Beware the tempting shortcut to Agile

Avoid alienating your customers in your haste to release

Lately, I’ve had several companies I purchase services and products from deliver the latest release that only almost works. I’m told the reason is because the company is using agile methodology and due to that, the customers are used to point out what they want to work differently and to perform the testing.

My translation: we wanted to get something out fast, so we didn’t take the time to test it first Is that really agile?

While there are agile elements present, my answer is no


Because agile means that you deliver working modules, or working portions, of a larger product or service in short bursts of time. Each working piece builds on the last working piece. It allows your company to never be too far down the road with development before your customer gets to critique the new design. If it doesn’t work the way the customer expects, or if technology changes must occur, or if…, then you are only 2 weeks to 30 days invested in the newly designed portion that needs to change. And the need-to-change component is not considered done or delivered until it works.

Selling products/services to customers that have not been tested under the guise of being agile may only serve to irritate your customers. Allowing the customers to tell the developer how they want the technology to work, or how they want the interface to work, or what interface must be provided to link into what, or how the tech must perform after the product is released is great when you are gathering requirements. But development without having first determined an acceptable set of customer requirements and then releasing; that leads to trouble. Customers that may have bought from you repeatedly are now turned off from doing long term business – even if they have been your customers for a while.

Knowing customer requirements before release is an imperative in agile

Checking that you are meeting customer requirements as you develop is an imperative in agile

If the tech, product, or service doesn’t work at release, you are not agile.

Fast alone does not equal agile

Companies that want to use “have the customer help debug the new whatever it is I am developing and selling” is ok, but, if you choose this path, you need to choose the correct customer segment to participate. Unless the majority of your customer base is made up of

customers who love the challenge of debugging offerings, you will alienate more customers than you excite.


Because the majority of customers do not have time or money to spend figuring out how your product should work with their systems/infrastructure/processes and then communicating back and forth with you to get it to do just that. The majority of customers in any market depend on you to deliver requirement-meeting, tested product that can easily and quickly slip into already existing processes and infrastructure so that they can keep on working their business, not yours.

Customer segmentation is required

Do not sell partially developed product to everyone. Sell that only to customer segments that are willing to help you develop the design on their time.

Get this wrong and your brand will take a hit and no one will believe you are agile.

Key words and concepts: Agile, performance, customers, segmentation

About the author: Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky with Process & Strategy consults with and provides training for organizations eager to increase their competitive value by helping enable growth, align performance, make and move product (even when the product is a serving of electrons). She has been invited to teach SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference model) in Baton Rouge this October. SCOR is the framework Fortune 500 companies use to increase their agility.


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