OPINION

The Business End of Agile Software Development

I recently spoke with the CEO of an emerging technology company, Santeon, because I was curious about companies that are pushing the envelope with technological innovation.

I found a company that is creating technology, software processes, rapid implementation and value-adding software architecture that are quickly reflected in bottom-line results.

Santeon’s Focus

Santeon’s business focuses on the healthcare industry (a rapidly growing segment of our economy), energy and the environment (we all know how critical this segment of the national economy is), media and agile development.

Though each of these segments is filled with financial opportunities, agile development really grabbed my attention.

Santeon and Agile Development

To get some history and perspective on agile development, I went to the International Consortium for Agile website. The site has plenty of information that provides great perspective about what agile development is and how it can play a critical role when the fortunes of a company must rely on rapid and effective implementation of software architecture that quickly produces favorable results.

I was pleased to find that one of the directors of this company is Ash Rofail, who has a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Business. He also happens to be the CEO of Santeon. The ICAgile website said of Rofail: “Ash is a thought leader in enterprise software as a member of Microsoft’s Visual Basic advisory board since 1997; patent holder for artificial intelligence technology; author of six software engineering books on topics such as XML, .NET, COM/DCOM, building n-Tier Applications and Service Oriented Architectures.”

I knew so little about agile that I peppered Rofail with questions regarding how his company uses agile development as a segment of its business. He told me that many companies are spending huge amounts on software development and are not getting equivalent value for their efforts and dollars. He cited the U.S. government and explained that many of its agencies are moving to agile because they want results and want them fast. Additionally, with budgetary restrictions, these agencies have to really watch the bottom line so that they can respond to the pressures that a tight budget puts on software development.

Rofail also explained that Santeon has a huge operation in Egypt that develops software using the agile development methodology. I asked Rofail why Egypt. His response was that Santeon could get top-quality software developers there at a very reasonable price.

Rofail then added that in the U.S., Santeon does a great deal of training at various corporations using the agile methodology. Part of this training process is to teach software developers how to use agile and how to get the most out of it.

More About Agile

Even though Santeon is quite active in developing technology for healthcare companies, energy, and media companies, their focus on agile intrigued me the most because, as I’ve come to understand it, agile methodology will help software developers create meaningful and effective products in the shortest possible time.

I wanted to test Santeon’s decision to focus on agile, so I called a very close friend of mine who happens to be a software architect for a large, international company that creates industry-specific software and hardware. I asked him what makes agile such a big deal. His response was fascinating.

He told me that he recently came up with an idea to create a new product for his company that would require very unique software that would somehow have to fit in with their existing software without compromising it. This new software would be a sea change for his company because it was structurally quite different from all of the other products that the company was offering.

I then asked him how agile helped his team develop the software. He explained that top management decided that his team could try to develop a new and transformative product, but they would be given no extra money for its development and, to make matters more challenging, they had to come up with the new software product within four months. (Now I realize why he sort of “disappeared” for four months, during which time I heard very little from him.)

The upshot of it was that the team produced a revolutionary software product within four months and with no drain on the company’s budget. He explained that the only way that such a feat was possible was by implementing agile in order to cut through the technological bureaucracy that his company usually faces in order to come up with a winning product in short order. He said that none of this success would have been possible without agile. In fact, this project would have taken about a year to complete had agile not been used.

Thus I had a quick education in agile and how and why it works.

Santeon’s Team

Ahmed Sidky is Santeon’s executive vice president. Sidky has a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in value-based process frameworks for effective agile adoption. Ahmed’s work has gained popularity and respect in the agile community as a pragmatic approach for organizations of all sizes that are attempting to adopt agile. Ahmed is frequently referred to as “Dr. Agile” on account of developing a free online agile readiness assessment tool of the same name.

There are many other interesting and highly qualified people on the Santeon team, all focused on creating software that is highly functional and eminently usable, in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Santeon is also becoming the go-to company for agile training, consulting and software development. This is apparent by their customer list of Booz Allen Hamilton, Verizon Wireless, Blackboard,

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