When it comes to a relationship between an independent software vendor and a tech developer, agility is not just a basic quality to look for in a partner — it’s an essential one.
Agile often refers to agile software development, a well-known set of values and principles that encourages a collaborative approach to refine requirements and solutions. However, being agile is a mindset as much as it is a software development methodology. Agility suggests the developer is flexible, responsive, and committed to building relationships and rapport. Within this framework, a tech product is constantly being tested, improved, and iterated systematically. When a product flaw is identified, agile companies are able to pivot and readjust without disrupting the project as a whole.
Developers who value agile development do so by looking at products through a problem-oriented lens. They focus on finding practical and actionable solutions to everyday problems. Thus, any product developed in an agile space often serves as a leader in its industry or market because it directly identifies and eliminates a problem.
One example of rapidly changing technology is mobile payments, which will account for $503 billion in payments made in stores by 2020 — that’s a compound annual growth rate of 80% since 2015. Needless to say, today’s tech customer won’t look like the tech customer of 2020. Future tech customers will expect solutions that meet a broader range of their demands in less time — something only those companies with an agile mindset will be able to deliver. Of the anticipated 150 million people using mobile payment apps in 2020, more will be using the apps from companies building the framework right now.
The advantage of agility over rigidity
Partnering with an agile developer doesn’t just look good on paper; it’s necessary for efficiency and success. Integrated software vendors (ISVs) that pick agile partners reap more rewards and avoid the common hazards that plague the players in this industry.
The pace of development and demand means legacy software becomes irrelevant more quickly these days. ISVs that can adapt their offerings to what customers want now rather than what they wanted five years ago keeps their respective brands top of mind.
Partnering with agile developers also eliminates the issue of unresponsiveness — they aren't just able to communicate and collaborate, but they’re eager to do so. Agile methodology depends on customer feedback to inform iterations, and that’s only possible when developers and vendors work closely together. And because agile developers are more responsive to customer needs and regularly invite feedback, they’re able to better incorporate new ideas or improvements into their product.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ISVs that partner with agile companies ensure their products meet the evolving needs and wants of the merchants they ultimately service. The goal of agile products is to solve the most important problems in the deepest ways. In this way, these products have the most appeal for the end user, a feature all ISVs want to cultivate in their product lines.
Evaluating agility for authenticity
Developers don’t want to admit to being inflexible, and many genuinely believe they’re agile even if they don't live up to the demands and deadlines. Below are some criteria and questions for ISVs to focus on when evaluating developers’ agility:
1. Reach out to members of the development team, particularly the project manager and lead developer. Evaluate how easy they are to connect with and how enthusiastic they are about having an in-depth conversation. Your first interaction reveals a lot about future interactions.
2. Look at the company's most recent product launches and determine what effects those products have had on the current software market. Do the products solve legitimate problems in clever ways, or do they simply tack bells and whistles onto something that existed already?
3. Discern how often they conduct product releases. True agile developers release new code every few weeks, not once a quarter.
4. Ask how quickly they can implement changes. If you had a great new idea now, when could it become reality? Truly agile companies could start working on it immediately. If the answer is 12 months or longer, it indicates they have a traditional process with a road map locked down far into the future.
5. Perform a tech analysis focused on the underlying code the software uses. Even if a company is agile, if it uses code that you’re inexperienced or unfamiliar with, the partnership will be defined by friction rather than flexibility.
6. Evaluate the resources. Good documentation with clean code and a restful application programming interface paired with a sandbox environment are evidence that you will have an easy time working with the developers.
To illustrate why change is so important, look at the recent evolution of Starbucks: Mobile payments made up 30% of revenue in the third quarter of 2017, up from 27% in quarter one. That means millions of dollars are flowing through a payment portal that’s almost entirely new.
Being able to forecast these trends is important for any ISV. But being able to adapt to them is even more important. Partnering with agile developers empowers ISVs to prepare for next year, next month, or next week.