How Agile Changed the Mobile App Development Game

agile and the app development game

Why is Agile is the best choice for your brand?

In 2010, I transitioned H&R Block’s mobile app development program from the fixed price/scope model to Agile. Solving many of the flawed assumptions inherent in fixed scope development was a big job but by far the largest and most beneficial shift I helped them make.

So what makes it the best choice for you? 

Introducing Agile to clients can be extremely difficult especially if they’ve never experienced Agile before. Just last week a large automotive company told me they “just don’t do Agile.”

In reality, they’re saying: “We only work on a fixed price/fixed scope model.” I completely understand why. On the surface, organizations feel fixed price/fixed scope is the lowest risk option.

With fixed price/scope, clients assume they can best manage budget and time (usually the two most important things to the client). Of course, the assumption is that predefined scope is fixed and will not change.

There’s only one problem with that assumption: it’s a fairy tale. In over 20 years of agency work I’ve never (not once) seen a project go to completion without changes or previously unknown discoveries. Never.

The only constant is change. So why are so many organizations still clinging to a model that’s based on the one assumption we know will be wrong?

Let’s be honest for a moment about what really happens on fixed price/scope projects: Resource price and task estimates are inflated to buffer against the unknown risks that will manifest during the project.

The unwritten agency rule is about 20% over actual estimates. If changes to the project cause the agency to be more efficient than anticipated, it’s a windfall. (But again, in 20+ years I’ve never seen a fixed price project come in below budget.)

In theory, when enough change occurs, agencies are forced to present clients with an unbudgeted and unanticipated change order.

Typically, clients have a set budget but are internally mandated to make the requested changes. The clients aren’t empowered to increase the budget or push back on the mandate. And their jobs are potentially on the line if they say they ‘poorly defined scope’ resulting in a huge budget overage.

The vendor needs time and budget to make changes, and clients can almost never get more money or move their launch dates. This is the moment the fixed P/S model gets ugly – fast. Both parties are backed into a corner with the only option of winning if the other loses. No wonder the average account lasts less than 3 years.

Agile fixes time and resources, and by doing so guarantees the client on-budget and on-time delivery for every project. And since Agile embraces Progressive Elaboration, it not only accepts but welcomes change to project features and goals.

Agile allows for lower pricing, fast coding and above all aligns the client and the agency towards the same goals: producing the best mobile app within allotted time and budget. No change orders. No missed datas. No critical features left undone.

This is the promise of Agile and why you should brave the fear of change and take the plunge.

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