A Magic Spell —Agile Project Management in Hardware
A magic spell that one “Expecto patronum” protects all the team from all external or internal factors. It would be your first thoughts when you meet with “Agile” at a glance. The fact is that Agile is easy to understand, however difficult to implement. That is why all hardware companies are still struggling and keep a distance from the Agile Hardware Development approach. Here is one of the silver lining facts of Agile Hardware Development, research about Ericsson AB using for the first time agile project management methods in hardware development was a success. The research showed us; the ability to cope with changes has increased allowing the team members to put more time focusing on what is most important (1).
Agile Software Development & Hardware Development
Agile Software Development has been used for 20 years. It transforms companies into a capable and game-changer approach such as; adaptive planning, empiricism with a time-boxed event, and ensure fast response to change. Agile has already proved itself with its success with all of these.
So-called traditional Hardware Product Development needs extensive multiple engineering and has output physical products. A lot of upfront planning and testing of virtual & physical prototypes are required. Hardware Development is a linear process and seems continuous dependent activities respectively.
Agile Project Management (APM) — in Hardware
When Agile is implemented for hardware projects, as Ericsson's example, predictability, more visibility, ability to fast respond to changing demands, and collaboration improved with multi-disciplinary divisions. The question arises after that, Is it possible to get benefits of agile methods even in other areas than in software product development?
APM in Hardware is a little bit tricky; not all phases could be transformed to Agile. The bottleneck of the agile approach is the product itself. Hardware. For instance, daily stand-up meetings have no meaning when development activities are not that fast because teams are waiting on parts, prototype builds, or test results. User Stories, Epics, virtual tools, and new idioms for agile could be seen as another project to the team. Connected with all these resistance to change in the team would be another challenge.
The key is: Front-Loading & Fast Prototyping
In a step further, Agile experience should focus particular area. In Software, you can melt in a one-pot all phases with development, testing, and roll-out in limited stakeholder. On the contrary, in Hardware, prototypes, and tests must be physical. Hence, APM must be tailored according to this. With front-loading or front-end-loading (2), project activity density will divide for early phases gates before the execution phase. Therefore, product definition and development will be upfront activities need of course need a result, there is involvement in fast prototyping. With the advent of new technology, the hardware team no need any more expensive molds or time to get their prototypes. Additive manufacturing (3) is evolved in this era. Fast prototyping in materials is now possible.
Keeping in mind front loading and fast prototyping it could be the answer for implementing Agile Project Management. A hybrid approach (4) is a great way to get benefit from all Agile Values for hardware companies. With the advent of it, iteration to the right product, decreased time to market, and increased communication in a team will apply in the projects and will improve the results.
By the way, if you still thinking about what does it means “Expecto patronum”, you can check below in 15 different languages.
(1) Agile adoption at Ericsson hardware product development
(2) The 7 Categories of Additive Manufacturing
(3) The 7 Categories of Additive Manufacturing
Additive Manufacturing Research Group
The 7 Categories of Additive Manufacturing Although media likes to use the term "3D Printing" as a synonym for all…
(4) The Great Mashup — Hybrid Project Management