Capital One embraces Agile development, with big results

Capital One embraces Agile development, with big results

on Jun 12, 14 • by Chris Bubinas • with No Comments

Capital One now delivers the vast majority of its software via Agile development methods, and has experienced tremendous benefits as a result...

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These days, it seems like there's no stopping the rise of Agile development. Firms around the world are embracing this approach to their software development needs, leveraging code review tools and collaborative tactics to produce software faster and more efficiently than would otherwise be possible.

Highlighting this trend, Bank Systems & Technology recently reported that financial giant Capital One now delivers the vast majority of its software via Agile development methods, and has experienced tremendous benefits as a result.

Agile aficionados
The news source noted that in 2012, Capital One acquired ING Direct, a financial firm with a very different approach to IT. The former largely outsourced operations, while the latter kept them in-house. Speaking at the recent InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas, Rudy Wolfs, senior vice president of card IT at Capital One, explained that the organization realized that certain IT functions, including software development, needed to happen internally in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Agile development quickly became a key point of focus for Capital One in this capacity. Wolfs told the audience that in 2011, Agile development accounted for approximately 1 percent of the software Capital One delivered, according to Bank Systems & Technology. Now, however, the company produces 85 percent of all software through Agile development.

This shift has produced significant improvements. Wolfs noted that Capital One has cut delivery times down to three to six months while also experiencing major cost savings, all thanks to Agile development, the news source reported. Furthermore, 95 percent of all software products now meet expectations when they are first released. This is particularly impressive considering that Capital One delivers about 400 products each month. 

A unified effort
Considering these results, it is perhaps not surprising that Capital One continues to embrace Agile development to a heavy degree. Wolfs told the audience that the company employs more than 3,000 developers and business users who have been trained on Agile methodology. This shared involvement from both the business and IT side of the equation is critical for Agile success, Wolfs explained.

"[When business users are involved,] they really feel like IT is like part of the team, not just a group that operates by itself," said Wolfs, according to the news source. "By having business involved with the development team along the way, it changes the entire dynamic with the business. They get a better product when they [business and IT] are together."

Requirement considerations
One issue that Wolfs touched on is the question of requirements. According to the source, Wolfs argued that while metrics are essential to successful Agile development, requirements should not be allowed to unduly guide the process.

"It's good to measure, but not measure too soon," he explained, according to the news source. "If you start to focus on guidelines right up front, those goals make for bad behavior."

This is an increasingly common refrain. Writing for TechTarget, industry expert Jennifer Lent recently made a similar argument. She noted that testers now play a more critical role in the software development cycle than ever before. Instead of simply determining whether a given app works as designed, these professionals are taking on the responsibility of actually contributing to basic design, offering insight and advice in terms of what functions and features to include. An exclusive focus on testing requirements can handcuff such efforts, limiting the benefits firms can gain by embracing Agile development strategies and related tools and solutions.

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