As a product marketing copywriter for NexJ Systems, Heather plays a front line role in sharing NexJ’s deep domain expertise in enterprise customer management, the customer experience, and the financial services industry.
Heather has gained a unique perspective into NexJ’s products and industries from working in both the documentation and marketing departments. Most recently, as lead RFP response manager, Heather has developed a deep understanding of the business requirements of leading financial services firms. She continues to expand her knowledge through interviews with key subject matter experts at NexJ and looks forward to sharing her insights with readers of her blog.
What’s it all mean?
Continuous Integration lets lots of people work on one project at the same time, while merging their work together in a central place regularly. This maintains the most recent version, so everyone is checking in or out only the latest code.
Continuous Delivery means that when the continuously integrated code is tested and accepted, it gets pushed out to customers. The customers can then choose to manually deploy it or not.
Continuous Deployment means that same continuously integrated code is pushed out after testing and accepting, except that it gets automatically deployed for the customers.
What’s the difference?
Without continuous integration, you can’t have continuous delivery or continuous deployment. Simply put, continuous delivery and continuous deployment provide the product built with continuous integration.
You should! Since continuous integration, delivery, and deployment keep code clean and bug-free, it means you get your features faster, cleaner, and more successfully.
Our CRM capabilities and features are targeted towards a specific set of users, job requirements, or departments within an organization.
For more than 25 years, NexJ’s management team has been delivering customer relationship management software specifically for financial services, allowing us to develop significant domain expertise. Because the financial services industry has unique and specific requirements, NexJ offers best-of-breed features for the sub-verticals within the financial services industry.
The Financial Services industry is a fast-paced environment. With constantly changing and increasing compliance regulations, client expectations, and access to information, financial services organizations need access to the newest and best tools. But in responding to that need, some of the newly created software terms can be confusing and highly technical, such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment.
What do these terms mean?
Continuous Integration is when all developers working on a product merge their code to a central branch multiple times a day to avoid conflicts in the future. This allows multiple people to work on the same project while maintaining the most recent version, so that all developers are checking in or out the latest code.
Continuous Delivery is the logical next step from continuous integration, where the latest code that has been successfully tested and accepted is then pushed to customers continually. Customers can then determine whether they want to accept and deploy the new code. The focus of continuous delivery is keeping the code base in a deployable state.
Continuous Deployment is the logical next step from continuous delivery, where the automation is taken a step further. Rather than having the customer manually determine whether they want to accept or deploy the new code, this is done automatically for every change in the code that passes testing and acceptance.
How do these terms differ?
Continuous integration is the heart of all three of these terms. Without continuous integration, neither continuous delivery nor continuous deployment are possible. The goal of all three terms is the same – to make software development and software release faster and more streamlined.
Why do these terms matter?
The benefit of this is that code is kept clean, merged, and up-to-date. And, as soon as code is successfully tested and accepted, it’s released to the users. This means that your users won’t need to wait for the features and functionality that can make their job easier and more efficient. It also allows your company to respond more quickly and flexibly to changes in the industry. Finally, with rapid and continuous change, your users have more opportunities to give feedback on the product, sooner, which allows your company to have more input on the product as it grows.
The increasing popularity of internet banking and mobile access are paired with increasing regulation and scrutiny. This means both more possibility for issues and more consequences when issues arise.
NexJ enables firms to manage and protect information with a robust, centralized security model. As a centralized model, NexJ enables you to apply your security rules consistently across all channels, including the user interface, customer portals, and external consumers and APIs that will access NexJ CRM information. NexJ provides granular control of access to data and functionality using proven integration capabilities within your security ecosystem. This provides our customers with the ability to meet any security requirement and mirror how your business actually works.
Additionally, NexJ’s security model is fully customizable by our customers without compromising their long-term ability to upgrade the software. It’s built on industry standards that allow NexJ to map directly to existing security models and consume an existing entitlements model that encapsulates client preferences and regulations.
