Becoming Agile at the AACC Annual Meeting & Expo

At the 2015 AACC Annual Meeting, Invetech asked this seminal question to laboratory professionals: How do you see the Lab of the Future? The feedback revealed five core visions that will shape product development in the Lab of the Future—the Point of Care (POC) ecosystem, faster time to market for new products, workflow automation, connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT), and new enabling technologies.

Following the meeting, we started on a journey to explore each of these important topics, beginning with a look at the POC ecosystem today and thinking ahead to the future. We kicked off the discussion with a webinar hosted by AACC on the future of POC testing. We also published a white paper on best practices for POC product development, and Viewpoint articles on defining requirements and product specifications and POC scale-up production planning.

Becoming agile at AACC 2016

For AACC 2016, we transitioned the focus to how applying agile principles to diagnostics product development can impact time to market and provide significant benefits including:

  • Transparency through continuous visualization of project status and progress
  • Reducing project risks by trying early, failing early, learning early
  • Stronger team engagement for ownership of schedule, sprints, progress, corrective action
  • More holistic design and development with all stakeholders involved early in the project
  • Better predictability of overall project outcomes

We began the discussion with a webinar hosted by AACC which featured a panel of industry leaders discussing Why IVD Product Development Needs to Become Agile.

Then we packed-up our agile toolbox, project posters, and a variety of foam-core mock-ups to create a mini agile workshop in our booth at AACC in Philadelphia.

The conference attendees—which included over 800 exhibitors and 20,000 laboratory professionals—could attend one of our live in-booth presentations and meet with Invetech agile project leaders. They had an opportunity to learn about adopting agile, ask questions, and see examples of agile elements used for in vitro diagnostic (IVD) instrument development. In addition, more than 50 diagnostics industry leaders attended our annual AACC breakfast briefing event.

Being agile at Invetech’s annual AACC breakfast briefing

The Philadelphia Center for Architecture and Design (located just across from the convention center) provided the backdrop for our 2016 breakfast briefing focused on Adopting Agile Principles for Product Development.

Start-up and global company leaders in positions of product development, business and commercial development, and corporate management spent the morning networking with industry colleagues and enjoying a lively discussion on how Invetech is applying agile principles to current instrument development projects.

Opening remarks were provided by Invetech President, Andreas Knaack, followed by Dr. Rob Danby, Invetech VP of Diagnostics Operations, giving an introduction to agile product development and the three key agile elements that are used by Invetech project teams.

The briefing then transitioned to a more in-depth discussion around the three agile elements—customer-centered design, rapid iteration, and team collaboration in the Obeya workspace—led by Invetech program managers with hands-on experience applying agile principles to IVD development projects.

Customer-centered design

Stephen Cocks, Invetech Diagnostics Program Manager, shared how to apply customer-centered design to a large instrument development program and the benefits that can be achieved from doing so, such as:

  • Send team members to customer laboratory and service calls to observe workflows and key stakeholders. This provides direct observation of lab environment and workflow considerations that can be critical to important design considerations. These visits were invaluable to for his team’s product design and development.
  • Develop posters that provide a visual reminder of product features and metrics, competitive audit, project vision statement. These will enable all team members to be aligned on objectives and key considerations throughout the project.

Rapid iteration

Pierre Vancaillie, Invetech Mechanical Engineering Manager, described why a continuous rapid iteration process called the “sprint” is another one of the key agile principles as it provides the opportunity to try early, fail early, learn early. He explained the importance of creating foam core mock-ups as early and often possible to prove functionality and test things like performance and robustness. Pierre also shared one of his personal learnings, explaining that engineers may struggle with the concept of planning to fail; however, once he truly started to see failure as opportunity to learn, the agile approach to development became invaluable.

Team collaboration and transparency

Marjorie Toth, Invetech Diagnostics Program Manager, described the third agile principle of team collaboration in the Obeya workspace. Obeya, which means “big room” in Japanese, enables more seamless team adaptation to the dynamic nature of product development. It involves bringing all stakeholders of the product design and development team physically together in the same space to enable better transparency and collaboration throughout the project. All of the aspects of the project—posters, prototypes, master schedules, etc.—should be displayed in the Obeya workspace to help the entire team stay focused, new members get up to speed quickly, and encourage collaboration on a regular basis. Daily stand-up meetings should also happen in the Obeya workspace and include the entire project team. Stand-up meetings focus on issues, obstacles or changes, and provide an opportunity for the team to develop solutions, identify interdependencies, adapt to changes, and adjust plans as needed on the fly.

The audience was very engaged by the topic of agile product development for IVD projects, asking a variety of questions, including: How does agile work under IVD guidelines? How long is each rapid iteration sprint? How do you get reluctant engineers to embrace the transparent collaboration model of agile?

Showcasing agile at the Invetech booth

The agile theme was featured prominently in the Invetech booth this year with a colorful graphic that supported telling the story of agile and how to make your product development agile.

Representing the three essential pillars of agile—customer-centered design, rapid iteration, and team collaboration in the Obeya workspace—the feature graphic also provided the engaging backdrop for three on-booth presentations where Marjorie Toth, Pierre Vancaillie and Steve Cocks shared some of their insights from the breakfast briefing with AACC Expo attendees on the show floor. The Q&A style interviews focused on how to get started with agile, as well as lessons learned using agile on current IVD development projects.

We also had an agile “workshop” area which included several elements typical of those produced during an agile development project—product foam-core mock-ups, manufacturing workflow planning scale-model, and a scale-model of an agile Obeya workspace.

Current Invetech clients, as well as product development teams interested in potential new projects, scheduled meetings with the Invetech team in our convenient on-booth meeting room to learn more about Invetech, our development process and track record, and how agile principles could benefit new development projects.


It’s clear from the enthusiastic interaction, great discussions, and meetings that were had throughout the week that the discipline of agile instrument development is a topic that’s resonating with many IVD organizations.

By adopting the agile approach and principles, it is possible to achieve these valuable outcomes:

  • Harness the power of the team by incorporating the Obeya workspace
  • True customer-centric design by engaging internal and external stakeholders from the earliest stage of the design process
  • More mature and predictable development outcomes through rapid iteration—try early, fail early, learn early

We look forward to connecting with you at AACC 2017 in San Diego, CA to learn more together and to celebrate Invetech’s 30-year anniversary!

Guide: What is Agile for IVD Product Development?

This “Wikipedia-style” resource guide was created to help define what Agile is for instrument development and support IVD companies as they begin to embrace agile methodologies beyond their software teams.