Apple’s Brand of Agile

September 10, 2013 CollabNet VersionOne

Apple’s launch event came and went without much surprise. As everyone expected, they’re now selling two editions of the iPhone. I’m a user of Apple products but I wouldn’t call myself a fanboy. I’m writing this post on a Dell and it’s doing its job. I can clearly see that Steve Jobs built one of the most impressive organizations in recent history, but I’m pretty sure I’d have hated working for him. Identifying weaknesses in Apple’s empire has become fashionable lately, and I’m sure this most recent launch will cause many to criticize Apple for losing their innovative edge.

I’d like to offer an alternate perspective: I think Apple is focused. They could have very easily launched iWatch, iTV, iCar, iMicrowave, or any other noun with a lower-case “i” in front of it. But they didn’t. And they’re going to make a killing from it.

This has been Apple’s trademark for a while now. They make a few products, and they make them very well. They prioritize design and quality. And they make money hand over fist.

Those of us in the Agile world should take note. Many times, when our customers and stakeholders indulge us in our efforts to adopt Agile, what they’re hearing from us is, “you get to decide what we build! You can have whatever you want!” And what they want is, wait for it, everything. So we build them what they want, and they’re left with a huge pile of features.

What happens to a huge pile of features? It either spoils or mutates.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re in this together. We can help them make smarter decisions. We can remind them that companies like Apple (and 37signals, and Southwest Airlines) are successful because of what they don’t build as much as they are for what they do build. And now Ford and HTC are getting in on the act. Rather than build 50 features in 50 different directions, how about 5 rock-solid features?

Apple doesn’t make refrigerators or dishwashers. If they did, do you think they’d be the company they are today?

I’m interested in your thoughts. Hit me up on Twitter at @johnkrewson.


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