NexJ’s security model has four components:
This determines who someone is and if they’re allowed to access the system. Deployed across a range of technologies in client environments, these systems provision user roles and allow dynamic auto-assignment of privileges to NexJ users.
This determines what a user can do in the system. Functional entitlements define security concepts such as user roles, groups, and privileges. This controls access to attributes, functions, and features, providing a high degree of functional decomposition and granularity by user role.
This determines what a user can see in the system. Data level security is used to control access to object instances or records. This can include logical rules that are based on the data being viewed, attributes of the user, or even external input.
This determines how data is secured both at rest, and in transit. NexJ encrypts database columns and user credentials, and uses certificate-based mutual authentication to secure integration channels over HTTPS.
NexJ’s comprehensive security modeling capability provides our customers with the flexibility to meet any security requirement. This offers you a security model that mirrors how your business actually works across roles and job functions, asset classes, regions, and lines of business. For more information on NexJ’s security model, visit www.nexj.com.
In my last blog [Invested Users: Best Practices of Maximizing User Adoption, Part 2], I discussed NexJ’s second set of three best practices for user adoption, and why planning, partnering, and encouraging leadership are crucial steps in the process of engaging your users with your CRM.
Today, I’d like to discuss the last three of the 9 best practices for user adoption, which are engaging, offering, and measuring.
Engage users and encourage them to proactively come up with new ways to use the system throughout the entire process. Because your users are the people regularly interacting with the system and regularly doing their work within it, they are also the people who are best positioned to come up with new ways to make the technology work for them, rather than the other way around. Technology has the ability to make our jobs less time consuming and more efficient, and with high user adoption rates your users can be finding new ways to leverage that technology. They can come up with good questions about the system’s functionality and good ways to incorporate the capabilities of your CRM product into their daily lives or good ways to leverage the CRM product to make their jobs easier overall. As a result, when a new problem comes up in your company, your users will be trying to find ways to involve CRM and leverage it to solve that problem.
Additionally, engaging your users can increase your overall user adoption rates because as each new user becomes more engaged with the system, and as they continue to do their work within it, users who have not adopted the technology yet will see their coworkers engaging with it and will see the benefits of it within their workplace. This leads to increasing the adoption simply by having your users engage and use the system.
Offer your users something tangible to gain by investing their time in the system. Nobody wants to waste their time, especially when their workday is already full. If users believe they won’t receive any benefits from your new CRM, then why would they bother to invest their time in it? To maximize adoption, users need to be getting more out than they’re putting in, or there’s no impetus to engage with the system at all. Present the benefits of the system and offer your users these benefits. Let your users know why there’s a point to this change, and why they want to invest their time. Even if something about the system adds time to your users’ individual workflow, if they receive time savings, additional information, a complete view of the customer, or other benefits in the long term, then users can see the returns they can get on their investments. Much as your company wants high user adoption to maximize your investments in the CRM, your users want to maximize the investments of their time, and will return high user adoption rates if the system is presented as beneficial, personally, to them.
Measure both quantitative and qualitative results to get an accurate picture of user adoption. In a previous blog, I discussed how to measure your user adoption rates, and the effectiveness of comparing quantitative and qualitative results. Quantitative measurements tell you how many users have accessed the system and how often. Qualitative results tell you how the users are using the system and how helpful it is; your real measurement of effective usage. Because users can log into your system, without actually using it, it is possible to have extremely high quantitative results without having high user adoption. My previous blog covered why measuring qualitative results give you the true measurement of your user adoption, and its effectiveness. Qualitative results give you a more accurate picture of what they users actually think of your system, and give you a more accurate measure of your user adoption success.
By following these best practices to user adoption, your company can work with your users through your technology change, and be prepared to measure the success of your user adoption. Also, for more information on user adoption, see our whitepaper “Invested Users: How to Maximize User Adoption.”
In my last blog, I discussed NexJ’s first three best practices of user adoption, and why developing, analyzing, and aligning are crucial steps in the process of engaging your users with your CRM.
