Forefront Communications

Waters: Best Use of the Agile Methodology—Confluence

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Mark Dowd

Mark Dowd

The prominence of the Agile development methodology has exploded within the financial technology sphere in recent years as both vendor and end-user firms have looked to release new functionality on a continual basis, with release cycles being reduced to days and weeks from months and often years under the waterfall model. While the practice itself may not be new—indeed, it has been present within the capital markets for over a decade now—the emergence of new technologies and innovation culture means that firms still using the waterfall methodology are often left behind by those embracing Agile.

Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Confluence, a data management software vendor with a buy-side focus, follows up its win in the best use of the Agile methodology category at last year’s Buy-Side Technology Awards by claiming the award at this year’s AFTAs for its use of Agile development underpinning its flagship Unity and Unity NXT platforms for fund automation, data management and regulatory reporting.

Confluence has adopted scrum implementations across its development teams, running two-week sprints that use standard ceremonies of daily scrums and sprint planning, retrospectives and reviews. The vendor’s clients are included within these processes and every step of the development process to ensure collaboration is maintained from product inception to completion, with other collaborative efforts covering idea validation, assisting with workflow development, regular feedback and using the working software throughout the development process. Full “360-degree reviews” are carried out on a monthly basis to provide regular insight and feedback both within and outside of the teams, fostering an environment with a focus on delivering value to the firm’s internal and external stakeholders. Each scrum team is organized into an “Agile pod” designed to encourage shared knowledge, provide opportunities for cross-training, and promote self-governance and self-organizing behavior. These pods are also linked to their internal operational counterparts to increase collaboration between the teams developing the software and those that will use the end product.

Regular software releases allow Confluence to deliver incremental value to its end-user base, as clients do not have to wait until the project is completed to realize its value. Confluence products such as its software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based applications release on a monthly cycle and its release process has produced 42 consecutive on-time and within scope monthly releases of Unity NXT products. The vendor’s other platforms, including Unity, are currently delivered with a 95 percent on-time and within scope rate.

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