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How does agile software development benefit our customers?

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Using an agile software development approach lets us work closely with our customers to find fast and intuitive solutions to their day-to-day challenges. This involves questioning processes to really understand the source of the problem before we start on the solution. At Alasco, we use agile methods to develop software that:

  1. Meets our customers’ needs
  2. Adds the most possible value to their businesses

In this article, our VP of Product, Julia Bastian, explains how our methods drive innovation and what the concrete benefits are for our customers.

What is agile software development?

Agile software development is a set of practices that incorporate cross-functional collaboration with customers (or end users) to discover their requirements and build improved solutions.

It’s a consultative, collaborative approach to development. Teams don’t simply interview customers once and then come back months later with a final solution. Instead, they build quickly and test regularly, consulting with customers throughout the journey to continuously improve the end product.

This is how we build more effective solutions that are tailored to what our customers need.

What are the benefits for our customers?

At Alasco, we use an agile approach to develop faster, build more intuitive software and drive innovation for our customers.

Agile software development is much faster

Agile software development allows us to react very quickly to changing market conditions. When Germany temporarily decreased VAT from 19% to 16% during covid, for example, this had a huge impact on invoice processing for our customers. But because we were able to respond and develop a solution quickly, Alasco customers were able to capture the new rate from the first day it came into effect.

Classic vs. agile software development

Classic software development was born in a time when companies had to install software locally on a computer (on-premise software). This made it impossible to make continuous tweaks and improvements or roll out regular updates, so providers would try to deliver ‘perfect’ solutions to their customers first time. But this approach led to extremely long development cycles and providers couldn’t extensively test software in a live environment.

New software updates often weren’t serving customers by the time they received them, because their needs and market conditions had changed by the time they were released.

Agile development has become popular in today’s world of modern SaaS (software as a service) because software providers can continuously push updates to their customers. We now have the freedom to test and release regularly and to adapt to changing conditions, without the pressure to get things perfect the first time round.

Read more about the differences between software models in our SaaS vs. On-Premise Software Comparison.

The importance of testing frequently

At Alasco, for example, we work in two-week sprints (development cycles) to fully test new features and components in a live environment. This means we can develop new features in stages to build the most effective and sustainable solutions to our customers’ problems – with the customer always at the centre of the process.

“The iterative development process allows us to quickly adjust errors and assumptions in the initial design. This way, we ensure that the final product is one that our customer really needs.” – Julia Bastian, VP of Product

Agile development creates intuitive, user-friendly software

Putting the user first

Now, more than ever, we expect new technology to be intuitive. We want to pick up a new phone and start using it right away. For example, most people don’t need training to use an iPhone. That’s because care was taken during the development process to make the phone’s processes intuitive.

Agile software development plays a key role in creating this intuitive usability. In classic development, designers simply made interfaces ‘look nice’. With agile, we have so much more scope to focus on function as well as form.

At Alasco, our user experience designers (UX designers) don’t just make our product look good, they analyse the customer journey – how you move through the software to complete a specific task – and design the interface to guide your eyes to the key elements you need to complete the task.

The importance of extensive testing

To achieve this, we test our software interfaces extensively with real customers very early in the process. This gives us a chance to observe how they use features and what actions they naturally take. For example, we use click dummies – prototypes that look like the final product but are really just image components with linked buttons – to see how users interact with software before we start real development. This allows us to make continuous adjustments very quickly and focus our resources on what works.

“By using click dummies before we have anything developed in the background, our developers can make user-centric adjustments to the design quickly and easily.”

Here’s an example: when you open Alasco and go to our optimised cost overview, your attention is directed to the information you need to solve a specific task – without having to search. As a user, you can customise your overview to make it easier to complete your specific tasks. For example, as an admin assistant, you might want to see the status of every invoice at first glance, while your project manager might want to see which contractor the invoice came from.

Agile software development drives innovation and better solutions

At Alasco, our goal isn’t just to digitise existing analogue processes. Because let’s be honest: bad analogue processes make bad digital ones. We’re about rethinking processes and improving them holistically to create the best digital workflows.

Always keeping the customer in mind

That’s why the most important expert in development is, and always will be, the end customer. Because who knows better than you what problems you deal with every day?

In finding solutions, it’s our job to question what already exists and look at new perspectives. That’s why our interdisciplinary product team is made up of people from a wide variety of industries that bring all kinds of digital know-how to the table.

This classic from Henry Ford sums it up well: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses.” At Alasco, we don’t want to develop faster horses, we’re building cars.

“For us, it’s not just important to digitise analogue processes, but to rethink your processes and change ways of working. Because only then can we change the industry and drive innovation.”