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Digital product development

Success factors for digital product development in an agile workflow

by Philipp Brunner


svg+xml;charset=utf dmcgroup

“Getting better sprint by sprint.” – Digital product development at dmcgroup using the example of a customer project.

For our customer FAS Research, a leading company in the network-based creation of situation reports and strategies, we have been developing the Situation R® software in a joint, agile workflow for more than 3 years.
With the software, FAS Research offers workshops for stakeholders in which consolidated situation reports are created, supported by the use of artificial intelligence and participatory coordination processes directly via smartphone. Situation R® thus enables FAS Research to prepare and conduct these workshops and empowers participants to contribute their assessments to the process.

For dmcgroup, the project is a success story that we are proud to share with our partner client FAS Research.

Was macht das Projekt zu einem Erfolg?

  • Project duration of already more than 3 years
    Despite a difficult starting position and extensive technical evaluation at the beginning, iterative development could be started quickly
  • All initial project objectives were met or exceeded
    At the start of the project, the targets and objectives for the first “Workshop 0” with the new software were defined – these were all achieved, as were the medium and long-term objectives formulated for the software.
  • Success through high customer acceptance
    For us, the most important success factor is that the software is being used very successfully by the customer and is very well received by end customers in workshops.
  • Team & setup constant over 3 years
    Workflow and project setup is very stable right from the start – continuous development and reliable stability for the project, which our customer appreciates.
  • Lived iteration
    We live iterative development in the project. In an agile, sprint-based working method, new features are usually functionally completed every two weeks, so that the functional scope of the software grows continuously.
  • Robust “foundation”
    What we are particularly proud of: even after more than 3 years and intensive further development of the application, the basic assumptions and the application foundation have proven themselves. This basis enables us to expand functionality quickly and yet robustly.

For dmcgroup, the combination of user experience principles and methods with an agile development workflow is a recipe for successful software development. Highly complex projects in a dynamic environment in particular can only be fully planned in advance to a limited extent and therefore require working methods that generate continuous output and guarantee an immediate response to new findings and changes.

Continuous output in a dynamic project environment

When developing Situation R®, our focus right from the start was on usability in real application scenarios. The first release of the software has already been used in a real customer workshop and was able to score points with new, user-friendly features for real-time coordination.
The flexible project setup is particularly suitable for short-term “course changes” and the reprioritization of features at any time. In the meantime, many state-of-the-art functions have been added to the software that we would not even have thought of at the beginning of the work.

Burnchart, der die Entwicklung der Sprint Velocity im Projekt über einen Zeitraum von 3 Jahren zeigt - Spitzenwert lag bei 29 Story Points in einem Sprint, der langjährige Durchschnitt bei 10 Story Points.

How did we manage that? What recommendations can we make after more than 3 years in this agile software project, which has been particularly successful for us?

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Success factors for digital product development

  • Initial project kick-off with the entire project team (client and agency)
  • Formulating project goals and project vision as a common basis
  • Development of a story map as a backlog basis in the initial project kick-off in order to divide the project into work packages
  • Cross-functional project team from both the agency and the client
  • Product owner on the customer side with full decision-making authority for the product
  • Open team communication at eye level
  • Regular meetings to work together: Stand-ups, analysis meetings, refinement and reviews in the team. Regular retrospectives serve to improve teamwork.
  • Measuring the team velocity in each sprint – the experience gained in this way is valuable for estimation and planning in the project
  • Joint estimation of stories in the team – based on the (assumed) technical complexity
  • Involve users to test each new feature (or to analyze development requirements)
  • Regular refactoring of code and user interface ensures the highest quality even over a long development period
I would particularly like to emphasize the importance of story mapping and the team’s discipline in the continuous handling of user stories during implementation for our project success in the development of digital products.

Don’t lose sight of the goal – thanks to user stories

User story mapping is a method used in agile software development to plan, maintain and prioritize the timing and content of individual software features to be implemented. A single user story is the smallest unit in the story map – a requirement for a software feature formulated from the user’s perspective. In addition to the basic specification of the feature, the user story can also contain acceptance criteria and other technical details.
User stories are a powerful tool for us to formulate complex software projects as a sum of smaller, manageable parts. This makes it easier to plan the implementation of a project and ensures the continuous delivery of valuable features.

Advantages of user story mapping

  • Large product vision is broken down into epics, tasks and user stories and becomes “tangible”
  • User stories are the smallest unit of what creates new “value” for users of the software
  • User stories appreciated by the team are ideal for planning and prioritizing the next releases
  • This plan can be changed at any time if new findings or events occur
  • User stories invite discipline from the team when estimating and implementing: If a story is too difficult to estimate, it is usually too big and should be split up
  • This ensures that the focus during implementation is on the essential benefit of each user story
  • User stories should initially be built as simply as possible so that no time is lost. Enhancements and improvements can be subsequently submitted as part of new user stories
Initially, it was a challenge for us to keep user stories as small as possible during implementation. The ambitious team always strives to implement new features in the best possible and most complete way. Over time, we learned that this approach ultimately reduces the speed of development.
It works much better to reduce new features to the essence of their benefits for users and implement them as “small” as possible. This means that the new function is available much more quickly and can be used and tested immediately. This quickly generates new insights that can be incorporated directly into the refinement and perfection of the features. In addition, the reduction to the essentials allows you to always keep an eye on the product roadmap and work towards the big picture.
Eine exemplarische UI-Komponente

The use of an agile workflow and user story mapping enabled us to achieve incomparably high speed in the project with consistently good output and ensured that a digital product was created that met the target vision on the one hand and could be dynamically adapted several times to new requirements and circumstances on the other.

This way of working is also very fulfilling for the product team and maximizes efficiency.

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