The word “agile” is one I am hearing more and more when talking to business heads in exchanges and investment banks. There is undoubtedly a clear trend in the industry towards more agile ways of working and higher levels of automation.

Unfortunately, I also hear lots of stories of failed or poorly-executed “agile” projects in the world of trading connectivity, and so I’ve been digging into the root causes to see how we can better help firms achieve their objectives.

I’ve discovered that a large part of the reason for failure stems from firms focusing on an overly-formulaic definition of what “agile” means. More specifically, managers who are requested by their bosses to “become agile” often research what this means online, and quickly start reading about agile development with concepts such as “scrum” and “kanban”, and they start thinking about tools such as JIRA.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong path.

Agile methodologies and disciplines such as sprints are great at organising work and rapidly delivering code with small, independent teams. Development tools such as JIRA bring these methodologies to life, keeping everyone on the same page and accelerating delivery. We use them extensively at FixSpec, and so we know their value first-hand.

FIX Onboarding is NOT development, however, and trying to model this process using development-oriented ideas and tooling often leads to poor outcomes. To illustrate the point, consider what would happen if you decided to give your developers SalesForce.com to organise releases with; SalesForce is an excellent, agile tool, but it isn’t suited for development, and therefore a poor outcome will almost certainly result.

I have talked to several firms who have experienced failed attempts to model FIX Onboarding in either JIRA or SalesForce.com. Anything beyond a simplistic one-page approach quickly becomes too complicated to maintain (with specialised resources) and typically ends in tears.

So instead of a literal interpretation of “agile”, I would encourage firms to seek solutions which focus on the six essential business requirements underpinning such a strategy:

  1. Processes should be documented, repeatable and measurable.
  2. There should be transparency around project status and end date estimations.
  3. There should be dashboards to offer clarity to stakeholders – from business to IT.
  4. There should be tools to quickly scope, assign and track tasks.
  5. There should be the ability for business stakeholders to re-prioritise projects as required, and for this to feed into work planning.
  6. Both software and human processes should support and promote continual improvement over time.

We are working with firms of all sizes to help guide them as they make this critical move towards an “agile” future. Part of the answer lies in better, modern tooling, but it also requires a change in culture and – while it may feel hard to do – a critical review of legacy processes. Implementing “agile” onboarding cannot be achieved without effort, but the benefits are clear for those firms who successfully make the transition. And we are here to help!

To learn more about how you can improve your onboarding effectiveness, subscribe to our Efficient Connectivity blog series below, drop us a line or message us at @FixSpec.