What Insurers Need to Know Before Adopting Agile Development

Adopting the Agile methodology for software development can be a challenge for insurance IT organizations, but the benefits of Agile Development outweigh the risks.
June 15, 2012

Agile Development Requires Full-Time Business User Engagement With Continuous Participation

By Joel Collamer, Insurance/Technology Consultant (Greenwich, Conn.)

The introduction of Agile practices into an organization is complex and requires a well-thought-out approach to implementation and change management. Areas impacted include technology, organizational structure, software development practices/procedures and staff. The first step is to determine the potential impact to each area, gain insights into those parts of the technical environment that might be amenable to agile and those that carry high risks for Agile adoption.

The next step is to identify software development methodology practices and processes that must be adjusted to accommodate agile practices. Additionally, companies need to identify potential organizational adjustments and staff training or hiring that will enable Agile practices.

When applied appropriately, Agile Development results in very efficiently produced, high-quality software that is well-aligned with business requirements when compared with traditional techniques. There are 14 practices that are fundamental to Agile Development success. Among them is a requirement for full-time business user engagement and continuous participation throughout the software delivery cycle, which creates an environment of shared responsibility.

Another Agile practice calls for very frequent (e.g., every two weeks) demonstration of software to the business community to ensure they are satisfied with functionality and fully aware of progress, or lack thereof, and have an opportunity to provide immediate feedback and course correction, if necessary.

When applied inappropriately, Agile practices can significantly increase software delivery failure -- the exact opposite of the intended outcome.

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