Process

INTRODUCTION

“Every business will be a software business” – Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

The world’s leading tech companies pioneered technology over the last 15 years initially for their own use and later as commercial commodities – cloud computing platforms, for example. Thought leaders also realised that the shortcomings of business practices and software development needed new approaches such as Agile and Lean Startup.

It is easier than ever for any business with visionary leadership to achieve competitive advantage through technical innovation. Yet traditionally, “non-tech” businesses are only starting to take advantage of the enormous opportunities offered by this convergence.

SprintHive has adopted a set of guiding principles, “The Hive Mind”, overviewed below to help any business use these new processes and technologies to be successful in the new technological era. This allows us to keep ahead of the curve by constantly evolving and collaborating.

THE FIVE PRINCIPLES OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

Glossary

  • Digital innovation: leveraging new People, Process and Technology strategies to solve existing and rising business challenges to deliver superior services to customers
  • Business Value: real, direct value the business receives from its products or services
  • Metrics: defined measures of important data that can be tracked over time

Be Data-driven

Opinions and estimates mean very little, yet most businesses do not measure the direct cost of software development efforts against the return on investment or customer satisfaction. The world’s leading tech innovators became obsessively data-driven to optimise the direct Business Value produced by their products and services (e.g. profit, cost saving). This required:

  • the ability to track data in real time, including customer behaviour, product performance and direct return on investment of software development efforts, and
    the consultation of data for all strategic and operational decisions
  • The two main metric types are Business Metrics (how well the products and services perform) and Operational Metrics (how well the technical systems perform).

SprintHive uses cloud-based tools to centralise the collection of metric data and provide comprehensive real time visualisation of the business and operational performance of its software services.

Be Customer-led

The traditional approach to building software is to implement business’ ideas of what customers want or need. However, businesses have learned through large costly projects that any effort that does not engage the customer from beginning to end will be misaligned with customer requirements. Businesses now know they need to delight the customer to differentiate themselves from their competitors. This has contributed to the rise of User Experience (UX) as a critical competency for any business.

It takes a major culture, thinking pattern and technology shift to implement the following holistic strategy:

  • Offer the customer products through a coherent, omni-channel, end-to-end digital process (“straight-through processing”)
  • Tailor the digital process to the customer, taking into account new vs existing customers and minimising friction (manual effort)
  • Help the customer decide which products are right for them
  • Service the customer through familiar digital channels after acquisition
  • Continuously assess the customer’s reaction to the services and products offered and continuously improve their experience (this is being data-driven)

SprintHive listens carefully to its customers’ needs through its consulting and implementation services and regularly reviews the alignment of its main business strategy and product roadmaps. This can result in a major pivot or smaller adjustments.

Be Lean

In a nutshell, being Lean means to take the shortest, simplest, cheapest steps or experiments to learn something (figuring out what the customer wants). One well-known but widely misunderstood artifact is the MVP, which is built with mock (or manual functionality if possible) and delivered to the customer as quickly as possible with the express purpose of measuring customer acceptance and shaping the next version of the product or service.

From Lean Startup emerged the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. This enables immediate, measured impact of business initiatives on business value so that learning can be fed back into the next development iteration of the product or service. This is similar to the scientific method and equally effective, resulting in minimal wasted effort if it is realised that the wrong solution is being implemented (also called “failing fast”). The direction of the product or service can therefore be regularly adjusted.

By having small iterative business cycles, the software development feature backlog and work-in-progress is kept small. The conversation changes from “When is the project going to be delivered?” to “What shall we do next?”. The Lean approach meshes perfectly with Agile methods, described below.

SprintHive continuously experiments with different process and technical approaches to better tailor offerings to its clients.

Be Agile

The Waterfall approach used by businesses for the last 30 years has proven to be well-suited to delivering software based on well-understood requirements that do not change much. Because the customer cannot be understood up-front without deep engagement, it has been incredibly costly for most projects, with most failing .

In software, Agile has become popular in the last 10 years, but has been misunderstood and abused. Businesses try to adopt Agile to solve the software delivery problems with the Waterfall approach, but sending their development teams on a Scrum course (one of many Agile methodologies) is only a small step. In reality, Agile teams can become highly effective after several months of following an Agile methodology, but the Business Value produced is much larger if the business itself transforms to an Agile way of thinking and working. The reality is that the whole business should be directly or indirectly involved in the creation and use of its software.

This means changing from siloed software development departments (business analysis, development, testing, project management), to cross-functional teams delivering working software in much shorter increments than traditional Waterfall projects. It also means changing management style from a Detailed Command approach (leading through detailed instructions and management) to a Mission Command approach (giving people the vision, information and support to take action). It also means engaging experienced Agile Coaches such as Scrum Masters.

SprintHive implements Agile practices throughout its business, from management and strategy to team-based software development.

Be Software-driven

It is important that companies that realise that everything they do is supported by software. Becoming software-driven means changing business culture and strategy to prioritise the delivery of software solutions as a core business function, not a separate IT function or notorious cost centre.

This means aggressively building quality internal development capacity or finding partners that can provide software-driven solutions. Internal software capabilities can adopt proven business and software development processes such as Lean Startup or Lean Enterprise and Agile with confidence, and eventually scale this capability.

It also means embracing software architectures such as loosely-coupled, choreographed microservices over monoliths and centralised orchestration, leveraging the cost-effectiveness, security, reliability and global reach of cloud infrastructure and tools. Bringing development and operational much closer together as seen in DevOps strategies is also critical. The enterprise software environments of the 2000s and 2010s are still entrenched today are extremely inflexible, costly and almost impossible to innovate in.

SprintHive has specialist expertise in cloud-based microservices architectures and DevOps.