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The payment tech revolution requires more nimble project management

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Cultivating a productive and agile work environment is crucial to the success of players in the payments space, and tech companies everywhere.

A solid software development life cycle method — a way of organizing the work of a software development team — can mean the difference between getting ahead in payments or falling behind. Having a well-informed SDLC allows teams to react quickly to a changing payments environment without sacrificing long-term momentum. Teams can also go after new opportunities with minimum overhead and impact to internal operations.

Time to market on patching zero day or newly discovered vulnerabilities can be an important benefit. Having a lean SDLC in place allows a team to quickly fix the vulnerability and proceed to cover all other considerations rapidly. The issue gets patched right away and work isn’t disrupted.
Perhaps at any moment, a change needs to be made immediately to improve security of a solution. Being able to switch to this without impacting existing projects and commitments is an important part of why a tailored SDLC can be necessary for payment companies. With the right SDLC and team structure in place for their tech teams, payment companies can quickly and effectively make updates, embrace new technologies and cultivate new ideas.

The challenging part is forming the perfect SDLC for your team. Common software development life cycle methodologies include waterfall, scrum agile and lean methodologies, but it’s also possible to mix processes to develop what works for you and your team.

Here are some key learnings in developing your own homegrown SDLC.

Understand the core values of your company and prioritize them. Before choosing a method for your team, first understand what you’re working with. This starts by forming a good understanding of the core principle values of the company, products and resources. Then, you can prioritize those values. Some companies may want to focus on individual professional services development while others may want to focus on core product development based on market strategy. The volatility of the market can impact month-to-month development decisions, so it’s important to reassess often.

Different products may impact the SDLC in different ways. If the company is developing a system for a totally new environment, it will need to have more flexibility than a middleware product with many upstream and downstream dependencies.

Know what you have to work with. Another consideration is the people and resources you have on your team. Some teams have many resources like developers, testers, tech writers and more. Other teams only have a few developers. Take a look at each person’s job description and customize the SDLC based on the team you have.

Don’t be afraid to mix concepts and ideas from already created SDLC models. There isn’t a magical one-size-fits-all model for your company. It’s better for productivity that you take the best ideals from as many different methods as you need to develop, to find what works for you and your team. Address concerns and setbacks to create a process that fits. For example, our team uses a mix of techniques from lean and SCRUM agile methodologies. We also incorporate Kanban boards.

Build the SDLC around a team. What works in one environment, even if it’s a similar environment might not work well in another. A culture of ownership can ensure each team member an opportunity to voice their opinion. It will allow your process to work out the roadblocks and achieve long-term stability. Each week you can try different ways of operating. Then, keep what works and discard what doesn’t. The process should be built around the team and not forced upon them.

Allow the team to self-organize. If the team feels ownership in how it operates, they spend more time doing what they do well and less time engaging in activities that produce subpar work, like answering redundant questions and dealing with interruptions. When employees feel trusted to self-organize a team that works for them, their happiness and morale gets boosted and productivity increases. If the external conditions do not change significantly over time, the SDLC will reach a point where it’s optimized and changes will become fewer.

Have a process in place to review what worked, what didn’t and how to improve. It’s important to keep an open mind and open door for feedback from team members. Have a process for figuring out what fits or needs to be revised for the team instead of waiting to hear what doesn’t work after it’s too late. For example, retrospective meetings allow the team to truly be open about anything that didn’t work so it can be fixed for next time.

Take deadlines seriously by using them sparingly. We do our best to respect deadlines by not creating too many of them. It’s important to avoid making commitments that you know you and your team cannot keep. That’s not to say you should forget them altogether. Instead, try to expose the agile nature of your team needs to your clients or stakeholders, so they understand your capabilities and you can remain honest. Rather than focusing on deadlines, you can discuss priority order in a list with your team, perhaps visually represented on a Kanban board. Kanban is a lean method used to manage work by balancing the demands with available time. There are some teams who are not ready for reducing the number of deadlines they assign. If you must use commitments and deadlines for certain parts of business, take them very seriously and use them with care.

Employ a “safe to fail” fault tolerance. Agile SDLC methodologies look at failure as an investment to learning. When a work environment is forgiving of fault, it can propel employees to make bold and innovative decisions without recourse. Of course, some may fail, but this practice can ultimately generate your team’s best work. Having a tolerance for fault also means minimizing the impact of mistakes on clients and the team itself. Automation helps with this a great deal by finding mistakes early in the SDLC.

Hire correctly and invest in your people. Hiring the right fit can often be very time- consuming. Hiring the wrong person can create culture debt and may force a tight-knit, productive team to fall apart. Dedicate time to finding the right fit and make sure the candidate speaks to others in the company besides the manager, to ensure the company culture is a strong fit with the candidate. Be sure to invest in your employees by offering special perks and continuing education, so they feel ownership and pride in the company.

Embrace the true dynamic nature of the process. A good process can be measured by reviewing value-based key performance indicators. If you have a method in place by now that is successful, that’s great news. Your company will be rewarded by your team’s productivity and ability to be dynamic if there’s a defect or issue to solve. Having a nimble group of developers prepared to quickly handle an issue and resolve it without interrupting workflow is priceless to the company and to everyone in it.

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