Low Risk, High Predictability: Why We Created Our Custom Agile Process
Successful products are born from more than just strong technical and design capabilities. You can build a product with great functionality and beautiful design, but that product could have gone over budget, been released late, and gone beyond scope. That’s why process is equally, if not more important than design and technical capabilities.
We created the Clearbridge agile process to deliver great mobile products with low risk and high predictability. Our approach to agile development was inspired by Spotify, which created its own model explained in this engineering culture video. There is nothing inherently new about our development philosophy; rather, we took the best parts from various agile development philosophies (lean, kanban, etc.) and combined them to create our own agile process that minimizes risk and ensures predictable project velocity.
How Our Process Works
At its core, the Clearbridge process is designed to take the client’s vision and make it a reality. Typically, the product vision is high-level and nonspecific; we provide rigorous, deep dive product definition, strategy consultation, and product roadmapping to create an actionable plan for the design, development, and delivery of the product.
There is risk associated with every project. Most commonly, these risks include:
- Personnel Risk – loss or absence of project team members
- Budgetary Risk – project goes over budget
- Knowledge Risk – knowledge silos, poor information transfer, etc.
- Technical Risk (Source Control) – server/system issues results in loss of work
The Clearbridge agile process identifies and addresses potential risks before they escalate and become a threat to the project. We work with our clients to determine what the risks are, and how we can mitigate them. Risk mitigation is built into our process through the practices of squad-based development and rolling-wave (also called just-in-time) planning.
We develop products using a squad-based approach. A squad is a small, cross-functional team that has end-to-end responsibility for the product; our delivery team consists of a number of squads. This following diagram demonstrates how squads operate at Clearbridge:
Squad members sit together, plan together, and decide how to best complete the tasks for each sprint. There are many benefits to this approach:
- All squad members share knowledge, which is retained for maintenance and future phases
- Easy knowledge transfer (no silos)
- Faster development cycles
- Alignment and autonomy
- Predictable velocity
The squad-based approach eliminates both personnel and knowledge risks, as every member of the squad understands all aspects of the product, rather than each member only knowing their individual tasks. Therefore, knowledge is easily transferrable, and other squad members can take over tasks should a personnel issue arise.
Rolling-Wave or Just-In-Time Planning
Rolling-wave or just-in-time planning involves delaying product decisions until you have the knowledge to make them. This may seem counterintuitive, but it actually serves to reduce waste that results from having to draft detailed plans up front, and then re-plan as the product progresses and things change. As a result, teams can remain flexible and adapt easily, which mitigates scope creep and budgetary risks.
The practice of rolling-wave planning puts you in the best position to analyze, understand, and act upon knowledge gained from developing the product. In the Clearbridge process, clients see a product demo after every sprint; this allows them to review each increment and evolve, adapt, or pivot without wasting money or impacting project velocity.
For example, if after seeing a product demo, you realize the original vision for an upcoming feature needs to be modified, that can be planned for the next sprint. Since detailed stories weren’t created at the beginning of the project, there won’t be any time wasted replanning to account for the change.
Strong Process = Low Risk & Predictable Velocity
The Clearbridge agile process allows us to create great mobile products, with minimal risk and predictable project velocity. It allows clients to plan better, pivot or adapt if necessary, and ensure that their product is completed according to their goals and objectives. To learn more about our how our engineering process works, or how it can benefit your next mobile project, get in touch with us.