Agile Development – Rapid Iterations and Continuous Customer Input Yield Better Results

October 17, 2012

The concept of agile development was born out of a belief that a methodology based on learning, innovation, and change would yield better results. Agile principles emphasize building working software quickly with rapid iterations, while gathering continuous customer input along the way.  

By far the most popular agile method is Scrum. With the goal of rapidly developing quality software, Scrum supports a creative approach to the development of complex and innovative systems and it scales to a large numbers of developers.  It is used on some of the world’s largest projects at companies such as British Telecom, Yahoo, Google and Siemens.  In a properly implemented Scrum process, the goal is for productivity per developer to stay constant regardless of the amount of headcount added.  This allows the methodology to scale and remain flexible.

Scrum is designed to add energy, focus, clarity, and transparency to project planning and implementation.   The move to a Scrum methodology in projects has consistently shown an increase speed of development,  better alignment in individual and corporate objectives, improved culture driven by performance, increased interactions with customers and stakeholders and constant customer advocacy through the role of the Product Owner.

The PORTIA development team implemented an agile software development methodology using Scrum in early 2011, reaping the benefits as we continue to develop PORTIA v11.  Such benefits include adaptable deliverables and flexible schedules, enabling the PORTIA team to deliver a significant new release to market.   The frequent reviews and extensive inter and intra collaboration on v11 led to  more user-friendly workflows and role-specific functionality.   

The Scrum methodology provides an increased focus on the “customer voice” through the Product Owner role.  The Product Owner acts as the “advocate” for the customer perspective.  Over the past few months, PORTIA’s Product Owners have been in touch with over 50% of PORTIA clients in order to validate and review requirements; ensuring new development is addressing their concerns and exceeding their requirements.  The Scrum methodology  allows the PORTIA team to be flexible throughout the enhancement cycle and provides control mechanisms for planning a product release and managing variables as the project progresses.

Agile development is focused on delivering maximum business value in the shortest possible time. It is well-known that using traditional development methodologies, over half the requirements on a typical software project change during development and about half the features in delivered software are never used by customers.  Adaptive planning and self-organizing teams, as are utilized in Agile development methodologies, embrace changing requirements and avoid building features with low return on investment. The result is faster delivery, better quality, a more creative and successful working environment and, most importantly, higher client satisfaction.

– Amy Layous, Product Manager

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