The range of opportunities to expand and enhance the user experience from ITS related products will expand in future. However, to support this developers and suppliers of ITS systems will need to ensure they operate with agility to keep pace with technological enhancements to provide solutions that deliver real value when they are needed by moving at pace towards intelligent mobility writes Jude Paterson
There are a number of challenges facing suppliers within the ITS marketplace which can be helped by introducing more agility into their project approaches. These are not uncommon challenges facing any style of project that involves change or development of new products.
In some instances suppliers are developing ITS solutions to meet unknown user needs. They can be creating great innovative products spending considerable time and effort to develop them, but are let down in their uptake by not meeting the true needs of the user. This can lead to wasted effort by the suppliers, including a lot of features that may not add extra value to the product that they’re delivering.
Another challenge can be responding fast enough to the pace of technology changes. In the space of a few years smart phones have become common place, reducing the reliance on stand-along sat-navs, but increasing the opportunities for mobile apps providing ITS features. Moving forward wearable technology is at the forefront of advances – is this something that the suppliers will need to modify their solutions to interact with? How easily and quickly can they embrace the opportunities that it may bring?
Combining both of these challenges can generate longer lead times for suppliers to develop products and release them to the market. From a supplier perspective the longer it takes to release their products to market then the longer it is until they have the opportunity to start making a profit from sales. From a user perspective they may find alternative solutions that have already been released to the market to use instead even if they contain less features that the un-released product hopes to contain.
Working with more agility in a structured manner
In relation to developments and delivering projects there are lots of tools and techniques that all use an agile approach, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Within the software field these range from Extreme Programming and Scrum, which operate well at the development level, through to DSDM, Disciplined Agile and SAFe which operate at the project and programme level.
Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) first started working using agile methodologies 20 years ago in the software industry, and the approach has evolved since then to provide a suite of techniques. These can be used across the whole programme taking agile techniques from something that worked well in small teams, to something that can provide benefits across the organization in a range of project types from development of products through to transformational change.
By encouraging a more flexible and an agile mind-set, new products can provide a greater return on investment to the stakeholders, an improved user experience to the end users and the ability to embrace new opportunities that change can provide.
Focus on key approaches
To enhance the agility of ITS projects let’s consider two of the Agile PM principles, which support the philosophy that any project must be aligned to clearly defined strategic goals and focus on early delivery of real benefits.
Focus on the Business Need
for product developers within ITS, who drives the business need? This could range from end users for a very user-focussed solution through to government agencies looking to enhance their traffic management on their road network. In practise the project must understand and respect the true business priorities to deliver the project’s goal. With continual reflection on the business needs, the project ensures that the focus remains on the priority requirements. By focusing efforts on the Minimum Usable SubseT (MUST) requirements, the project is guaranteed to deliver value to the business. Using prioritization techniques for the requirements, such as MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have) then the project focusses on the requirements the business needs, and not perhaps the requirements that those involved would enjoy delivering.
Fundamental to all agile approaches is the belief that a project solution cannot be defined in entirety at the start of the project and then developed exactly as it was originally specified. Within the robust agile approach promoted through AgilePM, this is structured such that to deliver a solution with agility just enough design is done up front, with the detail evolving through iterative delivery of solutions. In practise this means that each project has a clear vision on what it will deliver, but what is less clear is exactly what will be included within the scope of the solution and how it will be implemented.
Through iterative delivery, the project can gain important feedback on functionality from users and can build upon the features included. This also enables the project to embrace change, and alter elements of the solution to take on-board either new technologies or a changed set of features. In traditional waterfall developments, it can prove both costly and timely to introduce changes to a design that had been worked out at the start of the project. Using an agile approach the solution can therefore evolve over time as a result of each of the iterations, ensuring that vital feedback from each of the releases can be fed into the future cycles.