Bringing Agility to Development on an Industrial Scale by Barbara Morgan
August 28, 2018
Barbara Morgan, FIS
Faster development of products and apps means more releases for customers. In turn, that means more revenue for companies. To do so, however, requires agile project management – something many banks and FinTech companies have yet to master.
Here’s how to make agility a reality.
In our modern world, customers are king and instant gratification is a must. To meet those goals, it’s only logical that software developers focus on customer needs.However, traditional software development follows a waterfall method in which you might spend several months or years on a project before ever showing it to a user.
A more agile software development methodology focuses on an incremental, iterative approach. Instead of extensive planning and design up front, agile methodology allows for changing requirements over time by using cross-functional teams to work on successive iterations of a product over fixed periods of time. Combined with a culture of DevOps (the practice of unifying software development and software operations) development cycles can be shortened, deployment frequency increased, and you can better depend on releases aligning with business objectives.
Modern FinTechs and disruptors seem to know instinctively that fast development and consistent delivery satisfies customer needs. Larger, more traditional technology firms and financial institutions, meanwhile, often find this truly challenging. Part of the problem may be size; in a smaller company, a few people can make a decision and execute. Larger competitors may come with large in-house IT departments, which can slow down the process. Unless you’re Microsoft, Google, Apple or another of the industry leaders, success can be much more challenging.
Easy to Say, Hard to Do
Agility is an easy claim to make – just like customer-centric design. However, it is not always clear who it is that needs to be agile, and many firms underestimate the time and experience it takes to change deeply entrenched, legacy methods. Changing to a culture of DevOps and leaner practices also is critical to give teams the tools to maintain continuous integration and a deployment pipeline (CD/CI). This saves a manual, error-prone deployment work and results in higher quality software for continuous integration, automated tests and code metrics.
Larger firms also often face the challenge of breaking down long-established, legacy systems. It can require heavy investment to retool old systems that have been tweaked and patched up for years.
Talent is another factor inhabiting change. Jobs often far outstrip the number of workers, leaving low attrition rates and potentially perpetuating cultures of complacency because there is no positive competition.
If that wasn’t enough, larger organizations tend to maintain multiple development groups built along lines-of-business and market silos. That can leave debit, credit, prepaid, e-payments, regional teams, etc. each with their own process norms, and all operating independently. The result is massive duplication of processes, and makes management of results more complex and costly. It also leads to “analysis paralysis” because every group is looking at the same thing and interpreting it differently.
Moving in the Right Direction
At its core, agility isn’t so much a methodology as it is a philosophy. It’s a blanket term for an approach to project management that prioritizes incremental, feedback-driven changes to software development. To accelerate the process, firms also must adopt DevOps and lean principles so they can simplify applications and consolidate the development of shared processes across silos.
Of vital importance is the creation of a corporate culture of ideation, innovation and collaboration. IT teams do not work in isolation. Modern, multi-channel delivery demands consistency across lines-of-business and across customer segments. Institutions must refocus their efforts on mass-enabling products at a lower cost and with lower complexity.
Consider teaming up with FinTechs where appropriate. Since everyone is on the same journey to accelerate and innovate, it can be helpful to work together and learn from each other. The real goal is not to find another “big bang”. The goal is to develop products smaller and faster, so they get to market sooner, and go through multiple planned builds of self-service and low touch models.