Making Better Products, Faster: Why S2 Adopted an Agile Development Framework

 

Steve HabermasBy Steve Habermas

Steve Habermas is Vice President of Engineering at S2 Security.

 

Agile is a fancy name for a simple, and increasingly popular, way to develop software in the modern workplace. Agile is a methodology for incrementally building and delivering products that allows a company to focus on the highest business value for end customers. It’s a highly effective approach that enables continuous reprioritization and focus based on changing business or customer needs. What’s key to S2 Security is that the Agile approach allows customers to clearly feel the benefits of our increased responsiveness. 

At its most basic level, an Agile development approach sees work broken down into a continuous cycle of two-week “Sprints.” Software or hardware is never completely unusable during development, and at the end of each Sprint a viable product is available for release or continued development. 

To better understand the Agile approach, it’s useful to contrast it against the traditional “Waterfall” approach. Waterfall development is a classic style based on working in phases where everything is done sequentially over long stretches of time until the end product is totally complete. Unlike the Sprints used in Agile, there is rarely a viable or complete product available during the phased approach of Waterfall. Ultimately, this can lead to lots of wasted time, products that never get released, or even products that simply don’t work when all is said and done. All problems that the Agile approach deftly sidesteps. 

With Agile, a company gains increased control because it’s easy to determine if something is on or off track in two weeks rather than two months. Getting early insights on a project from the C-suite before it gets off track can be incredibly beneficial. It also allows for simplified distribution of the workforce, as a company can move engineers into a project for as short as two weeks before putting them on another priority. 

Over many years as a vice president of engineering at various companies, I’ve become something of an Agile implementation specialist and have brought its benefits everywhere I work. No place has improved more instantaneously than S2. Our ability to accomplish more with the same team is staggering. My tagline for S2’s Agile adoption has become: Faster. Better. More productive. 

Internally, our engineers are more focused and excited about their work. All great engineers want their work to be used, and Agile is a mechanism that allows products to get into the hands of customers faster. The benefits are shared across the company from tech support to marketing. Improvements to products are made more frequently and based on customer demand, which makes tech support very happy. Meanwhile, changes to product capabilities and roadmaps are rapidly and easily communicated, which helps marketing prepare for what’s around the corner. 

But most critically, the benefits of Agile are quickly felt by our customers. Markets are dynamic and consequently, so are business priorities. This approach allows us to constantly focus on the highest business priority and deliver it to our customers faster and with higher quality than before. It’s a mechanism that helps us adjust to our customers finding bugs or requesting features, and we can pivot as fast as every two weeks. 

We’ve only recently started to adopt this approach, but the benefits have been clear. As we continue to push on and transition all of our teams and products to this development technique, we expect those benefits to translate directly to our customers. At the end of the day, we’re committed to making meaningful internal change when it ensures that our customers will get better products, faster.

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