Dual-track Agile is an effective strategy that supports both design and development teams at each step of the way to building amazing products that customers would actually use and love.

Today, successful businesses are those that fully understand their customer’s problems and provide valuable solutions.

It’s not just about how much effort you are putting into design and development, but that effort must go in the right direction.

Traditional approaches like Waterfall for product development follow a linear approach where development starts once the design is approved and then comes testing and release. So, if you want to change a major aspect, it becomes a lengthy and difficult process as you will have to go back to the planning and design steps and change everything.

Thus, approaching this can be costly, time-taken, and challenging.

However, with improved models like Agile or Dual-track Agile, you can deploy a better product with lower cost, time, and difficulty in the market that your customers would love using.

Let’s discuss the dual-agile track more and figure out how useful it can be for your next product development.

What is Dual Track Agile?

A dual-track agile refers to a type of agile framework where the cross-functional product development team breaks the daily work into two tracks – the discovery track and the delivery track.

  • The discovery track emphasizes quickly generating and validating a product idea to feed into your backlog. It deals with product design.
  • The delivery track emphasizes converting those product ideas into a software system ready to be delivered to the end users. It is basically with product development.

Whether it’s discovery or delivery track, they both aim to create the best product for the users. Thus, the concept of dual-track agile combines the goals of UX design and agile development, where both tracks work in harmony to help create excellent products. This way, product teams can work effectively on research and development simultaneously.

The roots of dual-track agile can be traced back to the year 2005, after the Agile Manifesto was released and popularized. The idea was developed further, and now we have dual-track agile.

How does Dual-track Agile work?

The agile development framework aims at data-driven, iterative, and rapid development to build excellent products. This requires agile teams to continue making some updates to the products and deploy them faster in the market. It helps them gain user feedback and improve their offerings.

Dual-track agile works on this concept of agile development methodology that the development must be iterative and rapid with quality.

This is in contrast to the traditional, linear approach where product managers are responsible for outlining requirements and assigning them to the designer to create a prototype or wireframe of the product, which goes to the development team for actual production.

Dual-track involves discovering and delivering a product in parallel with greater collaboration. Here, each member, including the developer, designer, and product manager, works together closely throughout the product development process.

Why Use Dual-track Agile?

Using dual-track agile comes with many benefits for product teams, such as:

Better quality products

With the discovery and delivery tracks, you can maintain well-defined backlog items. Dual-track agile enables validation for features that are actually needed so you can focus on user experience and address the pain points.

This helps developers get rid of features adding little or no value. Hence, you can release such software whose features are all loved and utilized by the users. This means you will clearly know all the features that would be useful to users and the ones that you can eliminate while ensuring product quality.

Less rework

Backlog items must be properly defined, qualified, and validated to ensure less rework. But if the opposite happens, you would have to do Lots of rework, which would consume significant time, effort, and resources to slow down production. Your deadline might also seem to go further away from you, and the result could be unsatisfactory if you rush.

Also, Agile involves iterations to refine the quality of production. But if you don’t have control over your iterations or conduct meetings that are not fulfilling, it will result in wastage.

To this, the discovery and delivery tracks are used to ensure that all the members of your development team have the required data. It will help them lower the number of iterations as well as the time and costs involved.

Improved user experience

If you want your product to succeed in the market, you must deliver an excellent user experience. The competition is high, and the customers won’t bother looking for options if you don’t deliver what they desire or address their pain points.

Traditional models involved a lot of gaps between the development team, design team, and operations team. Hence, product management used to be more challenging. Similarly, focusing on two things – design and development – used to be difficult. Either you would have to focus on user experience design or product iterations.

But with the introduction of dual-track agile, the discovery track and delivery track are separated clearly to enable the right focus on the right area. Your discovery team can integrate user experience-based design in prototypes, while the delivery track will use the inputs from the discovery team to proceed further. Since the discovery team is responsible for conducting validation, they can use the user experience validation in their workflow.

Quickly adapt to change.

The IT industry is fast-paced, where customer demands change rapidly and new technologies are iced now and then. Therefore, modern organizations must be flexible to cope with changes faster in order to stay ahead and relevant in the competition. By implementing dual-track agile, you can achieve this.

Cost-effective validation

Product developers often tend to overlook validation and its importance. The reason for this could be the fact that it involves coding and rendering the code, which is time-consuming, expensive, and tedious. And even when they decide to do it, they might not do it wholeheartedly, which results in inefficiencies.

But validating ideas is crucial to ensure product quality. This is why developers are now finding ways to make idea validation more manageable, less costly, and faster. Dual-track agile is an efficient way to achieve that. The discovery team members can perform surveys and design prototypes instead of codes for validation. It results in easier, more effective, and cost-efficient validation.

How to apply Dual-Track Agile in practice?

The dual-track agile is excellent for businesses of different shapes and sizes that build software systems for different markets. 

Small businesses and startups can leverage it easily to keep their product development cycles shorter, less risky, and more successful. Also, large companies with sufficient resources can utilize this model to increase their success rates and lower risks during product launches.

Implementing dual-track agile gives you a straightforward process to improve your product concepts, product quality, team morale, and development cycles.

So, if you want to introduce dual-track agile in your development process, here is how to do it.

Step 1: The Discovery Track

This track consists of different steps. Here, team members start by gathering information and insights to outline how to build a product that can meet the defined requirements when it’s deployed.

One of the first and most important aspects of this process is to discuss with stakeholders after you have understood the project requirements. It will help identify goals for each member and the team as a whole. They are required to outline the validated product ideas as inputs for the project, which the development team will use to produce the product as the output.   

