The principles of agile development, with its emphasis on rapid, iterative experimentation, are no longer just the domain of software developers. Myriad other areas of business are being transformed as business leaders understand the latent potential unleashed as they move their ERP tools to the cloud.
A cereal maker, keen to experiment with new breakfast formulations used gamification with its employees and found it could test the viability of new products in a matter of hours. Players were given a variety of different ingredients and the opportunity to design and propose new products and business models. In a virtual environment they could purchase, manufacture and sell their various different combinations and model their likely success and profitability from quarter to quarter. The winners were those who accrued the most profits.
By using techniques derived from the agile methodology used by application developers they found a quick and low cost way to gauge the potential of their next bowl of muesli with not a drop of split milk to be cried over.
Elsewhere a mobile phone service provider used its cloud-based applications to speed up its new product launches. Simulation lets it improve the training of its employees, and in doing so reduces attrition rates. The cost benefits of reduced CapEx and reduced implementation time, which came down by nearly a third were significant.
Companies adopting agile approaches in the new digital environment enjoy a host of rewards.
In the old world, companies waited months or even years to see the skeleton of their new software interface and then many more moons to get the refinements and customizations they required. Today core elements of agile development such as iteration, simulation, prototyping and gamification are being applied in a host of other business processes.
Simulation allows acompany tosometimes spend just a few days looking at benefits and constraints of a new business opportunity and make investment decisions in a similarly truncated time frame. Simulation is prevalent in digital solutions around User Experience (UX), multichannel and big data analytics. ERP developers will increasingly use simulation to prototype small new segments and test business processes in great detail in order to get a first hand look at what a new system might deliver.
Additionally an agile approach is allowing companies to redress the balance that historically saw business processes subjugate user experience. The same agile principles of prototyping, simulation and iteration can be used to test the user interface as the application is being developed. It offers customers a much greater level of involvement in the development process and minimizes the chances of surprises later on.
Big bang implementations are being replaced as companies see the value of phased releases and they deploy visualization techniques that let them improve usability, test new business models and get customer buy-in throughout the development process. In doing so they minimize risk and maximize return on investment.
To know more, read my article Accelerated Change: Getting faster at implementing Enterprise Systemsin our latest issue of Perspectives.