SST Awards 2018: Best Use of the Agile Methodology—Duco

DUCO-Phil Jeffery
Phil Jeffery

This category, only the second time it has been on offer in the Sell-Side Technology Awards, is awarded to a third-party technology vendor that has embraced the “early and often” release cadence synonymous with the Agile methodology, while also focusing its development on users’ needs through ongoing feedback loops upon which much of the methodology’s effectiveness rests. Last year it was Synechron in the winners’ circle, while this year, London-based Duco takes home the award. 

Duco, which typically works in two-week sprints and releases updates every four weeks, describes itself as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that provides capital markets firms with self-service data reconciliation and validation solutions. It uses Agile techniques to deliver business value to its customers quickly—not just as part of its software development process, but as a mindset across the whole company. “All of the classic things you see with Agile—close collaboration between product management and development, scoping sprints and releases, self-organizing teams managing themselves through the process, and iterative releases—have been in place for several years, and it’s a slick, well-oiled machine,” explains Phil Jeffery, vice president of engineering at Duco. “What’s also important is that all the functions around development are structured as well. Sometimes you see Agile done in the tech function, but not across the rest of the business, which limits its impact. Here, the whole company—whether it’s development, product management or customer success—is structured to release incrementally.” 

Jeffery explains that all of Duco’s development and information-sharing functions are underpinned by Atlassian tools: Its internal workflow is managed by Jira, its continuous integration uses Bamboo, its code repository is managed by BitBucket, and Confluence takes care of the vendor’s documentation and information-sharing functions. 

One of Agile’s primary day-to-day benefits is that it allows providers to get a lot closer to their clients and engage them on an ongoing basis. To this end, Duco has a customer success team that constantly engages its clients in order to understand their immediate needs and business goals, which then get funneled through into the firm’s sprints and releases. “Therefore, what we are doing is never far from what our customers want,” says Jeffery. “And then because you have fast release cycles, you get quick feedback, which sometimes means there might also be some corrections that need to be made. But we trust our ability to make those corrections quickly. Finally, from a techie perspective, there is also risk mitigation—we release often and we’ve become good at it, and we also release less [software], but more often.” 

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