Achieving agility and quality in product development -an empirical study of hardware startups
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Context: Startups aim at scaling their business, often by developing innovative products with limited human and financial resources. The development of software products in the startup context is known as opportunistic, agility-driven, and with high tolerance for technical debt. The special context of hardware startups calls for a better understanding of state-of-the-practice of hardware startups’ activities. Objective: This study aimed to identify whether and how startups can achieve product quality while maintaining focus on agility. Method: We conducted an exploratory study with 13 hardware startups, collecting data through semi-structured interviews and analysis of documentation. We proposed an integrative model of agility and quality in hardware startups. Results: Agility in hardware startups is complex and not achieved through adoption of fast-paced development practices alone. Hardware startups follow a quality-driven approach for development of core components, where frequent user testing is a measure for early debt management. Hardware startups often lack mindset and strategies for achieving long-term quality in early stages. Conclusions: Hardware startups need attention to hardware quality to allow for evolutionary prototyping and speed. Future research should focus on defining quality-driven practices that contribute to agility, and strategies and mindsets to support long-term quality in the hardware startup context.