Today, I’d like to discuss the next three of the 9 best practices for user adoption, which are planning, partnering, and encouraging.
Plan your adoption continuously through the stages of pre-launching, launching, stabilizing, and evolving. Many companies make the mistake of planning through pre-launching and launching, but neglecting the stabilizing and evolving stages of a technology launch. Pre-launching and launching are often straight forward to plan, though some companies may neglect to plan for risks and challenges. However, it’s in the stabilizing and evolving phases that many companies lose their launch momentum and experience a decline in adoption. It’s important to the success of your launch that you plan to continue supporting and encouraging adoption through the stabilizing phase, because this is often where the long term adoption is determined. During the launch phases, people are excited and curious because they’re engaging with something new. But once the launch is complete, companies will always have new projects that pull that excitement and curiosity away. Continuing to drive adoption in this phase, therefore, ensures that the technology goes from being something new and exciting to being something that’s been incorporated into the daily work of your users. There are many ways you can plan to continue growing adoption, including pushing out reporting and results to your managers, creating an operating rhythm that incorporates the processes aligned in your system, and showing users how the information they put into CRM provides benefits to them over time. The goal is to have a plan that continually demonstrates the value of the system to your users.
Partner with a vendor with proven experience achieving high user adoption. Because most companies, if not all, don’t have the time to research every available system and to test out different methods and theories for user adoption, it is important that your company partner with a vendor with experience driving user adoption. This allows your company to benefit from the knowledge the vendor has acquired from many different customers, and also to plan around challenges and risks that the vendor has seen before.
Of course, NexJ has extensive and real-world experience in providing systems with a high user adoption rate, and proven expertise in helping our customers get the results they want. It’s our position that integration of information and processes is at the core of successful investments in CRM and the optimal user experience. NexJ is always delighted to partner with our customers and happy to provide the benefit of our experience.
Encourage enthusiastic leadership that includes users from the beginning. One of the best strategies for encouraging user adoption is having “champions” of the technology that originally focus on training users, and then eventually move their focus to business problems and how the system can be engaged to solve those problems moving forward. When users are more familiar with the technology and are working with it regularly, they can come up with good questions and good ways to use it going forward. Additionally, having enthusiastic leadership organizes the change from the top-down, demonstrating support from both management and executives.
For example, your company can have the manager of a team or department brainstorm with their users about the new software as a business tool, and how their team can use it, interact with it, and benefit from it. By having leadership actively and enthusiastically engage with users you can generate excitement and continue to encourage it throughout your adoption plan. This helps to overcome resistance in users who might not be inclined to adopt the technology on their own, but will in order to conform to company culture and initiatives.
By following these best practices to user adoption, your company can work with your users through your technology change, and be prepared to manage the growth and evolution of your CRM. In my next blog, I’ll discuss the last three recommended best practices for user adoption which are engaging, offering, and measuring. Also, for more information on user adoption, see our whitepaper “Invested Users: How to Maximize User Adoption.”
In a previous blog, I discussed how to measure your user adoption rates, and the effectiveness of comparing quantitative and qualitative results. Because users can log into your CRM system, without actually using it, it’s possible to have extremely high quantitative results without having high user adoption. My previous blog covered why measuring qualitative results gives you the true measurement of your user adoption, and its effectiveness.
It’s common knowledge that user adoption is necessary to the success of a change in a company’s software and key to appropriately leveraging your technology investments. Poor user adoption is one of the most common reasons software launches fail. When your users aren’t using all the features of a CRM, they’re not getting the benefits of it, and neither are your clients. Users will find ways to avoid a system they don’t see as beneficial by reverting to manual processes or old applications. Or, users will find ways to work around it by interacting with the system minimally to make it appear they’re using it. This means that your company is losing time and money.
NexJ has extensive and real-world experience in providing systems with a high user adoption rate, and proven expertise in helping our customers get the results they want. We’ve gathered this information into a series of 9 user adoption best practices, based on the experiences of our own customers.
