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Using an 'Agile' Mindset to 'Deliver' Software

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There's a reason why 'change' has remained a hot topic in business – it can be overwhelming, isn't bereft of risk, typically has significant Capex or Opex associated with it, and its management can be challenging. When you combine all of this, you naturally come up against barriers to the adoption of the 'change' that the organisation is trying to initiate. This scenario applies to the change that adoption of a new solution brings in a firm too.

However, by breaking down change into small, incremental steps, it becomes palatable and indeed manageable. While typically, an 'Agile' approach is used in software development, it can be used with equal success in software delivery. Agile, is after all more than anything else, a mindset.

Here at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, we are pushing the boundaries of Agile and using the thought process to influence how we deliver our CRM solution, Lexis InterAction. It allows us to split the implementation into stages, demonstrate the value of the solution to the customer at every step, embed change management and ultimately ensure better buy-in from users, from the start. We call it our InterAction Ready service offering.

Our historic approach to InterAction implementation involved running customer workshops to understand user requirements, documenting these, configuring the product, making changes following review with the customer, and then undertaking the implementation. In fact, this is a typical process that many software providers still follow. It's relatively long drawn and is potentially one of the reasons why software implementations can either overrun or, perhaps more worryingly, fail to deliver against customer's needs.

Adopting an Agile mindset to implementation means that all the above is undertaken at once, but in manageable increments that show value at each stage. Crucially, the customer is involved right from the beginning and across every stage of the implementation of InterAction. On a single day, a customer workshop is held, the product configured and demonstrated to the client, feedback secured, and changes immediately reflected in the way InterAction is configured. The process is then repeated to ensure all aspects of configuration are covered as part of the implementation. By combining the design, configuration and playback as part of the customer workshop, we ensure that the solution is iteratively delivered and simultaneously signed off by the customer.

During solution implementation, training workshops are held. The objective is of course to ensure that users can utilise the solution efficiently, but perhaps more importantly there is a window of opportunity built into the delivery approach to enable the InterAction team to make further changes to the theoretical configuration of the solution, based on more practical feedback from the employees following their hands-on exposure to the product.

Underpinning the approach to software implementation with an Agile, customer centric model results in delivery of maximum value for minimum customer effort, at each phase. Software projects don't need to be overwhelming in size and effort and our approach to implementation of InterAction based on an Agile mindset is a good illustration of this.

About the Author:


Sarah Dearden is Operational Improvement Manager, responsible for the definition and roll out of change and improvement programmes within LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions. Prior to this role, she was Group Head of Quality Assurance for the IRIS Software Group (now Advanced). Sarah has worked in the software industry for over 20 years and has held several roles ranging from technical to customer facing.

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys travelling and spending time with her husband and two young children.

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