There is a lot of hype around “agile” and “scrum”. Everybody talks about them in the context of product development, and particularly in the context of software development. Let me take you on a journey to illustrate why agile is much more than just a buzzword for us, what agile is all about, and how it has already made a difference at Heidelberg Mobil during the first phase of creating our DeepHub®. “Agile, the new way of doing project management” or “Scrum, increases the efficiency of your development” are headlines you can find everywhere. The truth of the matter is that these statements are completely wrong and agility has nothing to do with project management or efficiency at all. The heart of it is about “being agile” as opposed to “doing/acting agile”. It is a mindset. It is about acting with courage, openness and respect within a team. These are the “CORe” values, as I call them. They lead to a real team and teamwork, and foster commitment and focus. Combined, these values are known as “scrum values” and are the fundamental building blocks for a true agile mindset to grow in a sustainable manner.
What exactly does this philosophical statement mean? It is about acknowledging that agility is not just a new “mechanical way” of handling tasks within a project. The heart of agile is about iterative and incremental development of a product. It is about “failing fast” by releasing and deploying new product versions quickly and frequently, thereby checking if new features meet the expectations of customers and the market. It is about avoiding perfection in the sense of completeness in the first stages of a product in favor of a “Minimum Viable Product”. It is about avoiding large up-front planning and adapting to changes. It is about delivering true value with each small new feature or “product increment” as it is called in Scrum.
In the daily life of an agile team, delivering new product versions every few weeks has huge implications on how development work is done, particularly in terms of quality assurance and how it is directly embedded within workflows. At Heidelberg Mobil, we use state-of-the-art technology and best practices to allow for professional code versioning, automatic building and deployment, and automatic testing. Continuous integration and continuous deployment are not just words for us. We deliver new versions of our software bi-weekly and make them immediately available to partners as a cloud-hosted instance or via Docker containers for on-premise installations. We made code reviews and pair programming a habit and knowledge silos are tackled wherever we meet them.
Aside from best practices, we ensure that our work environment is modern in the sense of transparency and enablement. We purposely provide plenty of open space to allow everybody in the company to see and feel what the product development team is up to and to allow our creative minds to talk, discuss, illustrate, and sketch – making our product more valuable for our partners. Nothing compares to direct communication and to visualization of ideas. It is the most underrated problem solver and a key enabler for working together as a team.
At Heidelberg Mobil, the product development of the DeepHub is done by a Scrum team. It is a new product in a new market and being agile has been, and continues to be, essential for our success.
We encounter many new partnerships and all of them are valuable to us and to our product. New insights on usage scenarios, business models, and new market verticals are around every corner. Aligning all of these insights with our product vision, and adapting accordingly where necessary and valuable, is a fundamental necessity. Without the incremental agile approach, we wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace.
About the Author
Wolfgang Römer is the Product Owner of Heidelberg Mobil’s Scrum team. He has over 20 years of professional work experience in software product development and agile coaching, acting as a Developer, Scrum Master and Product Owner. He would be happy to meet you in social networks or in real life. “Stay hungry, stay foolish”!