Agile Publishing: Twelve Tips for Agile Product Development
As publishers become increasingly digital, both in workflow and product offering, we will continue to hear more and more about the agile publishing model. Agile is a methodology that comes from the software development industry. Its main components are iterative design, rapid prototyping, minimum viable product (MVP), customer feedback loops which provide behavioral and usage analytics and data-driven decision making.
Essentially, the objective of agile is to push things to market more quickly, and to learn from actual usage patterns. The data collected informs subsequent product releases. While this model has yet to be fully realized or articulated in the publishing space, there are components of it which have been the subject of experimentation among publishers. If your company is just starting in agile or is in the midst of implementing an agile workflow, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Get it all in writing first.
While there is ongoing debate about the effectiveness of strict documentation, I feel it's important to have the framework of your development work documented and available for reference. Efficiency in digital product development is achieved when the development team knows what it is building and how to build it. A written record of product requirements and wireframes for each phase of your product is essential to eliminating guesswork and saving time in the development phase. This is crucial because a publishing workflow does and likely always will (at least in the foreseeable future) entail multiple handoffs from different roles in the production process. And these handoffs are where elements of logic or approach can get lost in the shuffle. Clear documentation is a means of sharing the latest information with everyone across your organization.
2. Follow the concepts of minimum viable product (MVP) and incremental iterative improvements.
Digital products are not like physical products: They need to be nurtured after launch and, in many respects, the work on a product is never fully complete. Instead of pushing a product to market and seeing if it's a success, begin planning metered releases, starting with an MVP and subsequent improvements. In the software world, this is called versioning. When planning an MVP and later versions, keep in mind that at each step along the way you will be collecting user data and letting that data inform your next step. This is an essential piece to successful implementation of an agile process.