Ask the Authors
Q: Why is the customer so important in Agile?
Author Sarah Elk responds: There are many companies starting to use Agile today, but too often they seem to stop short or misuse Agile. They might apply Agile principles to operations to make work more transparent. Or, they may take out layers and simplify their organization and declare it Agile. These changes can be helpful, but to me, these organizations are losing out on the bigger opportunity. That opportunity hinges on what these companies have not done: build a multidisciplinary team to tackle an objective that’s tied to the company strategy, but that doesn’t have an obvious answer. Finding the answer requires prototyping with customers.
The customer is really at the heart of an Agile enterprise. A mechanism for gathering customer feedback is always designed into any Agile team’s work, and customers are consulted early and often. Sometimes it’s internal customers being consulted, perhaps on changes to a business process, for example. Other times, it’s external customers giving feedback, maybe on a new product. Agile is all about testing and learning. It requires pivoting and adjusting based on what the customer says, not what the executive might have thought the right answer was. Without the insights and redirection customers offer, Agile cannot truly change a business. It may be able to make it better at what it already does. But change it? No.
Agile’s highest use is to motivate change and innovation, to tackle meaty business problems, and it just can’t do that well without prototyping with customers.