Agile seems to be floating into any organisation that wants to increase efficiency and speed of their development activities. However, a lot of these companies start to experience an uncontrolled growth of complexity, less time for real innovation and declining benefits of scale. Therefore, we do see companies starting to apply the principles of modular product design to their organisational setup to boost the effects of being truly agile.
For sure, agile is top of mind in most companies that want to beat competitors by increasing efficiency and speed of their development activities while simultaneously aiming for faster, better and cheaper offerings to their customers. Therefore, we see a lot of companies initiating large-scale transformation programmes that influence the entire organisation and turn them into agile superheroes.
New challenges arise when organisations go agile
Companies that have already embarked on the agile transformation journey certainly start harvesting great business benefits such as improved quality, increased focus on business and customer value, transparency and predictability, larger stakeholder and employee engagement etc. However, these companies also start identifying new challenges that need to be managed.
The challenges that arise when the companies go agile are challenges such as:
- How do you succeed in managing an agile organisation that works more autonomously without igniting an uncontrolled growth of internal product-related complexity?
- How do you make time for innovative product ideas to come through when an ever-accelerating need for speed in NPD projects is present?
- How do you sustain customer centricity and serve the individual needs in a rushing market that calls for myriads of new product variants and still safeguard the benefits of scale?
Agile methods and principles do, to some extent, have the answer, i.e. on questions such as how to manage small and independent teams, how to approach creative thinking and iterative prototyping systematically and how to keep adapting to customers’ changing priorities. However, we tend to forget to focus on the actual products and the product portfolio itself – and more importantly, the way products are designed and developed over time.
An unaddressed need
Consequently, we see an unaddressed need to define clear processes for how we develop future modular products, explicit structures describing the product platform and visionary strategies to manage the actual product design and evolvement of the product portfolio going forward.
If we do not define clear processes, we risk reinventing the wheel when designing and developing products from scratch, imposing non-value-adding activities, longer time to market, increased cost and unhappy customers, which is the ultimate toxin for any company.
To fight these challenges, we do see companies applying the principles of modular product design to their organisational setup. They may also apply the principles to their operating model within new product development (NPD) to help combat the uncontrolled growth of complexity, allow for innovation and safeguard the benefits of scale. Moreover, we see that adding modular product design to the organisation boosts the effects of being truly agile.
However, we cannot just apply the principles of modular product design to our organisational setup. We need to make a change in the organisational structure, the current processes and tools and not least the present culture and mindset among the employees. To put it simple, we need to adjust our agile organisational setup to foster a modular way of working.