Buy-Side Technology Awards 2016: Best Use of the Agile Methodology by a Technology Vendor—Confluence

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Ian Robertson, Jonathan Davies

Waters ran a two-part feature on the Agile software development methodology earlier this year, looking at how capital markets firms and technology providers use it to provide consistent, regular software updates demanded specifically by their end-users.

The methodology-described by its adherents not as a way to develop and deploy software, but the only way to develop and deploy software-is not binary in the sense that you either do it or you don't; it's a continuum, a spectrum, along which firms find their natural position determined by the extent to which they have embraced Agile's tenets.

Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Confluence is some way along that continuum and wins the best use of the Agile methodology category in the first year it has been on offer, thanks to the development underpinning its flagship Unity and Unity NXT offerings, a pair of products designed to allow funds and their service providers to automate various aspects of the fund administration process. 

Scrum is the most prevalent Agile framework used at Confluence. The firm’s scrum teams develop in two-week sprints and employ the standard ceremonies of daily scrums (meetings), sprint planning, sprint retrospectives, and sprint reviews. Scrum teams are organized into pods to promote knowledge-sharing and provide cross-training opportunities, realize efficiencies and economies of scale, and, most importantly, promote self-governing and self-organizing behavior. Engineers are dedicated to single projects, providing greater predictability in release plans/cycles. 360° reviews are conducted monthly to provide insight and feedback within and outside of the teams, fostering an environment with a focus on delivering value to the firm’s internal and external stakeholders. 

Frequent software releases allow the firm to deliver incremental value to its end-users—clients do not have to wait for the completion of a project to realize value. Products, such as the firm’s SaaS-based applications, release monthly—the firm’s release process has produced 29 consecutive on-time/within-scope monthly releases of its Expense Management offering, while other platforms, such as Unity, have a current on-time/within scope delivery rate of 94 percent. Utilization of practices such as sprint reviews, market validation as well as usability sessions with the firm’s stakeholders are critical to the success of the firm’s products, and, ultimately, the success and health of its scrum teams. Clients are involved in every phase of the product development lifecycle, starting with product visioning and running through various product releases. 

Confluence is some way along that continuum and wins the best use of the Agile methodology category in the first year it has been on offer, thanks to the development underpinning its flagship Unity and Unity NXT offerings, a pair of products designed to allow funds and their service providers to automate various aspects of the fund administration process.
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