by Kayla Sheely

Business is always changing. Whether due to market factors, competition, or innovation, there is always more we can do to improve our customer’s satisfaction and give them the best experience on our services. 

Voice Systems Engineering practices Agile Software Development to continuously add value to our customers. Agile methodology is what allows us to respond quickly, without getting stuck to a 10-year plan that no longer matches our customers’ needs. “For me, agile is focusing on delivering value to the customer faster,” says Galina Woshczyn, VSE’s Agile Coach and Evangelist. “I’m always thinking in terms like: are we building the right stuff? How do we know if we build the right stuff? How do we bring value to the customer?"

Agile methods can vary greatly – Scrum, Kanban, XP, and Lean are all popular agile frameworks. At VSE, we use a mix of Kanban and Scrum. But all these methods lead back to four underlying principles that set agile apart from traditional project management structures. These four values comprise the Manifesto for Agile Software Development:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Processes and tools aren’t bad. But it can be tempting to focus on them at the expense of the individuals. When you have a group of intelligent, technical people who are excited about development, it can be easy to get caught up in the next great tool or trendy new process. 

The right team makes a bigger impact than the right tools. Collaboration and problem-solving are what allow VSE’s development teams to excel. Processes and tools can simplify jobs or remove barriers, but ultimately, the right team members working closely together is the game-changer. 

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Just like there isn’t anything inherently wrong with processes and tools, there’s nothing wrong with documentation. However, more important in agile is working software – that’s how we measure our progress. “Learning and testing the market sooner rather than later increases opportunity and improves delivery to market,” according to Galina. 

When we spend more time in paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, less and less time is spent developing software that actually brings value to the customer. Changes can happen even late in the game, so working software is a way to get buy-in from the customers and business stakeholders as we progress through a project. 

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

Just because a contract is secured or a project is completed, doesn’t mean it adds value to the customer – we could have built something that no one really wanted! Customer collaboration keeps the customer voice front and center from the initial germination of an idea to its execution. 

At VSE, we value our customers and want to give them the best experience possible across our brands. One of our company values is Customer First which is there to always remind us that we need to bring the customer’s voice into the development process. “We aren’t just building features for the sake of building features; we are building features that bring value to the customer,” states Galina. We want what we are building to add, not detract, value. 

Responding to change over following a plan 

One of the potential traps of traditional project management is change – when you have spent months planning and executing a project but a change in customer needs pops up, how do you handle it? Do you throw out months’ worth of work? Or finish the project as planned, even though a better way may have presented itself? 

With agile, you don’t have to choose between the two. Agile focuses on delivering working software frequently, allowing you to gain buy-in from the customers with each new feature or release. Galina says this “allows us to learn and understand if we delivered value, then come back and frame our mindset to ask: are we building the right stuff for the customer?” 

At VSE, our agile practice has evolved over the years – we’ve worked with Scrum, Kanban, and other combinations. Yet, the principles of agile stay the same across all of them. By giving us guiding values but the flexibility to choose a system specifically suited for our needs, agile helps us continue to deliver value and keep up with the ever-changing demands of the market.