Dual Track Agile And Why It Matters In Business

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few.  Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

Understanding Dual Track Agile

Many assume that the most important part of lean and agile methodologies is delivery velocity.

However, product discovery is equally as important in ensuring that only products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. 

These somewhat traditional methods of product discovery occur as a phase. Insights are handed over to delivery teams after weeks or sometimes months of product research. During this time, user feedback can become messy as details are lost or simply incorrect. Indeed, users may not understand what they are asking for or worse still, what they actually need. 

Uncovering these insights takes time and effort, which many product managers aren’t willing to commit. This leads to assumptions being made which ultimately threaten the integrity of the product.

Dual Track Agile aims to validate product ideas as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. In other words, to increase learning velocity to complement the delivery velocity characteristic of the agile approach.

The two-tracks of Dual Track Agile

As noted, Dual Track Agile incorporates two tracks:

  1. The discovery track (team) – who gather insights, feedback, product ideas, and develop product personas based on stakeholder goals. Discoveries must be assessed in the context of market opportunities, competitor products, and user expectations.
  2. The delivery track (team) – encompassing the process many practitioners call agile development. Taking the insights provided by the discovery track, the delivery track builds and releases as many useful features as possible in a given sprint.

To be effective, the discovery and delivery track must work concurrently with high collaboration between each team. There is no requirement for the discovery team to fully define all product backlog items before the delivery team can begin development.

The Dual Track Agile process is non-linear and involves the key members of each team (managers, designers, and developers) working together throughout. Ultimately, it is a balanced approach that allows the delivery team to work on one set of features while the discover team simultaneously determines what the next features should be.

Benefits of Dual Track Agile

  • Higher quality products. During the Dual Track agile approach, only validated product ideas are allowed onto backlogs. This increases the odds that the user base will resonate with a given product feature if it is built.
  • Lower development costs. When the discovery and delivery team work in unison, development velocity increases which reduces cost. In other words, Dual Track Agile avoids the scenario where one team is sitting idle while it waits for the other team to complete a task. This creates a streamlined and cost-effective development cycle where both teams work to well-informed and detailed plans.
  • Adaptability. Increasing delivery velocity helps businesses adapt to fluctuating consumer trends or improvements in technology. The rapid creation of prototypes shows customers that the business is attuned to their needs and has a desire to meet those needs long term. 

Key takeaways:

  • Dual Track Agile is a concurrent software development methodology with an aim to validating ideas as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
  • Dual Track Agile incorporates two tracks, one is occupied by the delivery team and the other by the discovery team. Both teams work simultaneously in a non-linear fashion. Key members of each team must maintain a high degree of collaboration to avoid project downtime. 
  • Dual Track Agile increases the odds of higher quality products that address real customer needs. It also lowers development costs and makes the organization more adaptable to changing market conditions.

Connected Business Concepts And Frameworks

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.
The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.
The scaled agile framework (SAFe) helps larger organizations manage the challenges they face when practicing agile. The scaled agile framework was first introduced in 2011 by software industry guru Dean Leffingwell in his book Agile Software Requirements. The framework details a set of workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale. This is achieved by guiding roles and responsibilities, planning and managing work, and establishing certain values that large organizations must uphold.
Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.
Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.
DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.
Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.
design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.
Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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