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Video blog: Agile methods in detector development

DECTRIS' detectors help achieve unprecedented results. (©DECTRIS AG)
DECTRIS' detectors help achieve unprecedented results. (©DECTRIS AG)

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DECTRIS develops and produces Hybrid Photon Counting X-ray detectors for scientific and industrial customers. Its detectors are designed to determine deep molecular structures with an increasingly high level of precision. This constantly requires the development of more advanced high-resolution detectors. To keep up with its customers’ growing requirements for the technology, DECTRIS constantly improves its products. However, innovations are difficult to plan in detail. The development process must be adaptable to the changing requirements and have a high level of agility.

Unfortunately, reality in development adds another level of complexity, as not all aspects of the development process are equally agile. For example, while the agile method “SCRUM” is used in software development, the implementation of this method is not always possible in hardware development. It is therefore important to find the best agile approaches and methods for each aspect of the development process.

PARK INNOVAARE: “Agility”: What exactly is it about? Is that a set of tools and methods, or is it more about approaches and ways of thinking?

Dr. Matthias Schneebeli, CTO DECTRIS AG: In my opinion, “agility” is primarily a way of thinking about how to solve problems or carry out projects. Of course, there are also various tools or methods you can use to do that. However, the tools and methods will only be profitable if they are used correctly and, above all, used in the right place. In addition, it must be clear to everyone involved why agile methods are being used and what goal is being pursued with them.

What have you learned (and are continuing to learn) by using agile methods that you didn't already know? In other words: have you come to any surprising insights? Are you still experiencing it this way?

It is crucial to explain to all your employees why you want to introduce changes. The first thing you have to do is get these people on board. Afterwards, you should take care of designing the methods. Introducing “agility” usually fails because one does not or cannot explain to the employees why one needs change and what one wants to achieve with it. Another important point is that agile methods must be introduced in such a way that they fit the culture of the company. Methods can be adapted; a company’s culture usually cannot. This would our main learning.

What is the best starting point for becoming agile? How do you cultivate agility?

Several people in the company need to deal with the topic intensively. Once you understand what you want to change and why you can gain initial experience with a pilot project. It is important to critically analyze what you experience with the pilot and make adjustments if necessary, even if such adjustments result in less “agility”. The speed at which you can proceed, and the size of the steps you take, will certainly differ from company to company.

Event podcast from DISRUPTIVE MORNING with DECTRIS AG.