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Agile - More than a Mindset
An Interview With Andrew Leeks, It Development Director, Reed & Mackay
Then Perseverance Rover landed on Mars in February this year, one imagines that every finite detail of the mission, including the way in which the technology was built and deployed, was planned to the nth degree. It had to be, because the risks of getting it wrong were just too great.
Yet some of us can afford to take risks. In fact, we can’t afford not to. We’ve landed firmly in the age of Agile, and space technology engineers aside, are enjoying the opportunity that a more flexible approach creates.
Fail fast, fix faster.
At Reed & Mackay we don’t build rockets and we don’t build planes, but we do play a critical role within the travel sector. Ultimately, what we build are user centric solutions, driven by the needs of our customers, enabling them to connect effortlessly with their colleagues and their clients across the globe. Speed to market and flexibility is key even if that means you fail sometimes; and failure isn’t as bad as it sounds. Failing fast means earlier detection of bugs, making them easier to reproduce and faster to fix. This in turn means softwareis stabilised quicker and fewer bugs and defects will go into production, so the result is of a higher quality.
Business is personal.
We’re ultimately building for two audiences. The travellers and the businesses that they work for. The traveller is often blissfully unaware of the complex layers of decision making that sit behind their trip. Companies are busy in the background working to protect both their people and their finances. Ensuring for instance that their travellers are tracked so that proactive assistance can be given in case of emergency. Or that their chosen preferred suppliers support their wider business goals such as commitments to carbon reduction. The technology must work for the travellers, in order for it to work for the business.
Staying ahead in a changing industry.
We live in a fast-changing world and the travel sector has picked up the pace of change considerably in recent years. From the technology-first disruptors, to the arrival of Covid-19 and then Brexit.
Agile must be more than a development approach, more than a mindset even, it needs to sit at the heart of your business culture
Then there is the increasing fragmentation of content to contend with. Business travel providers used to take their content primarily from one central source (the global distribution systems) and may have needed to plug in one of two others, such as a low-cost carrier. Today it’s far more complex. The ability to adapt and evolve to these changes is at the heart of what Agile delivers.
It is this need to meet the exact and ever-changing need of the client that renders other development methodologies inadequate. The suggestion that you need to document every single element up front just doesn’t stack up; we’re not building space technology after-all. We need to be able to iterate quickly and to adapt to how our clients are using the technology. We need to be agile.
Listen and observe.
Whether it’s a macro level change that is driving a new need, or a client specific pain point that needs a tailored solution, data analytics and user feedback is always at the heart of the decisions we make. We want to know which products clients are using, how they’re using them and the journey paths they are taking through our applications.
The reality today is that companies, and individuals, have an idea of what it is they want but none of us are hardwired to give an all-encompassing account of every single detail from the outset. We need to be able to react throughout the development process to how a client is interacting with the user interface in a real-life scenario.
There’s no turning back.
Agile isn’t new, we’ve been following the methodology at Reed & Mackay for many years, but the adoption has been accelerated by web and mobile applications. It allows for a fast and adaptable product life-cycle and advancements in automation have been key to the acceleration, allowing increased automation of the testing process, and the drive to CI (Continuous Integration) and CD (Continuous Delivery).
With the changing demographics of the corporate world there is no turning back. Good technology solutions are intuitive and Agile is necessary because systems must evolve in line with behaviour. They shouldn’t need to be trained. The Amazon’s and Facebook’s of this world don’t train the launch of every new feature, instead they focus on ensuring the enhancements are so intuitive that users become confident with the new normal in minutes.
Therefore, UX must sit at the core of the technology we build. If it doesn’t look visually appealing, if it’s not easy enough to use, if it doesn’t compare to the user experience of the apps the users download day to day, then the users will soon look elsewhere.
An Agile culture
Agile must be more than a development approach, more than a mindset even, it needs to sit at the heart of your business culture. Ultimately Agile means that we can take our clients on the journey with us so that they get the solution that they need. To invest in Agile today, is to invest in your relevance for tomorrow.