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Being open-minded pays

Software can be built to behave exactly as specified. Or (much better), the customer can engage the technical experts in discussing innovative ways of approaching the business problem. For example, this could include opportunities to streamline the business, leveraging the latest technologies to improve performance, or building an architecture that is readily adaptable and supportive of the customer's ever-changing needs.

For example, a client recently asked Lab49 to build a batch-based system to replace a legacy system, for pricing a large portfolio of bonds. The large computational requirements for generating cashflows for the portfolio implied that only a couple of sets of prices could be generated throughout each day. The Lab49 team counter-proposed a system that modeled the portfolio of bonds on a more granular basis such that cash flows could be computed on demand in response to real-time inputs. This required less coding and could be delivered more quickly, allowed more flexibility and configurability, and provided a better solution to the customer's problem. This improved outcome was possible because the customer was willing to discuss the underlying business problems with Lab49 and engage in a dialog to identify the best solution.

Communicating at the right times

Issues, risks, dependencies and other impediments always surface during development, may of which require the stakeholders urgent attention. The last thing they want is for the development team to make important decisions around scope or the relative priority of features. So, when the team raises issues in real-time, the stakeholder must respond accordingly.

Specifying requirements is a tremendously difficult task. If the customer doesn't describe what he wants in enough detail, developers may build the wrong thing. But provide too much detail, and the developers may be pinned down and miss major opportunities to speed delivery. The best compromise is to discuss short-term requirements in a focused forum and stick to that plan for a complete development cycle (typically 2-3 weeks). Don't change the requirements in mid-cycle or the code will come out a mess! At the end of each development cycle the business stakeholders should review the work to date and provide guidance. At this point the requirements can be changed with minimal disruption.


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