Denver Startup Week Panel Session

I had the privilege to sit alongside visual designer Geoff Thomas, developer Sean Dougherty and fellow UXer Jim Orsi as the panelists for the Caffeine, Bits & Pixels: Design & Tech Breakfast Panel, one of the many great sessions during this year’s Denver Startup Week.

The discussion covered a lot of ground, but was grounded in a common theme, that of the benefits of agile/lean work practices. It was readily evident that the industry is quickly moving past a waterfall process and all of its inherent side effects toward a much more inclusive, collaborative and responsive mentality. It’s powering the ability of web professionals to keep pace with the accelerating speed of web development while simultaneously increasing the value they bring to both clients and their customers.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Workable partnerships are key: The boundary between skill sets can and does exist, but the boundary itself is becoming unimportant so long as a tight partnership is created between the people involved. In other words, one person’s strengths bridge another’s weaknesses and vice versa even though the people involved work for different organizations.
  • Early strategy work results in fewer problems later: Laying down a solid foundation for a project grants it the powerful ability to adapt to changing business needs, customer needs, and competitive pressures.
  • Iteration is good: Reducing a project into smaller pieces accomplished in shorter time periods permits stakeholders to evolve and shift a project based on real performance data.
  • Start small: Simplifying a concept to its core results in clarity of purpose, shipping sooner rather than later and reduced waste. It’s easier to add features than take them away.
  • Modularity leads to scalability: By keeping things small and accomplishing goals in pieces during iterative cycles, the project naturally lends itself to modularity which allows for smart scalability. Cloud computing has been a boon to this concept.
  • Fixed bids are out, flexible bids are in: Fixed bid pricing has fallen out of favor in preference for pricing with built in flexibility and, to some extent, an ability to end or grow the relationship in line with the needs of the project.
  • Selling agile still relies on what it always has, trust: Agile encourages greater communication and participation from all stakeholders such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As the bond between players strengthens, so too does the trust between them.
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