products in small iterations. Instead of figuring it all out upfront and then coming up with a big development phase, you work it out in smaller iterations where you learn at each step of the way. It acknowledges, going in, that we don’t know everything. That’s really important.

You have to start a project with a little humility. You don’t know everything upfront, you’re going to learn along the way, and then you’re going to change as a result of that. You're going to do one iteration. It might be a small feature set of the project, maybe the thing you think is the riskiest. We tend to apply agile to reduce risk in new product development. All new products have inherent risk that’s created by the uncertainty within the project, the product, and the market. Things like that. What we try to do is design our early builds of a product around how to reduce risk, how to test assumptions, and eliminate uncertainty. This was all articulated very well by Eric Ries in a book called The Lean Startup. In that book he talks about the "build, measure, learn cycle." You build something small, you measure feedback from users or from the market, you learn from that and you figure out what to build next. I would highly recommend the book to anybody who’s thinking about new product development or launching a startup. We’re very big practitioners of that sort of thinking. It’s been very effective in terms of creating new product and in terms of reducing risk.

Honestly, it allows you to make wiser investments of your money because agile as you’re learning along the way you’re always prioritizing the most valuable features for the user  and you’re learning what that is along the way, so actually it’s a better way of investing money because in some cases we’ve found that through design research or other things that we learn early in the process, some of the features that we thought initially would be the most popular, turn out to be not all that useful. It's really important that you learn that before you actually invest in building those features. So that’s a little about how we apply agile in the world of product development.

Agile has since taken off and is being applied to project management, and business modeling and all kinds of different things now for those reasons. Its an acknowledgment that we don’t know everything upfront, that we’re not going to figure it out upfront, so we have to learn along the way. I would also say it fundamentally is a collaborative process, so when I our company and our core values is collaboration. I mentioned we designed the space around that, so agile as a collaborative process fits us really well, because it's really who we are."

Interested in hearing more? Listen in as they explore an entrepreneur's commitment to personal reinvention, continuous improvement as an organization, and thinking small to win big.