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MAHD Modified Agile vs. Agile Scrum Methods

MAHD Modified Agile vs. Agile Scrum Methods

The concept of agile and agile project management is not new, but up until this point it has been dominated by the software world. Agile methods, and Scrum specifically, is a project management system heavily reliant on incremental development. The development output is typically working software, with iterations completed every two to four weeks.  

What do you do, though, if you want to adopt agile concepts in a hardware setting? This is where the Modified Agile for Hardware Development (MAHD) Framework comes into the picture.  

Why Hardware Needs a Unique Approach to Agile

Hardware companies need to think about their approach to agile project management differently from software companies. Clear differences exist when creating physical goods as opposed to code or software. With hard goods, it cannot be something you can easily redesign and rebuild every two-week iteration due to dependencies, time to spin boards, cost, etc. Hardware companies need a unique approach to agile different from what agile for SW methods such as Scrum offers.

The Advantages of Hardware Development Agile Methods

There are clear advantages you can realize if using agile project management practices to develop hardware. Advantages to note include:

  • A reduction of time getting from concept to product release
  • An increase in collaboration across all teams
  • Learning cycles sped up to allow for fast evolutions early in development
  • Increases in the transparency of risks, dependencies, and impediments
  • Clearer focus on attributes critical to customer value and market success 

What Makes the MAHD Approach Different

Agile Scrum and the MAHD Framework both follow Agile principles. These include focusing on the customer at all times, increasing communication and transparency, cutting out waste, and improving the speed of delivery to market.  

The MAHD Framework leverages agile principles but adds key elements necessary to support the application of agile tactics in the hardware development environment.  

The Design Needs to Freeze 

With Agile Scrum, you are in a state of constant iterative development. Software is never really “complete.”  As users get their hands on software, they can provide feedback, and alterations lead to new features and adjustments of prior deliveries. With the MAHD Framework, the iterations occur to incrementally deliver demonstrable output for learning, but the team must always have an eye on when, how, and why hardware designs will freeze.

Each MAHD Iteration creates a collaborative setting for teams, provides opportunities to gain customer feedback, allows flexibility for change, and so on. Once the design moves close to production and has been optimized for scope, schedule, and cost, designs are frozen with only strategic, high-value items open to optimize results.  

Using Acceptance Criteria to Validate Development Output

In Agile Scrum, the validation of User Story intention focuses on the Acceptance Criteria specific to user expectations at the end of each iteration (or “sprint” in Scrum terms).  In the MAHD Framework, the same practice exists but there are two levels of acceptance criteria. The first level is at the sprint, or two-week iteration level, where acceptance criteria are typically based on internal validation. The second level of validation uses acceptance criteria at the end of each Iteration, which is usually one to six sprints long. A key goal of a MAHD Iteration is to set acceptance criteria and use the demonstrable output of the Iteration to obtain external customer or other stakeholder validation, as well as to get feedback from internal stakeholders such as senior management or functions not directly involved in product development.

Risk and Dependency Management

A major benefit of agile overall is how risk is managed compared to traditional development processes. However, Agile Scrum does not have the mechanisms needed to effectively consider and manage HW dependencies. In the MAHD Framework, the team is constantly thinking through risk and dependency management with each Iteration, These are called IPAC Iterations in MAHD Framework, which is an acronym that includes:

  • Integration of functions
  • Prototype opportunities
  • Alignment across teams
  • Customer engagement

As you work through each sprint or IPAC iteration, teams will collaborate toward common, incremental development goals as well as communicate across functional and discipline boundaries. The more engagement and communication, the better you will identify dependencies and clear any impediments to progress. Rapid learning cycles in the MAHD Framework will allow for identifying needs, reducing risk, and optimizing value up to and including the manufacturing on-ramp process.  

MAHD and Agile Scrum Share the Same Goals

The Agile Scrum and MAHD Framework have unique characteristics to optimize their focus on SW or HW respectively,  but they also share many similarities. Agile project management is consistent across both frameworks with frequent team communication, learning cycles, refinement, backlogs, risk management,  and most importantly, adhering to agile principles and driving an agile mindset. The differences come in the specific tactics used for initiating a project, prototyping incremental designs, and managing iterations and backlogs. Without modifying these elements to accommodate physical products, hardware development teams often struggle when trying to directly adapt SW agile methods.  

Hardware companies do not have the luxury to constantly change designs, tweak hardware as it’s created, etc. It is not cost-effective, nor is it value-add to customers. With the MAHD Framework, hardware design realization occurs quickly and iteratively, leading to faster development, more focused resources, and higher value for customers. 

To learn more about how the MAHD Framework can help your product development team, visit:


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Agile for Hardware Overview

A MAHD Overview

The four-page overview provides a quick summary of the MAHD Framework, benefits and unique attributes.

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