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Being agile doesn’t involve jumping through hoops

By QikServe Head of Development, Alistair Chalmers

My colleague Mick recently blogged about how staying agile as a company helps us meet the needs of our customers. And how right he is! The agile philosophy extends throughout our business – especially into the way we develop our software.

I wanted to share some thoughts about how it works for us here at QikServe and, most importantly, what value it creates for our customers.

Internally, the agile approach really benefits the way we work as a team. We want to delight our customers by delivering products they love. Embracing agile enables us to rapidly deliver maximum business value to our customers by creating a singular focus in the team on this goal. We deliver releases in short sprints at least every two weeks, we all really work together and everyone takes ownership for making it happen. We focus on the sprint goal based on prioritised customer business value. Pushing our egos aside, we focus on the team achieving this goal.

No one moves onto something new until items are done – so we all work together on any issues that are holding up the completion of a sprint. Efficiency is achieved by freeing the team from distractions, interference, context switching. Focussing team members on a common goal prevents the scenario I have often seen, where team members became siloed on their own ‘specialties’, working away in isolation and disconnected from the overall objective. Everyone needs to be cross-functional, focussing on how we all help achieve our common goal.

Focussing on the team goal massively increases efficiency. We recently completed a piece of implementation work here at QikServe in just four weeks. I know of our companies operating siloed disciplines that have taken four months to complete the exact same piece of work!

Involve the customer

The learning and adaptive aspect of agile is one that is often overlooked and is the part that many companies don’t get right. But, if done properly, it is an incredibly powerful tool that provides the ability to change the way you work and to rapidly implement changes. The ability to get actual working software released every two weeks or less is key to our customers. For example, we were working on a loyalty scanning integration for a new client recently and rolled out the features in several stages. The first stage with just the loyalty service and basic scanning functionality to demonstrate the customer journey. Later stages added more configurability to scanning and updates to the UI. This allowed them to see how it worked and us to rapidly adapt to their feedback with minimal re-work.

If we had done this the traditional way, we would have waited until the feature was fully finished and then released to the client in one go. But the challenge with this traditional approach is that, no matter how perfectly you have delivered what was asked for – clients often change their mind about what they want, especially when they see the final deliverable in a live environment.

With the agile approach, the client gets to see our development of a feature from a fairly early stage, and is actually able to start using it themselves. Not only does this give them confidence that the work is proceeding as planned, but it also allows them the opportunity to spot issues not previously considered or change their mind about something much earlier in the development process. This can save significant time and resources, and really helps involve our customers in the products we are creating.

But for the customer to truly benefit from agile development, it’s also important that they are bought into this approach operate accordingly. For example, if you are providing new releases every two weeks, but the client only decides to look at it after six months, then they are basically in the same position as they would be working in a traditional development scenario. This means that issues that could have been uncovered and dealt with early in the process are now being raised after several months of work.

With an agile approach, there should never be any surprises for a customer. They are as involved in the development as you are.

Check out our recent sit-down with Alistair for our QikServe: The People blog series. 

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