So, while creating the plan, it’s important to interact with the end users to understand their pain points and expectations. This will help the team create successful products with desirable features, designs, functions, and usability for the users. This requires comprehensive user research through surveys, interviews, studies, healthy discussions, interaction with your site, etc.

Furthermore, the discovery track can also require developing and creating product personas depending on users’ requirements and pain points. Here, you need to create a validated product backlog collaboratively with your designers and engineers.

Activities that teams do here are:

  • Conducting stakeholder interviews to understand their objectives and plans
  • User research to understand what issues users face and how to solve them through the product
  • Creating a product persona to produce a product that can fulfill customers’ needs
  • Story mapping to prioritize activities and features to add first

Now comes the next stage.

Step 2: The Delivery Track

The delivery track uses the insights and information gathered by product development teams during the discovery track as the input to produce the best possible product.

This process includes rapid prototyping and takes an iterative approach to everything, which enables more collaboration between the development and design teams.

The delivery track enables teams to release a functioning product prototype in the market to understand how the users perceive it and seek feedback. It helps them outline the changes required to fulfill users’ needs and expectations. Thus, it becomes less costly and easier to make changes even after the release.

To apply changes and create the final product, the delivery track requires all the managers, teams, and users to interact. At this stage, every aspect of the product must be thoroughly reviewed, from its design, color schemes, and user interface to its features, functionalities, and performance.

The delivery track requires you to do these activities:

  • Rapid prototype creation
  • Releasing the prototype to the market faster
  • Taking feedback to understand user behavior
  • Improving user interface and other aspects based on the user feedback

Dual-track agile with Scrum

The discovery track uses development cycles of varying lengths. It involves making developments in small increments every day instead of waiting for a week or two to work and then reviewing a big chunk of work. It’s because if you do otherwise, it becomes really difficult and time-consuming to track changes and make adjustments.

Many ideas are produced in discovery, and when they evolve, they are often killed to make room for better ideas. Next, the best ideas go to the delivery cycles with time-boxed sprint backlogs.

Dual-track agile with Scrum requires you to perform these activities:

  • Sprint planning for product discovery and delivery tasks involving processes such as analyzing opportunities, user testing, coding, prototyping, continuous integration, etc.
  • Conducting daily Scrum to discuss the progress made
  • Reviewing sprints to analyze product performance, process performance, etc., and update progress to achieve the defined OKRs
  • Retrospective by conducting improvement meetings to identify improvement opportunities for iteration
  • Visualization of discovery work to improve the process and track progress toward the goal

Dual-track agile with Kanban

In Kanban, two backlogs are visualized -discovery backlog and delivery backlog.

The Discovery stage aims to help you understand user pain points and solve them. Here, the output is all the validated items that you can move to development. In this process, researchers, designers, and product managers strive to understand customers’ issues and explore suitable solutions before working on new features.

Once designs are complete, they move to the Delivery stage, which aims to quickly deploy the final product to end users.

Challenges of dual-track agile and how to handle them

Using Dual-track Agile on a smaller project with limited specialists and defined specifications might not be that effective. Here, only a handful of individuals would be available to manage multiple roles and responsibilities, constantly switching from one stage to another during the discovery and delivery.

Hence, Dual-track Agile will bring greater value to long-term project development with larger teams and where there’s a need to continuously build, test, and iterate the product to improve it. This type of project would require continuous product discovery and delivery. This way, roles can be clearly distributed among members, and such a setup will ensure rapid progress of the complete project.

Some myths about Dual-track Agile

  • It’s only for software development: It’s true that Agile first started in the software world and is especially suited for digital product development. But it’s a myth that it’s only applicable for software development; all types of organizations can use Agile.
  • Suitable just for small businesses and startups: Agile is an excellent approach for building compelling MVPs and tweaking versions depending on user feedback. It doesn’t mean that bigger organizations can’t use it. Some of the oldest and largest companies in the world, like GE, Philips, etc., use Agile. They use it to accelerate their slow processes and eliminate silos in the workflow to drive enterprise-level innovation.
  • Speed sacrifices quality: Agile enables faster software development. It does not mean that it does so by sacrificing quality. Agile ensures product quality through various testing phases and in iteration to ensure no error or bug can compromise quality or security. It involves beta testing, QA, etc., and helps create quality products at a faster speed.
  • Agile equals Scrum: This is a widespread myth that Agile is Scrum. Actually, Scrum came from eXtreme Programming and Lean. It’s just a project management methodology, but Agile is a different concept of software development.
  • No clearly defined roles: Many think that in Agile, everyone can do whatever they want as there are no clearly defined objectives and roles. It’s a myth. Agile can involve traditional top-down management with defined roles and responsibilities and supervised projects. However, the difference lies in the command and control for managing individual teams. Here, everyone has a bit more flexibility to work closely with the development and design teams with greater collaboration.
  • No plan: Many think Agile involves no planning because it involves faster iterations. But it’s not true. In fact, Agile is nothing without a clearly defined long-term goal and planning to achieve it. Agile divides bigger tasks into smaller ones and accomplishes them effectively to achieve the overall project completion with high success rates.
  • No documentation: Just because things move faster here doesn’t mean there’s no documentation in Agile. It involves a dynamic team with productive members, and documentation is important here too.

Conclusion

Using an advanced product development approach like Dual-track Agile helps you build quality products with lower cost, time, and difficulties. This way, you can quickly release your product in the market and gain a competitive edge. It will also enable you to take feedback early and improve your product to increase its success rate.