Today, I’d like to discuss the first three in a series of 9 best practices for user adoption. The first three best practices are develop, analyze, and align.
Develop a set of simple and realistic objectives. What do you want your CRM to be able to do for your users, and for your clients? Typically this step is a part of the pre-launching phase, and outlines your starting goals. Many companies make the mistake of setting lofty or complicated objectives, which makes it difficult to create a clear plan of delivery, or a clear plan for measuring success. By starting with simple and realistic objectives, that are achievable, you increase your company’s chance for success and increase the chances for adoption. Your company’s objectives and needs will be unique, but you can consider how you want your users to be thinking, feeling, and interacting with the software to begin with. Being realistic in these early stages provides you with both achievable benchmarks and with room to grow.
Analyze your risks, challenges, and success metrics to develop your goals. This is asking how you can be sure you’ve achieved success, and how to deal with problems that may arise in achieving success. Part of this analysis determines risk and planning to manage the change within your company. Challenges in user adoption present risks to the success of your launch and can include anything from a general fear of change to users simply not seeing the value and benefits of the new system. But by being proactive and planning for these risks and challenges, resistance is overcome more quickly because you’re prepared for it, and you avoid giving it a chance to grow amongst your users. Planning for the change also allows you to prepare a leadership plan, and an outline for how to have your management train and engage with your users. This allows you to organize the change from the top-down and also helps to overcome resistance by demonstrating management and executive support. Finally, this allows you to further develop your company’s unique set of success metrics.
Align system workflows with existing “actual” business processes. By aligning your automated workflows with the “actual” business processes users were following, rather than any “standard” methods that may have been dictated but not followed, you can simulate the existing workflow. For example, your company may have a specific process in place to handle something like taking notes on an account, but users may have been bypassing steps that were time-consuming and seen as unnecessary. When that workflow is recreated in the system, by eliminating the unnecessary steps, you align the process to how it was actually being performed before the system was in place.
This helps to overcome resistance by providing familiarity, but also by reducing the amount of time users need to invest in learning how to use the system. This is part of making users “net receivers,” whereby they receive more from the system than they put into it. If a manual process is modelled in the system so that a user can do the task in the same way, but using CRM rather than manual work, then the user will experience time-saving benefits and see the value of the technology, rather than seeing it as a detriment or hindrance to their work.
By following these first three best practices to user adoption, your company can plan and be prepared for their CRM change, and can be prepared to manage the risks and challenges of that change. In my next two blogs, I’ll discuss these best practices further. Also, for more information on user adoption, see our whitepaper “Invested Users: How to Maximize User Adoption.”
In “The Great Wealth Transfer is Coming, Putting Advisers at Risk,” an article in Investment News, they pointed out that 66% of heirs fire their parents’ financial adviser after they receive an inheritance. Marketing Wiz’s “The State of Independent Financial Marketing” whitepaper discusses how every day, $2 billion in assets move from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Generation Y heirs. Combining these two statistics paints a concerning picture for financial advisors. How can Wealth Management firms address the needs of these inheriting children, to prevent losing 66% of their asset base?
Part of the problem is that Generation X and Generation Y approaches the world, and their finances, differently than the generations before them. With more access to information, more options for interaction channels, and an increasing pattern of self-service, building a relationship with a young heir can be more difficult. Additionally, the younger generation is tackling massive amounts of personal debt, low-paying jobs or difficulty finding work, and negative stereotypes about everything from their work ethic to how they manage their money. This has led to a lot of mistrust around financial organizations and the methods of the older generations.
The awareness of this is reflected in the Investment News article, which shows that advisers rank difficulty attracting next-generation clients as 10.45% of their business risks. Adding the 12.79% risk of generational wealth transfer, and the needs and expectations of the younger generations make up almost a quarter of business risk as ranked by advisers.
