Agile is an overused 💩 term.
It’s used liberally, especially on LinkedIn, as people signal their agile credentials and how their business embodies the most agile of things.
Paradoxically, agile has become so popular that it has both unlimited and no meaning simultaneously. It’s a schrodinger concept, no longer limited to the confines of software development, exported and glorified to the extremities of business bull-shittery and peddled by nonsense-mongers everywhere.
Agile has become so popular that the hype-cycle has gone full-circle spawning “agile-haters”, the “agile is dead deathcult”, “SaFe is better than agile so solid crew”, not forgetting “faux agile practitioners ltd”.
I don’t really care about agile; the agile manifesto; other people’s definition of agile; where The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort actually is; how many stale pale males attended in 2001; or whatever philosophical agile stance is currently fashionable.
I care about delivering good quality software to clients often, based on feedback that they provide. Whether that is agile or not by other people’s definition, I don’t give a flying fig, but that’s what I mean when I use the term, and use the term I will.
I will use the term to explain what I mean about agile delivery and what I hope our clients will do in response to us doing it (because they are a vital part of the equation). Let’s start with a contrast by illustrating the status quo that has existed in our industry, Finance, for nigh on 30 years.
The Chuck Stream Development Way
Chuck Stream Development Limited (a totally made up software company) are producers of ugly, grey, clunky software. Whenever they do something new, let’s say a new reporting module (we shall ignore the 7 circles of hell associated with testing, patching, upgrading and releasing etc), you get what you are given.
It will have taken CSD months if not YEARS of careful planning, not talking with customers, specifications, development, rework, rewrites, budget meetings, firings, hirings and GANTT charts to come up with their new baby.
Then, they will cancel the project, start again, repeat most of the same things and decide to ship the original version they came up with two years earlier.
There will be a launch party with drinks, canapes and really tragic banter (nobody wants to be there, but they have to be because it’s their job).
Then as a user you will get the software, have it installed (see 7 circles of hell) it will look kind of impressive (though still ugly); voluminous even.
You’ll try to use it.
Some things will probably work fine...eventually (7 circles of hell).
But, then there will be totally mind-bendingly obvious things that will not only annoy the living shit out of you, but it’s highly likely that proposed features will not do the thing it’s meant to do. No matter how many support tickets you or any other client raise. That thing is NEVER changing EVER again.
You are stuck with it forever. It’s done. Gone. Sold. Buried. Dead. No version two-point-zero. Eve-rrrr.
You’ll be unhappy as a user and will look forward to getting a new job with a new system in place.
The good news - you will find a new job with a new system in place.
The bad news - you will be told of plans to implement Chuck Stream Development Limited with the same reporting module bundled for free (back to 7 circles of hell).
That’s waterfall development and it stinks to high heaven. Your career deserves better.
Agile, The FundApps Way
Now, let’s talk about agile development the FundApps way, using the same kind of example - a reporting module.
First off, you might have a nice friendly chat with product and client people. They’ll be interested in the problems you have IRL when it comes to the re-presentation of data. They’ll be keen to avoid talking about solutions too early (because that’s a distraction) and they will endeavour to get to the heart of what you really need.
A few days later, those same people might hit you back up with a couple of rough sketches to confirm their understanding and to make sure that they’re on the right track in terms of building something that you actually need.
A few more days, possibly a week or two, might go by and if you’re lucky, you might get invited to be a beta client, which means you get the freshest regtech software before anyone else in the world.
But, “with great power comes great responsibility”, you’ll be providing feedback based upon how you find things and whether the feature helps you in the way that you’d hoped. And, the engineering team at FundApps will actually use what you say to improve things!
Not long after (days, if not hours), there will be a general release and all clients will be able to access the first version of the new reporting module.
As of first release, there may be an anxious pang of “is that it?” that flashes before you, but don’t worry it will quickly pass - it’s a hangover from the Chuck Stream Development Limited way.
Unlike CSD, that’s not it!
You’re not stuck with it. It’s a minimum successful release intended to be used by clients so that everyone can be sure that what is being built delivers the value that is expected. If it doesn’t, we know our clients will tell us and we can make a change quickly and easily.
And that’s because firstly, agile as used by FundApps, is a risk mitigation strategy. We’re developing incrementally to reduce the risk of building something nobody wants and the risk that things operate in some awfully borked way.
And, those incremental deliverables hold value.
They will help you to make progress and they will layer on top of one another like the fragile and majestic assembly of a Wall's Viennetta until the user’s job-to-be-done has been satisfied.
A new release. Another. And, there’s a new release, which adds more functionality, And, another. And, another.
Clickety-clack, like the rhythm of a train, we listen to client feedback and add more value, systematically and continuously over time. You engage with us in a product dialogue that allows us to develop the service collaboratively.
TL;DR, we start small, build and grow big. We work together to make compliance simple.
And sure, there might be absent functionality that could help your existing business process. There always is. But let’s face it, things like exporting to Excel and PDFs are old hat and intended for old duffers who grew used to doing things in odd ways with bad technology like Chuck Stream Development Limited and they’re going the way of the dinosaur.
However, this is the modern world and in it we make fun of dinosaurs. We shall build it together, in new ways using innovative technology and processes whether we call that agile or plain old talking to each other.
Either way, let’s celebrate the fact and remember with FundApps - that is never it.