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Agile for Aerospace and Defense Development: Guide & Best Practices

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The aerospace and defense industry is under pressure like never before. With evolving market conditions affecting the supply chain and changing customer needs driving the impetus for innovation, companies need to act quickly to remain competitive. In this guide, we will discuss how agile can help your company meet the challenges of this rapidly changing environment. We’ll also take a look at some best practices that have proven successful in the agile aerospace and defense industry.

What is Agile in Aerospace?

The aerospace and defense industry is highly regulated, with long product development cycles. Agile is a software development methodology that helps teams manage complexity and deliver value early and often. In an agile environment, requirements are divided into small, manageable pieces called user stories. Development teams then work in short sprints to deliver working software that meets the needs of the user stories. At the end of each sprint, the team evaluates what has been accomplished and identifies any areas for improvement.

There is currently a lot of disruption in the aerospace and defense industry. With changing market conditions and customer needs, companies need to be agile in order to stay competitive. This will help them adapt more easily to increased volatility while still being profitable.

Why Use Agile in Aerospace?

Applying agile methodologies to product development has become commonplace so companies can experience shorter design cycles, Put simply, the goal of agile methodology is to encourage customer-centricity and give team members more agency in order to adapt their work according to market demands.

There are many reasons why companies in the aerospace and defense industry are turning to agile methods. Here are just a few:

  • To respond quickly to changes in market conditions or customer needs
  • To reduce risk by delivering value early and often
  • To improve communication and collaboration between teams
  • To increase transparency and visibility into project progress

Rules for Applying Agile in Aerospace Market

Although the Agile philosophy can be broadly applied, it is not a singular method that fits all companies. The key areas of focus for Agile include customer satisfaction, adaptability, and independent teams that are unafraid to take initiative. For A&D companies new to implementing Agile methods, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Why Agile? – While agile has the potential to create amazing results, it can only do so when company leaders take the time to communicate why change is necessary. This means being clear about the challenges facing an organization, explaining why traditional approaches won’t work, and how switching to an agile method will help solve those problems.
  2. Be Flexible – Many A&D organizations manage projects by setting a timeline and creating linear step-by-step processes. However, this method also causes teams to resist making changes or rethinking decisions that have already been made. Leaders should instead shift the team’s focus to principles in order to allow them to discover the best way to achieve their goals. This proactive mindset will more likely result in new ways of working, thinking, and innovation from the team as a whole.
  3. Choose Right Pilot – Leadership is critical to the success of initiatives. However, agile leadership differs from typical project management in numerous ways. Appointing the proper program leader who has intellectual curiosity, technical qualifications, experience working with the firm, and flexibility to embrace change is a problem for businesses.
  4. Use Customer Inputs – Newly-agile teams may face the big challenge of getting customer feedback on design iterations early in the process. However, by understanding that negative feedback only means there is room for improvement, they will be able to use this tool to better assess their product designs against customer needs and market realities. With external advisors who are unbiased towards internal politics, newly agile teams can develop a product that meets buyers’ standards. That isn’t to say that failure is a necessary step in the process; rather, it’s an inevitable part of development. Rather than attempting to create a flawless product, agile teams should strive for a “good enough” or MVP version to be delivered to customers and testers. The prototype will then be refined based on customer comments. Each iteration will be that much closer to the intended product by considering “failures” as teaching opportunities.
  5. Maintain Collaboration – Agile teams are diverse, which means they have members with unique backgrounds. Some examples of expertise include design-to-cost, new manufacturing methods, alternate supply, and creative contracts. Even though team members come from different places, it’s important that they’re all on the same page in terms of the program reporting structure. This way, everyone is accountable to the team and the program— not just themselves. Having this kind of setup will encourage cooperation and a focus on end results. Plus, it minimizes the potential for internal conflict.”

Challenges in the Aerospace Market

The aerospace and defense industry is facing extraordinary disruption on multiple fronts. With evolving market conditions affecting the supply chain and changing customer needs driving the impetus for innovation, companies need to act quickly to remain competitive.

Here are some of the challenges that companies in this industry are facing:

  • Increasing globalization of the aerospace and defense market
  • Rapid changes in technology
  • Shortening product lifecycles
  • Intense competition from new entrants

How to Implement Agile in Aerospace?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing agile in aerospace. However, there are some best practices that have proven successful in this industry. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin your journey:

  • Establish a common understanding of agile concepts and principles across the organization.
  • Create an environment that supports and encourages collaboration.
  • Focus on delivering value to the customer.
  • Plan for change and embrace it as an opportunity for improvement. Continual learning is key to success with agile methods.

Best Practices for Agile Aerospace Development

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for agile development in the aerospace and defense industry. However, there are some best practices that have been proven successful in this rapidly changing environment. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you implement agile methods in your organization:

  • Establish a clear vision and objectives for the project.
  • Break down requirements into small, manageable user stories.
  • Work in short sprints to deliver working software quickly.
  • Evaluate progress at the end of each sprint and identify areas for improvement.
  • Communicate frequently and openly between teams.
  • Be prepared to adapt your plans as market conditions or customer needs change.

Visure Requirements ALM Platform

Visure is one of the most trusted ALM platforms that is well known for its amazing services in requirements management for the aerospace and defense market. It’s a must-have tool for teams building complex products, systems, and software, which require end-to-end traceability from conception to testing and deployment, all the way to source code, along with standard certification compliance. Visure also supports several agile practices for the aerospace and defense market.

Visure integrates through the whole ALM processes including risk management, issue and defect tracking, traceability management, change management, and various other areas like quality analysis, requirements versioning, and powerful reporting.

Features Visure Offers include: 

  • Standards and Traceability – Visure supports various standards like DO-178B/C and DO-254. These standards are dynamically traced throughout all the stages of development ensuring that each requirement is properly mapped to a specific test case and vice versa. 
  • Better Collaboration – Visure offers customizable user interfaces on the basis of the project you are working on. All the information is properly organized on these interfaces allowing all the individuals to work together while remaining on the same page. 
  • Multi-tier Collaboration – Visure supports XML-based standards, like ReqIF and XRI, that help us in exchanging requirements between various different customers and suppliers. 
  • Integration – Data analysts can create relationships, generate hierarchies, manage traceability and automatically capture requirements from MS Excel, Outlook, and MS Word. Visure also supports integration with other ALM tools like IBM DOORS and JIRA through Requirement Interchange Format OMG standards.
  • Security – Visure ensures proper security of information and requirements. We do this through our rigorous access policy where only certain people can access the artifacts even at the elementary level. 
  • Quality Analysis – Visure’s Quality Analyzer allows you to perform a semantic analysis of the requirements to identify the quality of the requirements. Therefore, it becomes easier to prevent the requirements from moving to the next phase in the development cycle. 
  • Data Models – Visure supports many development processes like Agile, V-model, etc. At Visure, we ensure to analyze the specific problems that are inherent in business models and provide a solutional data model for each specific need. These data models are customizable to relate to the client’s internal processes and can be enforced as required.


The agile methodology is being increasingly used in the aerospace and defense market to manage requirements and development processes. However, there are several challenges that need to be overcome for agile to be successfully implemented in this domain. Visure Requirements ALM Platform can help overcome these challenges and enable successful agile implementation in the aerospace market. Request a free 30-day trial at Visure Requirements ALM Platform today to see how our platform can help you achieve your goals.

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