Payments Leader

Agile Development for the Digital Age

April 6, 2017

Kris Carrera, Business Line Executive, Credit

How a hyper-collaborative approach brings fluid flexibility to product releases

“The customer is always right” is a common mantra. But one that often went unconsidered when designing financial products. For decades, product managers wrote lavish business and functional specifications outlining in exquisite detail what they thought the customer wanted. All too often, however, the result of a traditional, top-down ‘waterfall’ development methodology was overly complex solutions, delivered late and over budget, that were already out of date by the time they reached the market.

The response has been a move towards more agile development techniques that promote a more flexible approach to the requirements and delivery paradigm in order to cope with ever-changing demands. An agile approach help teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work routines and empirical feedback.

Be Nimble, Be Supple, Be Collaborative

The concept of agile development has set the technology and fintech sectors ablaze, recently. A set of best practices for software development, agile development allows requirements and solutions to evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing, cross-functional teams – plus customer input. Agile development advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continuous improvement. The central ethos is to encourage rapid and flexible responses to change.

The whole point of agile methodology is to provide opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout its development lifecycle. This is achieved through regular micro-deliverables, known as sprints or iterations, where early releases are continually assessed against market developments. Agile development focuses on the repetition of short work cycles, with work deliverables being iterative and incremental.

In the traditional waterfall, development teams only have one chance to get each aspect of a project right. In an agile paradigm, every aspect of development – requirements, design, testing, etc. – is continually revisited. Scrum (brainstorming), empirical feedback, team self-assessment and other techniques are encouraged. When a team re-evaluates the direction of a project on a regular basis, there’s always an opportunity to steer it in another direction.

Agile development demands the process be more inclusive. Software development needs regular, consistent customer input and feedback – it’s no longer the reserve of the IT department. This makes sure the final product is fit for purpose, allowing for responses to volatile market demands of the digital age.

Communications is the key. Modern development teams are often distributed across different sites – even continents – and it is not feasible to expect regular customer site visits to review product development. Therefore, stakeholders should maximize conferencing (video and chat) and other team-productivity tools to stay connected and operate as a single, united team.

Inspect and Adapt

Adopting an agile development paradigm, one that promotes inspection and adaptation, can greatly reduce development costs as well as time to market. Teams develop at the same time they are gathering requirements, thus removing the kick-off lag caused by over-analysis. Shortened work cycles also give stakeholders recurring opportunities to calibrate and fine tune releases to ensure success.

The best news may be that agile development methodology helps companies build the right product for their market. Agile empowers teams to continuously optimize the deliverable throughout development, allowing them to be as competitive as possible in the marketplace.

Banks are Fintechs Too

Agile development focuses on ensuring that product offerings always match market requirements. No more long lapses between releases. Instead, products evolve alongside the market. Vendors can bring products to market faster, and the products match customer needs better as they are intimately involved throughout the development process to ensure transparency and visibility.

Agile also offers the ability to quickly cancel a failing project, thus saving you a potential failure in the market – which can be even more expensive following a long development cycle.

Now is the time for banks to accept the evolving digital world and adapt accordingly – realize that you are a fintech too. The payments industry, with transactions embedded across all channels, may be a unique technology sector, but it benefits all the same from a more fluid approach to product development that is hyper-focused on the customer perspective.


Kris Carrera

Business Line Executive, Credit

With over 25 years of international payments experience, Kris was responsible for the launch of the first successful cobranded card program. A leader in risk-based pricing and target marketing using predictive data analytics, she specializes in merchant services, credit cards and home equity. Kris has received Best Travel Card, Best Cobranded Card and Best Private-Label Program awards.