After having completed a major project based on agile development at the High-Tech Center Lake Constance, we interviewed Mr. Alexander Bräckle, location Head of R&D, and asked him to summarize the conclusions and experiences he made with the methodology of agile development:
What were the reasons for your decision to implement agile development in the High-Tech Center Lake Constance?
It was our aim to reconsider and revise product development at our High-Tech Center Lake Constance in order to speed up things and to intensify the collaboration across various disciplines. We therefore decided for re-organization under aspects of the SCRUM methodology in two-week‘s sprints, daily stand-up meetings and in parallel by implementing several disciplines in the development. The particularity lies in both software and hardware development being integrated into agile settings.
Furthermore, the new profile sensors of the OX200 series come under the category of smart sensors, which confronted us with predictable challenges in the development for which conventional methodologies would not have done.
What were these particular challenges like?
We are developing a multi-tool sensor for complex profile analyses which yet must be easy to operate. The challenges in developing such a sensor lie in its complexity and the resulting interaction between different disciplines. The sensor enables combinations of different measuring functions. By doing so it offers high flexibility for versatile use, but at the same time operation via web interface must remain intuitive. This required the developed algorithms being fine-tuned with the web interface. And, the product manager was involved throughout the entire process in order to consider usability from the customer's point of view. We faced similar interaction between the optical system and the process interfaces.
What are the benefits of integrating all disciplines?
We involved every discipline, from primary physics to embedded software, electronics and mechanics into the development project. This way we were able to recognize any interactions early on, much earlier than in conventional development. For example, we identified the required mechanical modifications caused changes in the optical design and could implement them more quickly, which saved us a significant amount of time in the development.
Industrial engineering and product management were also involved. This way we could continuously adapt the product to customer and market needs as well as to our own production requirements.
What positive effects do you see for teamwork?
In my opinion, involving the teams actively in the development planning and task assignment improved the overall transparency as well as awareness and appreciation of the contributions of each individual team member.
The Daily Stand-Up meetings supported direct exchange and decision-making among the team itself, moderated by the Product Owner. As a result, I perceived the team cooperation and coordination being much closer and better than in classical development proceedings.
What are the benefits agile development brought to the team?
Reflecting the development steps every other week and the lessons learned among the team triggered continuous team building and made the whole team as well as each member grow and excel day by day.
Tracking results permanently and consistently revealed technical problems, challenges and potential issues at an early stage, leading to regular and proactive exchange of the current development success. This boosted motivation and showed positive effects in the next development stages.
What is your personal summary about agile development?
I clearly think it’s a success when looking at the positive effects on development time, process clarity, communication and the team identifying with the project. The team has delivered outstanding performance and demonstrated courage to break new ground. Therefore, we will benefit from the advantages and implement agile development in further projects.