In an industry obsessed with speed and efficiency, the delivery of technologies and services has become increasingly important for sell-side firms, leading them to demand more from their providers. For this reason, there has been wide-scale adoption of the Agile methodology and its principles across the capital markets, allowing developers to ramp up their release cadence and drip-feed functionality in ever more frequent cycles. IHS Markit has been perfecting its software production line using Agile for over three years, and has established a track record for delivering quality iterations at an accelerated rate. The firm’s efforts to embrace innovative ways of adding value faster and reducing delivery times helped earn it the win in the best use of the Agile methodology category in this year’s Sell-Side Technology Awards.
IHS Markit’s project teams engage in fortnightly sprints, which involve traditional rituals including regular stand-ups, demos, reviews, backlog refinements and retrospective sessions. Abhay Pradhan, head of development for financial risk analytics at IHS Markit, explains that regular scrums have reaped tangible benefits where suggestions made during retrospectives resulted in 73 improvements to its technology releases over the last year. The firm can issue releases every two to six weeks by way of its integrated Atlassian toolkit incorporating Jira, Bamboo, Bitbucket and Confluence. However, much of the process is tailored to individual clients based on their internal capabilities and their initial technology budgets. “We are agile but our clients might not be agile yet,” Pradhan explains. “So there is a cost to them taking our software, installing it and running tests on it. But we are working with them to make this as painless as possible.”
IHS Markit has reprogrammed the approach to agile working by using an integrated workflow whereby project teams have a holistic overview and detailed visibility of the various stages of the development lifecycle. Through story mapping, every change is tracked and recorded, including the individuals responsible for reviewing code, testing, developing, deploying and signing-off on decisions. The workflow also incorporates automated regressions and performance testing, where new code is continuously integrated and deployed into a testing environment. The team constantly prioritizes workloads and backlogs to enhance efficiency, focusing on the “top stories” or points of development that hold the greatest value to the overall project. In some circumstances, a time-boxed “spike” is created, where time and development estimation will be revisited at a later date when more information is known about the story. The team’s advanced approach to Agile techniques has enabled it to apply resources to new projects such as its user interface capabilities, which are set to be released later in the year.
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