3 Reasons Fintech Needs Agile Software Development

Financial services are one of the hottest sectors in terms of technology right now. Here are three reasons that agile development is the right approach for fintech.


By Dan Rundle

It’s no secret by now that we’re in the middle of a financial services revolution.

Not so long ago, the financial industry was dominated by mammoth, brick-and-mortar institutions. Banks, for example, could not only largely dictate the terms of loans, but also which consumers had access to them.

Now consumers can buy produce at roadside stands with their phones. They can open investment accounts or obtain loans at a fraction of the cost of traditional financial services. They can even bypass traditional financing entirely through crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending.

Of course, traditional financial services aren’t going anywhere yet, but the writing is on the wall.

During the past five years, 7,500 bank branches in the U.S. have shuttered their doors. In 2018, financial technology (fintech) companies saw 120 percent growth in global investments, with $39.57 billion pouring in. Across the world, fintech is charging into new markets while transforming old ones.

The fintech revolution isn’t just demanding innovative thinking from traditional financial services providers. It’s banging on the door of anyone who wants to do business. A 2018 S&P Global Market Intelligence survey found that half of respondents had used a mobile device for payment at a retail store, while 43.7 percent had used mobile apps to pay their bills.

Businesses that don’t integrate fintech are finding themselves losing market share.

Like many revolutions, however, the sweeping change is putting pressure on the players who started the revolution in the first place. In an age in which convenience and simplicity are literally at our fingers, consumers are increasingly likely to jump ship on financial brands at the prospect of better service elsewhere. Among many younger consumers, brand loyalty is dead. If companies employing or developing fintech want to stay relevant, they’re going to need to keep up with one of the fastest moving industries on the planet.

Rapid Change Demands Agility

That’s where agile software development comes in.

Traditional project-based approaches to software development simply can’t keep up with the dizzying change in the fintech industry. While previous models of project management might have set goals and allocated resources for months- or years-long projects, following this paradigm in the contemporary market will only result in failed or outdated products, since project specifications often change significantly between the moment a project starts and when it launches.

At the same time, product managers need to be able to maximize the creative energy of their team members. Today’s software development is so specialized and rapidly evolving that project managers are seldom able to keep entirely abreast of important developments in coding, while the day-to-day work of writing code often demands a high degree of individual responsibility. Whereas traditional management techniques represent a top-down approach, an agile approach emphasizes unlocking the individual agency of team members, each of whom is a subject-matter expert in a specific area of software development such as front-end or API integrations.

What Makes Software Development Agile?

On one hand, agility demands simplicity. When team members need to sort through reams of protocols and permissions, work bogs down. But when team members have a simple set of clearly defined goals and behaviors, the focus shifts automatically toward problem-solving. That means happier team members and higher productivity.

On the other hand, an agile approach requires implementing specific techniques that keep a development team up-to-speed and efficient. By implementing a continuous integration and continuous delivery/deployment (CI/CD) scheme, product managers can create a culture of continuous innovation for a fintech solution.

Continuous Integration (CI)

In older models of software development, code was developed individually by team members and then tested manually. In today’s environment, that’s just too slow and inefficient.

When a team implements CI, code is stored in a central database where it can be accessed by team members. This enables the code to be continuously updated in response to developments. This also allows team members to write code consistently—no more of the spaghetti logic cranked out by lonely programmers—and efficiently. Instead of needing to reinvent the wheel by searching for or writing code for recurring situations, team members can simply access the code they need for their project needs. This allows them to focus on innovation—staying abreast of trends and finding their own solutions.

At the same time, automated tests (often powered by AI or machine learning) can run tests of the code to ensure its viability. If the code fails, team members are automatically notified. Automation can also manage processes that notify project members of required testing, effectively handling all the major coordinating work while team members focus on the quality of the code itself.

Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment (CD)

In the past, testing and launching software was a time-consuming process, one that was often managed by players other than the software developers themselves. And despite the massive expenditure of resources, at the end of a project companies often still had to deal with user complaints.

A continuous delivery process automates software testing and production. For example, in a deployment pipeline, software is systematically tested until it is ready to launch. With a continuous delivery approach, teams no longer have to struggle to marshal resources before launching software, since the delivery process is integrated into daily operations. When software reaches the end of the deployment pipeline, it’s ready for the market.

While continuous delivery focuses on preparing software for market, continuous deployment focuses on launching software in the market. With continuous deployment, automated services can do all the heavy lifting, not only issuing software updates and releases but also collecting user feedback. This enables software developers to interact with end users much more directly. It also allows developers to release a regular stream of minor updates. With automated, regular updates, public relations disasters of buggy software can be avoided, while programmers can get the feedback they need to deliver rapid solutions for consumer difficulties.

3 Keys to Agile Software Development in Fintech

What does an agile approach and CI/CD specifically mean for firms dealing with fintech?

1. An agile approach keeps developers in tune with the market

Fintech is evolving every day. Firms that don’t want to be left behind—that is, firms that want a future—need to grow with the market. CI/CD helps them do that.

When you implement continuous delivery, you get real-time feedback on user experience, and developers can be quick to respond. This means problems are solved rapidly and customers don’t jump ship. Instead of forcing users to wait weeks for software patches, a CI/CD approach can enable developers to find solutions within hours.

An agile approach on the development team, meanwhile, keeps your software on the cusp of innovation. As innovators across the globe develop new financial technologies, software developers can integrate these developments without needing to undertake a major code overhaul.

2. An agile approach keeps developers abreast of regulatory developments

Historically, software has come under relatively little regulation, but that is rapidly changing. Whether it’s the European GDPR or California’s CCPA, many software developers are facing steep financial penalties if they don’t conform to sweeping new regulations.

CI/CD implementation can take a lot of compliance worries off of developers’ shoulders. By automating data masking for compliance privacy regulations and tracking individual contributions to code development, CI/CD can ensure that firms remain compliant—and it can ensure that you have a raft of information available in case of an audit.

3. An agile approach unlocks team member efficiency

Like the industrial paradigm under which they were developed, older approaches to management forced employees into pre-set channels. Employees were not so much human beings as machines.

But we’re far removed from the old automotive assembly lines. Software development for financial industries demands high levels of creativity and personal initiative. Project management systems that shunt employees down preconceived tracks fail to capitalize on the strengths and insights of individual team members.

An agile approach, on the other hand, creates a collaborative atmosphere in which problem-solving and innovation—the essence of fintech development—are the core of your operations. This extends to CI/CD implementation, which can free team members from repetitive tasks like scheduling updates and releases and enable them to focus on what really matters: innovation.

Conclusion: An Agile Future

It’s hard to imagine that the iPhone was only released in 2007. In the years since, the smart phone has disrupted the global economy in ways that could never have been anticipated in 2006.

It’s now clear that the future of commerce belongs to fintech. But what shape will commerce have in 10 years? In 20? How will the continuing application of technologies like AI and cloud computing—or technologies still waiting to be discovered—create additional economic disruptions?

These are questions that cannot be answered. But they can be approached and resolved.

If you’re agile.

Dan Rundle
Dan Rundle is Worthwhile’s CEO and lives in Greenville, S.C. He believes clear values are crucial to the success of a company and its customers.
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