Introducing Agile into a hardware development process presents quite a few problems that just aren't found in a software-only scenario. Some of these are the nature of the beast, others are remnants of days gone by. Some require the retraining of team members. Others require a small change in definition. In all cases, there are ways around the problem.
To be clear, there are scenarios where hardware development can fit into Scrum sprints. Designing FPGA firmware is one scenario, but the development process for it is so close to software that it is an easy fit. Another scenario is combining Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) cards into a working device. Though some software groups consider this a form of hardware design, it is really just integration. The hardware development scenario I am talking about is anything that requires a custom PCB.
Redefine Working Hardware
On of the tried-and-true precepts of Agile development is that each "sprint", or "cycle", should result in a releasable product... usually within 2 to 4 weeks. This can be extremely difficult in a hardware scenario, especially if your Contract Manufacturer (CM) tells you that it will take 6 weeks to build your boards.
Rather than sticking to this notion, it is better to define a set of milestones that can be met at the end of a cycle. All necessary team members should concentrate on this to the exclusion of all else.
Break the project into sub-projects
If your custom PCB is complex enough, it might be better to break it into sub-sections that can be completed as individual prototypes. These sub-sections can be tied together by a backplane board or cables as a temporary form of interconnect. When all modules are completed, they can be efficiently combined into a cohesive unit. There are many advantages to this:
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