Like it or not, if you’re in the product business, you’re in the UX (user experience) business. And if this is something you thought only software companies care about, think again.
I mean, really integrate them.
Remind me what Agile is again:
agile | ˈajəl | adjective
1 able to move quickly and easily • able to think and understand quickly.
2 relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
When I studied Agile project management and UX I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between design thinking (a passion of mine) and the practices that drive an Agile process (you can read that article here). Our best launches when I worked at Merck were those that came out of a team so well-meshed the chemist and the marketer could finish each other’s sentences. Everyone was on the same page, everyone understood the preeminent goal, and nobody hoarded information or siloed themselves off in a separate work stream. The team was gung-ho and communication was flowing. But a fast launch was a desperate burden on everyone involved because the processes for a standard launch timeline were the same as an expedited one and pulled from the same set of resources.
In contrast, an Agile team is small, nimble and laser focused. An Agile approach would have insulated the project team and given them a dynamic new set of rules to follow in terms of iterative (daily) progress expectations.
UX or Bust
The other breakthrough approach Agile offers is an in-your-face, can’t ignore or reinterpret, consumer-driven product experience expectation. The user experience comes first, and your role on the team is to bring a dynamic and innovative mindset to creating and upholding that experience. Lack the technology to create that unique texture? Find someone who can help you source the capability. Don’t have a test method for that characteristic? Develop a new one. Struggling to get in-use feedback from your target user? Break the experience aspects down into simple prototypes and screen them individually.
If you follow your established internal processes to the letter you may find the project wandering away from the core of the experience you need to deliver. If you want to do something breakthrough that delights your customer in a way nobody else is offering, chances are you don’t have all the processes in place to deliver that yet. You need to forge new pathways and craft new thinking.
Harnessing Your Super Powers
My focus just before I left Merck (Bayer at the time) was to bring even more richness to our early development phases by integrating the marketing insights team with claims testing and packaging. That might not sound like a tall order, but it truly required a new way of thinking, sharing and working together. Consumer work can be tricky, but the sooner and more often you can do it the clearer the direction you’ll have in development and the stronger your final product will be. Structural package design requires a unique approach to testing; the package is as experiential and emotional as the product it contains (can I get another "Amen!"), so you need behavioral research. It goes well beyond getting the color and the messaging right. P&G understands this and works hard to fully leverage the power of their packaging.
The other thing P&G does is integrate their innovation functions, including packaging, from the very start. They’ve decoded how to make each of their global business units innovate like their billion-dollar brands, investing in prototyping capabilities that enable them to iterate designs quickly, gaining critical consumer feedback very early on to avoid costly project detours. Their use of Agile's tightly integrated functions approach gives them an edge in keeping product experience as the nucleus of every decision and action taken by the close-knit project team.
The other thing P&G understands, perhaps more than most companies in the consumer space, is that packaging is the vehicle to create a seamless product experience from start to finish. Their Chief Research, Development and Innovation Officer, Kathy Fish, stated it beautifully.
“It’s so much more than a container. From the time they first see the item to the moment they are shopping, to their use of it in the home, to when they tell their friends about it. [And with eCommerce] the burden on the packaging to tell the story to the consumer is more important than ever.”
The structural package and the product it contains and the messaging that graces the front panel must all sing the same tune. And that tune needs to Rock. It. Out. Whether arriving via a brown box on the porch or sitting on a retail shelf. Whether dispensing the product or working its way to a material recovery center.
Agility for Awesomeness
Delighting your user requires a holistic understanding of the product experience. Delivering that delight in record speed requires a hyper-integrated approach to development. And Agile is a terrific model for achieving this.
If you're interested in a fresh product design perspective or a design-focused approach to product packaging, reach out !