The Intersection of Design Thinking and Agile Methodology

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Successful software development ventures are a joint effort of technology and human contribution. Along with the latest technologies, software advancement requires open communication, reliable management, resource and fund allocation, and employee and employer collaboration. These factors are necessary for growth. To ensure seamless projects, companies implement design thinking and agile methodology.

Despite having similar functions, such as gathering customer feedback, brainstorming ideas, and devising new strategies to prevent errors, they are different. Instead of choosing one of the two, both concepts operate together to increase productivity, enhance customer experience, and accelerate product development.

Introduction to Design Thinking and Agile Methodology

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking hones in on locating and identifying the problem. To solve problems, it is essential to find them. Design thinking is an iterative concept that creates new strategies, questions existing models, and views challenges from different lenses to identify user needs, mitigate risks, improve the user journey, and improve internal operations.

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile meets design thinking in the middle; it solves the problem the latter identifies. Unlike traditional approaches that view projects as a whole, agile methodology breaks them into different segments. Instead of starting the cycle over again in case of a mishap, the agile technique makes project management more flexible by assigning roles to each step.

In agile methodology, organizations ensure end-users participate in the entire process and interact with customers to collect feedback and build a transparent relationship with them. Furthermore, it allows companies to incorporate changes wherever needed without starting from scratch and leaving room for errors.

Agile vs Design Thinking vs Lean

Even though design thinking and agile methodology are the two most popular software development approaches, organizations sometimes employ another strategy: lean startup.

The agile design thinking lean startup concepts have the same goal but different approaches. Combined, all three strategies safely and rapidly produce high-quality products and services quickly and safely while saving development costs.

Where design thinking locates the problem and devises problem-solving ideas, agile methodology creates a structured process for executing those ideas. On the other hand, lean startup converts ideas into business models through continuous product testing to find the best version.

Understanding the Key Principles of Design Thinking and Agile Methodology

The agile and design thinking approaches emphasize the need for user feedback and end-user involvement to accelerate the software development process. Rather than acting on theoretical strategies, these two concepts turn them into practical functions.

Design thinking acts on five fundamental principles:

  • Empathy: Empathy includes understanding customers and their feedback; what are their needs and requirements, and how does the problem affect them?
  • Definition: The definition step describes the identified problem. Developers analyze the data to get insights into user expectations and explain the challenge in user-centric ways.
  • Ideation: This stage challenges the current methods and designs new user-friendly ideas and solutions.
  • Prototype: In the prototype step, developers create a beta version of the ideas that focus on specific areas of the problem.
  • Testing: The beta product is open to the users, who test it and send feedback to the designers.

The agile design thinking process follows twelve fundamental principles:

  • Customer satisfaction by continuously delivering high-quality services.
  • Breaking down the project into smaller segments to accelerate project completion.
  • Organizing teams to produce the best results.
  • Motivating employees by creating a supportive, reliable, and trustworthy environment.
  • Designing ideas that increase sustainability.
  • Competing tasks at a uniform speed.
  • Incorporating changes whenever and wherever needed, regardless of the project stage.
  • Regularly interacting with project teams and employers to promote open communication.
  • Holding team meetings at regular intervals to discuss strategies and alter them accordingly.
  • Tracking the project progress by measuring finished tasks.
  • Aiming for best-in-class service delivery.
  • Maintaining flexibility to gain a competitive edge.

The Benefits of Combining Design Thinking and Agile Methodology

Even though agile manifesto and design thinking approaches can be employed separately, they deliver optimum results when combined. Both strategies follow prescribed rules, assigned tasks, and a user-centric approach. Combining both can help teams coordinate and merge different ideas to create the best and most effective solution that satisfies user demands.

Incorporating design thinking and agile methodology allows teams to obtain feedback from real-world users. That feedback enables teams to create user-centric solutions that improve their experience, reduce development costs, and prevent resource exhaustion. According to Forrester Consulting, the agile design thinking process reduced the developmental time by 33%.

How to Effectively Integrate Design Thinking and Agile Methodology into the Design Process

Implementing design thinking and agile into the design process requires collaboration. All teams involved should follow the key principles of both approaches, including project schedules, changes, and objectives. When integrating design thinking and agile methodology into the design process, consider the following points:

Start Small

Instead of going for the entire project at once, take small steps. Break down the project into smaller segments and work on each segment’s easiest part. Working on less risky areas first allows you to gain experience and learn the approach before applying it to more intense challenges.

Merge the Teams

The agile design thinking process works best when organizations merge teams from both approaches. Creating teams that include design thinking specialists and agile experts allows them to combine creativity and practicality to design innovative and functional solutions.

Strike Balance

It is essential to balance user-friendly designs with product development. While implementing design thinking, teams should also understand the mechanisms of that strategy while gathering user feedback, redefining the problem, and maintaining flexibility.

Case Studies of Successful Projects that have Used the Combination of Design Thinking and Agile Methodology

Bank of America is the most famous example of successfully executing the design thinking agile approach. Bank of America wanted to improve customer savings accounts’ functioning. Using design thinking and agile, they increase their user interactions. The bank discovered that users enjoyed saving money rather than actually saving it.

The agile and design thinking strategy allowed Bank of America to design a round-up concept, a product that enabled customers to save money with every new transaction. As a result, the bank’s customers increased the happiness they got from the act of saving money along with actually saving it. Incorporating this strategy resulted in Bank of America gaining over 10 million users while retaining current customers.

The Future of Design Thinking and Agile Methodology and Their Impact on the Industry

The IT industry is rapidly evolving. With millions of people contributing to its development, the industry constantly creates innovative products and services.

With agile and design thinking, the industry will accelerate its development speed and create effective strategies for better results, such as:

  • Improving user experience
  • Prototype solutions
  • Execute tested and verified ideas
  • Successfully implement creativity and practicality
  • Receive instant and relevant customer feedback
  • Flexibly change strategies

Final Thoughts

Design thinking and agile methodology are integral to the IT industry to improve software development. This approach allows organizations to enhance user journeys, gather feedback, and create a transparent workplace with better employee-employer relationships, enhancing the quality of their products and services.

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