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Product Development

3 Myths About Bringing Customers into Agile Development

July 8, 2019

Technology isn’t the only thing that’s evolving. Customer expectations for product functionality – and how quickly issues are resolved when they don’t meet expectations – have increased considerably in the past 20 years. To keep products evolving at the speed of their customers’ lives, software teams have adopted agile development practices. The rapid iteration made possible by agile practices and continuous delivery allows teams to fine-tune the user experience, little by little, on a consistent basis.

Many teams are keeping up with the demand for rapid software releases. At the same time, 3 out of 4 aren’t satisfied with the quality of those releases. Our software development report revealed that the majority feel strapped for time and resources. At the same time, only a third of software development teams are using their customers to scale their efforts.

Why so few? We’ve identified 3 myths about bringing customers into agile development practices that could be the culprit.

Myth #1: I don’t have time for customer feedback.

When you think about the beta testing processes that happen before launch, it seems impossible to execute something like that within a sprint-by-sprint timeframe. Many product development professionals say their current beta testing practices are incompatible with agile. It takes too much time to test, or they’re too swamped already.

3 Myths About Bringing Customers into Agile Development | Strapped for time and resources

Part of what makes Customer Validation effective is the nuanced product feedback you get when you allow your product to soak in with customers. That’s why industry leaders are adopting ways to reap the benefits of pre-release customer testing in an agile timeframe. Called delta testing, this form of continuous Customer Validation condenses the test period to run alongside agile development. Using a community of target market customers to collect nuanced, ongoing feedback on specific product features (instead of the whole product at once), delta testing enables you to validate new iterations as they’re built.

By leveraging their customers, these industry leaders are actually expanding their capabilities with more testers and more environments. This means they’re more quickly able to validate more product areas in live environments, increasing the quality of their products as they mature.

Myth #2: I already have the customer feedback I need.

With customer-centricity at the center of modern product development, your product goes through many customer touchpoints before launch. Focus groups, surveys, interviews, usability testing, beta testing–each one shows the importance of user feedback in preparing a product to hit the marketplace.

This doesn’t (or shouldn’t) stop after launch. Your build is constantly evolving, after all. While the unimplemented feedback you collected before launch goes into your backlog, it doesn’t stay relevant forever. As your product matures to include new updates and features, older feedback ages out. Eliciting fresh customer feedback and expanding your use cases is critical to ensuring the same vigorous commitment to quality that your product saw before launch.

Myth #3: I get the customer feedback I need after release.

For agile development professionals, there’s enormous pressure to meet deadlines and stay on schedule. Concerns about getting a new release out the door on time lead many team leaders to say, “We’ll get feedback on this after we release anyway.” This is especially common in organizations where reactive beta testing practices make for unpredictable or unreliable results.

While it’s true you’ll hear about product issues eventually, you can’t afford to wait that long. The channel between you and your customers has pit stops along the way. Feedback goes from your customer to your support team and gets reviewed there before finally making it to engineering. But by then, another sprint is already underway. Without pre-release customer feedback to highlight trouble areas, it could be several cycles before you’re able to address urgent issues. Meanwhile, those bugs or missing features are weighing down the customers’ experience and hurting the ongoing success of your product.

Continuous customer testing gives you direct access to targeted, rapid customer feedback. Having a tester team in your back pocket to root out any issues in key product areas and verify fixes means you’re better equipped to squash bugs before they impact your larger audience.

Bring Your Customers into Agile Development

Don’t let the success of your product fall victim to these common myths. With an agile development strategy for post-launch customer testing, you’ll ensure your new releases and features are crowd-pleasers that improve your product as it matures. Need a jumping off point? Get best practices for continuous customer testing in Delta Testing 101.

Get Started with Delta Testing 101

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