Investment News also shows that lack of a relationship is the biggest obstacle to retaining assets passed to heirs. Without a personal relationship, heirs have no reason to trust a financial advisor with their money. Because the younger generations are used to doing self-service financial management, and don’t necessarily recognize the value of personal adviser service, building that relationship is increasingly important.
NexJ Intelligent Customer Management can help your financial advisors build and maintain relationships with your clients’ entire families. Using the NexJ Relationship Hierarchy, your advisors can have a better awareness of the people in your client’s family, including their ages, needs, life events, and goals. Combined with intelligent business rules that drive proactive, next best actions, your advisors can manage these relationships automatically. NexJ can prompt advisors on the best time to reach out to younger family members, and can show advisors when and how to include them in the family’s overall financial planning. NexJ does this by providing suggested content or reasons for the interaction when appropriate, and delivering the content in the individual’s channel of choice, reaching the younger family member by their preferred method. Additionally, by maintaining profile information in NexJ CRM, and leveraging your comprehensive customer view, NexJ can automatically generate tasks, prompt for interactions, and help you collect information. The related results are captured and monitored, and then consolidated back into the comprehensive customer view, establishing a continuous cycle of refinement and improvement. By engaging your future clients earlier, you can overcome the challenge of building a personal relationship with them when they become the decision maker.
By leveraging the features of Intelligent Customer Management, your advisers can work to proactively establish relationships with the future inheritors of today’s wealth assets. For more information on how NexJ can help advisors deepen their relationships, visit www.nexj.com, or email email@example.com
High user adoption rates reflect that your company’s software investments are being appropriately leveraged, and ideally show that users are engaging with the system. To determine the effectiveness of the software at your company, you need to know your user adoption rates.
A common method of measuring user adoption rates is analyzing the number of users who log into your system each day, or how many times each user logs in. This method is easy to measure, because it can be automatically collected as a number of hits or system accesses. However, this method only provides you with that specific information. It doesn’t tell you how your users are using the system, or whether they’re actually using it at all. These results are called quantitative results. They tell you how many users have accessed the system, and how often.
It is possible to have an extremely high quantitative user adoption rate. Perhaps almost all of your users log into the system each day. However, that doesn’t mean the users are doing any of their work in the system. They may be continuing old processes, old workflows, or old manual methods rather than engaging with the system. But because your user adoption analysis shows high rates, you might never know that your system is not being leveraged.
To determine how your users are actually using the system, and how helpful it is, you need to obtain qualitative results, which are the real measurement of effective usage and user adoption. These results are more difficult to calculate, because they can’t be automatically measured by numbers. Qualitative results are giving you insight into the behavior of your users, as well as their opinions of the software they work with, and their needs and preferences. This type of information must be collected through participant observation or through surveys.
By measuring qualitative results and finding out how your users are actually engaging with your software solution, you can have a more accurate picture of what your users think, and how they work. While high quantitative user adoption rates are exciting, they don’t mean much if users are only accessing the system to placate management. Doing qualitative surveys or participant observation gives you meaningful results and lets you know if your users are finding the system helpful.
For more information on achieving high user adoption, download the NexJ whitepaper “Invested Users: How to Maximize User Adoption.”
PwC’s 2017 Digital Banking Consumer Survey summary, “(Don’t) take it to the bank: What customers want in the digital age,” proposes a new segment of consumers they’ve called “omni-digital.” They define omni-digital customers as those who “don’t use physical channels like branches or call centers to interact with their financial institutions.” Their survey showed that 46% of consumers are now using digital channels only – a big difference from the 27% of consumers that was shown in 2012. With 60% of smartphone users employing mobile banking, this study shows that ready access to digital channels is becoming increasingly necessary.
The omni-channel experience has been growing steadily in importance with the rise of digital engagement. There’s no question now that customers want access to their financial information conveniently and immediately. And with “omni-digital” consumers becoming the standard, digital channels have to be responsive and developed enough to provide the service these people need.
