The importance of being agile when developing a product

Building a world-class product is no simple feat. It requires planning, research, and commitment to quality. And while these are easy concepts to list, they are often not easily executed. Internal and external factors can sway progress from its mark, making it difficult to actualize results.

Which is why agile product development has grown in popularity. It offers startups the chance to build products that are more closely aligned with customer requirements. In fewer words, agility allows for better product design and creation.

Agile product development and its influencers

There’s no denying that an agile product development approach delivers results. It opens the product development cycle to more interactive experiences for teams and customers, making it possible to establish the right customer-product fit. It also highlights the importance of various influences on the development process and potentially the lifespan of a product. 

Here are four major influences that all agile product development practitioners must keep in mind.

Rate of change

Many factors influence the rate of change and chief among them is technology. Computing power has grown exponentially. Today, smartphones are capable of performing tasks only dreamed of a decade ago. 

AI is also changing the way we view the world. It’s creating more possibilities and opportunities as it becomes part of almost every aspect of our lives. 

And while the rate of change is exciting, it presents product developers with a few challenges. They need to understand how to leverage existing technology to deliver unparalleled customer experiences. 

In a bid to create enhanced customer experiences, startups will also need to balance dedicating more resources to stay the cutting edge of their fields, resources that require funding, along with delivering products that get the job done in often highly-competitive markets. 

People are learning and reacting faster

The web has made more information accessible to a wider audience than ever before. It’s also given consumers more power over brands and their products. 

Today, the narrative about your product is no longer solely controlled by the brand. Whether you’re developing a live streaming solution or creating an Android app, reviews from happy and unhappy consumers can influence the direction of your product and its success.

In 2016, Elon Musk introduced a new Tesla charging tariff. It was established after a customer complained that people leave their cars on charge and go shopping. Musk took the opportunity to engage Loic Le Meur (Tesla customer) and shortly after initiated a penalty for cars abandoned while on charge.

Market demand

While technology is a major factor of influence, market demand is driven by age-old concepts like cost-efficiency, time-saving and convenience. 

Being agile means prioritizing features and functionality that make your product easier to use and positively influence your customers. This is where constant communication with customers about the features and functionality that they want becomes invaluable. 

As with Tesla’s example, Musk’s quick response didn’t just highlight Tesla’s commitment to delivering an amazing vehicle, it expands to support its customers and constantly finding ways to make elevate their product.

As such, market demand can only be assessed through analysis (quantitative and qualitative). Developing an intimate understanding of your market by speaking to them and keeping communications channels open means startups can deliver relevant and effective products faster than their competitors.

Competitive advantage

Often, there isn’t one single trend that directly influences the development of a product. Take veganism, it’s on the rise in the UK, so much so that 51% of chefs have added vegan meal options to their menus.

How did veganism become such a large movement? 

It’s driven by many factors. Among these as the nutritional benefit of plant-based diets and gravitation towards more humane lifestyles than don’t involve eating meat.

For startups to develop a strong competitive advantage, they need to invest in four types of research activities. These are: 

  • Competitive research
  • Customer research
  • Industry research
  • Paying attention to insights influencers in your industry share

When combined, startups will develop keen insights into the drivers in their markets, insights that will strengthen their products and their ability to consistently deliver superior solutions.

Be strategic

While agile methodology to product development may at times appear to be less strategic, because of the iteration approach and because less documentation is created, it’s still strategic. Brands need to keep the vision of the product and balance customer requirements with internal resources. 

This often means pivoting, changing the steps you’ll take but heading in the same direction of your goal to achieve results. 

YouTube is a great example of a successful pivot. Before it became known as the second largest search engine in the world, it started out as a video dating service. The idea was to give people the chance to view video profiles of prospective dates and choose one. 

As history goes, they realized that while video dating profiles weren’t attractive to their market, video was still a major opportunity. The world was waking up to the idea of online video and YouTube was perfectly positioned. YouTube decided to pivot.  Today, it offers OTT video streaming apps for people to watch and download video content.

Agile may not work for all

While agile product development is highly popular, there are reasons why startups may not apply agile product development principles. Agile can be seen as too flexible and possibly less directed due to the focus on action and changes and less so on documentation.

This is where alternative methodologies may be better suited, like a waterfall (less iterative than agile) or scrum (focused on tasks that are called sprints which belong to product development cycles). Whatever you choose, ensure that you follow your north star and that you have team buy-in. 


Product development is influenced by many factors, all of which require startups to adopt an agile approach to product design and development. As the rate of change quickens, brands must evolve to account for new technological developments, industry trends, market demand and competitor analysis to develop in-demand products. If not, your product and brand can become obsolete very fast.

Author: PJ Taei
Bio:PJ is the founder and president of Uscreen, an all-in-one video monetization and OTT platform that empowers video entrepreneurs and creators to monetize their content and build thriving businesses around their videos.

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