Optimizing Agile for Technology Implementations—Three Principles to Achieve Success

Runner taking lead in race on road with many other contestants following

As a follow up to last year’s blog, "Agile, Waterfall, and the Golden Mean—Things to Consider for Transformational Projects," where I discussed considerations for a defined methodology to ensure success on large transformational projects, I am focusing this blog on principles I have leveraged when implementing technology solutions for asset managers using an agile methodology. Read on to learn how these three principles can help you optimize agile during your next technology implementation.   


By nature agile=flexibility, but in practice asset management firms tend to be very rigid in how they want to implement agile. By allowing the flexibility to work within an agile structure while acknowledging implementations generally require some aspect of waterfall to be successful, you will have the best opportunity for overall success. At a recent client we achieved this by completing large scale epics inclusive of formal end user acceptance. Once all required epics to support our minimum viable product (MVP) were completed, we transitioned to the waterfall model of pilot (with step in and step out requirements) before ultimately moving into full production—ensuring all components developed in the epics would integrate successfully.

Colocation Alternatives

Colocation is a critical tenant of agile and without it many agile projects will struggle to achieve the efficiency and success firms are expecting when they migrate from a waterfall model. In reality, when working with large global asset managers, colocation of the right technology and business resources is simply not an option. In those cases where you cannot colocate, it is critical to insert a resource within agile teams that has the domain and technical expertise to bridge the gap between business and technology resources, which could be located across the globe. Introducing this model at a recent client saw a velocity increase in excess of 50% for the technology scrum teams.

Production Quality Data Sets

While early access to production quality data is ideal for any technology implementation, it is imperative that firms gain access to production quality data for an agile project. Most technology implementations require both a publisher (data going into something) and subscriber (data coming out of that something) model. While waterfall allows firms to first focus on the publishers before turning their attention to subscribers, agile expects publisher and subscriber work to complete concurrently and then integrate seamlessly into a cohesive solution. In my experience it is virtually impossible to build and implement subscriber tools without production quality data. In an agile project, firms must take the time to define and create the data sets required to allow downstream subscribers to work in tandem with publishers to achieve the efficiency a firm is expecting with agile.

In addition to the three agile principles outline above, to get the most out of agile when implementing a technology-based solution, there are three core tenets you should also keep in mind:

1. embrace agile’s strengths

2. acknowledge agile’s weaknesses and

3. leverage team capabilities to enhance strengths and minimize weaknesses.

By considering these agile implementation principles and remembering these tenets, your next technology implementation will be well-positioned to achieve agile success.