Niclas Karlsson, project manager at AFRY

The impact of Agile Project Management in R&D

Niclas Karlsson: Close client collaboration is key, ensuring our solutions meet end-user needs with flexibility and adaptability

In the fast-paced world of R&D, Agile Project Management has become essential. Agile methodologies provide a dynamic framework, enabling teams to adapt swiftly, collaborate effectively, and deliver high-quality solutions on time. Niclas Karlsson, Project Manager at Product & Software Engineering at AFRY, shares his insights on the role of agile project management and his strategies for achieving optimal efficiency, competence, and accelerated time-to-market.

 “In our rapidly changing world, projects often start with a vague vision. We work closely with our clients to break down this vision into manageable parts, discussing and refining requirements to ensure they meet the client's needs and are testable. This close interaction often leads to innovative solutions and unplanned features that the client didn’t anticipate.

Agile encourages early development, allowing us to uncover new opportunities or identify when we need to change direction without significant time loss. By developing in small increments, we stay aligned with client needs and can quickly adapt to any changes along the way. This process of continuous feedback and iteration ensures that we are always on the right track and can pivot as necessary to meet evolving demands.”

How has Agile Project Management facilitated your team in adapting to changing requirements and uncertainties in product development?

“No project plan is perfect, and requirements will inevitably change. We often start by focusing on hardware requirements, as these need to be as accurate as possible due to longer development cycles and higher costs of late changes. Keeping the client close and ensuring they understand the implications of changes is essential. Transparency is key. By maintaining open lines of communication with our clients, we can quickly adjust to new requirements and keep projects on track.”

How do technological advancements and innovations impact the work within your team, considering the need for agility and speed?

“As a consulting business, many technological advancements are driven by customer needs in our projects. We continuously develop tools like our Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) system, which we use across all software projects. This system often exceeds customer expectations by streamlining build, test, and delivery processes. The CI/CD system allows us to integrate new code seamlessly, test it thoroughly, and deliver updates quickly, maintaining a high standard of quality while meeting tight deadlines.”

How has the use of short work cycles (sprints) in Agile impacted your time-to-market?

“Sprints are vital in the agile way of working. They ensure we are always working on the right things. Regular sprint demos provide customer feedback, allowing us to adjust priorities as needed. Our Continuous Integration/Continuous Development system ensures high-quality code, while retrospectives after each sprint help us refine our processes, leading to a shorter time-to-market. These frequent reviews and adjustments enable us to stay aligned with customer needs and deliver products more efficiently.”

Client-centric collaboration

Could you elaborate on how agile fosters close collaboration with clients during product development?

“Agile fosters close collaboration through regular reviews of development iterations. Clients provide feedback on features and can influence the direction of the next steps. This continuous collaboration ensures the product remains valuable and aligned with customer needs, unlike the linear waterfall approach where requirements are set at the beginning and rarely revised. By involving clients at every stage, we ensure that their feedback shapes the development process, leading to a more successful and relevant end product.”


How do you work with clients to understand and adapt to their needs and preferences?

“Understanding the client's vision is the first step, often through physical or digital meetings. We gather detailed information from users or their representatives, prioritising must-have features over nice-to-haves. Continuous demonstrations of developed features allow for hands-on feedback and timely adjustments based on evolving needs. This iterative process helps us stay aligned with client expectations and adapt to any changes swiftly, ensuring the final product meets their requirements.”

Managed Agile Teams – a special delivery model at AFRY

“Managed Agile Teams at AFRY include a team manager responsible for team delivery and performance. This model offers outsourced management, saving clients time and leveraging AFRY’s expertise in team development and agile coaching. Team managers, often with backgrounds as product owners or scrum masters, bring valuable experience to guide teams effectively. This structured support enables teams to focus on their core tasks while maintaining high standards of performance and productivity.

The model of Managed Agile Teams also optimises resource use and ensures seamless collaboration and competence sharing within AFRY, enhancing overall project success. The team manager's role in overseeing and coordinating efforts ensures that teams are not only efficient but also aligned with the client's goals and expectations.”

Engineers in R&D
AFRY offers a range of Delivery Models tailored to your specific needs.
Engineers and designers collaborating in a project

In what ways do Managed Agile Teams contribute to maintaining and managing quality assurance and risk mitigation for companies?

“Team managers have continuous insight into team dynamics through regular communication and participation in agile events. This allows early identification and mitigation of potential risks. Team managers act as a bridge between the agile team and the client, ensuring quality and timely delivery while managing ramp-ups and ramp-downs efficiently.

This proactive approach to risk management and quality assurance helps maintain high standards and reduces the likelihood of issues arising.”

AFRY's approach  

What are the fundamental principles and practices that AFRY emphasises in our Agile Project Management approach?

“Continuous evaluation and improvement are fundamental. We focus on leveraging each team member’s skills and interests to foster growth. Our staff is our most valuable asset, and ensuring their development as engineers and individuals is crucial. By regularly assessing our methods and outcomes, we can make informed adjustments that drive continuous improvement and innovation.

We have trained Scrum Masters and Product Owners, knowledge of the SAFe framework, and experienced project managers. Cross-industry knowledge exchange and structured methodologies help us stay adaptive. Internal forums and collaborations with agile coaches enhance our agility. By fostering a culture of learning and adaptation, we stay ahead of industry trends and technological advancements.”

Looking ahead, how do you see the future of Agile Project Management evolving, and how are we positioning ourselves to adapt to these changes?

“Agile methodologies are expanding beyond project teams to entire enterprises. Larger organisations must become more agile to compete with nimble startups. For some time, AFRY has been focusing on SAFe framework training and broadening our services to support larger organisational agility. By embracing new development trends and continuously improving our agile practices, we are positioning ourselves to meet the evolving needs of our clients and stay competitive in the market.”

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Tailored solutions for your product development

We specialise in end-to-end embedded and mechanical product development through customised solutions adapted to your needs. Our seasoned teams of engineers and designers collaborate closely with you to transform innovative ideas into tangible, market-ready solutions. We support you in the whole process from idea to research, design, product development and production.

Get in touch with our experts:

Johan Andinsson - Head of Sales and Business Development, Product & Software Engineering

Johan Andinsson

Head of Sales and Business Development, Product & Software Engineering

Contact Johan Andinsson

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Erik Backström - VP and Head of Business Area Product & Software Engineering

Erik Backström

VP and Head of Business Area Product & Software Engineering

Contact Erik Backström

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