Agile customer and self-image

Even in IT development or software development, the customer should be king. But who exactly is the customer? The board of directors or division manager who approved the project? That’s how it used to be seen. Today, the focus is on the end user. Another, often still neglected target group are the administrators who operate and maintain the system in productive use.

With the shift in customer focus, the understanding of leadership must also change. For agile software development to work, higher hierarchical levels should respect the product owner, quite literally as the owner or entrepreneur of the agile project. In addition, the self-image of the teams is important. After years of socialization in the company hierarchy, it is difficult for developers to switch from simply working through the specifications to taking responsibility themselves.

Only when these two cultural hurdles have been overcome, or it can be assumed that this will be successful in the upcoming project, is it advisable to switch from classic requirements management to new techniques such as design thinking or the customer journey.

Agile working in the automotive industry

The complex product development of car companies is reflected in strictly hierarchical management. If you ask product owners working at the manufacturer how a board meeting affects their project work, it turns out that preparing for the meeting takes up to three quarters of their working time. This blatant shift in priorities shows how costly the assignment to the hierarchy can be compared to personal responsibility.

A rigid hierarchy also clashes with the increasingly dynamic demands placed on products and projects. Extensive feedback loops across all management levels take too long in the digital age to achieve competitive advantages. Continuous dialog with users and administrators delivers faster results.

Customer-oriented approaches such as design thinking or value stream mapping (VSM), which is common in the Japanese automotive industry, are suitable as an introduction to agile development. Another source of knowledge is “shadowing,” in which the developer looks over the user’s shoulder. Such methods deepen the employees’ understanding of the customer and pay off in the form of tailored products.

Become more agile with Consileon

For almost two decades, companies in the automotive industry have valued Consileon as a strong partner. However, the changeover to agile working can do more harm than good. In addition to the costs of the failed change, there is the mortgage of the loss of trust among staff. Even if managers or specialists would rather work according to the latest agile model yesterday than today: Those who start with a down-to-earth method and are patient with the next step until agile thinking has arrived in the minds of their colleagues achieve more on the bottom line. “Bridging techniques” such as design thinking, customer journey, or value stream design are good places to start. We are also familiar with these techniques. Talk to us!