As Bryan Sachdeva here at NexJ has pointed out in previous blogs, and as PwC mentions in their report, there is a new “normal” in financial interactions. The use of physical branches and call centres, while still important, is shrinking. Today, only about a third of customers will use all of a bank’s platforms.
NexJ provides a solution for this new “normal” that is based on the customer experience. As such, NexJ has known (and discussed!) that digital channels were becoming key to the quality of customer experience for some time, and has been providing ways for financial services companies to undergo a digital transformation. With the rising importance of digital engagement, financial institutions need to provide quality digital service, while preparing for future growth and changes.
So how do you plan for the new “normal?” The best way is to let customers direct their journey and give them the ability to interact in the way they want, when they want. In Bryan’s blog, “Mastering Customer Engagement, Part 1,” he offers the following magic keys to successful digital customer engagement, or successful omni-digital engagement:
Consider how your institution has been adapting to the new “normal.” Are you prepared for omni-digital interaction and the decreasing importance of physical channels? Is your organization ready for the future of customer engagement? In my next blog, we’ll discuss how you can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve customer engagement across channels to increase cross-selling and upselling.
In today’s financial services and insurance markets, you have access to massive amounts of information from multiple sources about your customers. The Internet of Things has led to an exponential increase in data types and sources, and assembling that information into usable insights can provide powerful knowledge about your potential or existing customers. Data empowers your salesforce, providing your representatives with details about your customers’ lives, needs, and goals.
Because so much data is available, collecting information has become easier. That collected information can be used to improve service, fill gaps with appropriate products and apps, and drive revenues. Unfortunately, the siloed nature and inconsistent quality of most of this data (such as social media posts) makes it virtually impossible to achieve these goals. Meaningful insight into the information is needed to draw useful conclusions.
In PwC’s 2017 Global Total Retail Consumer Survey, big data insights are one of the 10 investment areas recommended for retailers to focus on when building for the future. According to the report from that survey, 10 Retailer Investments for an Uncertain Future, 39% of retailers ranked “ability to turn customer data into intelligent and actionable insight” as one of their greatest challenges. This means that a number of companies recognize the problem, but haven’t found solutions. Investing in insights into the data, and not just collecting the data, is important.
By investing in insights and effectively using this data, companies can gain a complete view of their customers. The report from the PwC survey states that “more than a third of retailers are struggling to implement a strategy to provide a single view of the customer, with a further third seeking to improve in this regard.” This is another demonstration that companies are aware of the problem of effectively using data, and that there is room for improvement in some solutions companies have found.
NexJ offers a Customer Data Analytics & Intelligence (CDAi) Platform that solves data insight problems for financial services and insurance organizations. NexJ CDAi provides customer-centric dashboards, reporting, and analytic solutions across multiple technology platforms that turn data into actionable insight. These solutions allow companies to check their organization’s health at a glance with a dashboard containing metrics and key performance indicators, or to review insights in any customers’ individual data set. Companies are able to identify areas that need attention and drill down into detailed reports to pinpoint the source of the problem. They can discover truths hidden in the data through data mining and see what the future may hold through forecasting and predictive models.
Additionally, NexJ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can provide a single, unified view of your customers that integrates data from all of your legacy sources and external sources. This information can then be accessed in a single place, through the customer’s profile in NexJ CRM. By focusing on integration, NexJ has provided a product that can grow and expand with your organization as your requirements change.
By investing in a strategy that provides insights into extensive amounts of data and also collects that information into a single location, your company can maximize the value of its data and provide more tailored, personalized service to your customers.
So when a system stops receiving support or development, it affects the health of the entire company. It can become expensive to maintain, difficult to upgrade, or so obsolete it risks pulling the company behind the competition. When people can’t or aren’t using the system, or when the system isn’t able to provide the functionality that’s needed, the organization must replace it.
For example, one of NexJ’s customers recently migrated off their Siebel system to NexJ’s solution. The Siebel system was at the end of its life and hadn’t been upgraded since 2008. Poor user adoption, an outdated user interface, and a lack of modern CRM capabilities were major concerns.
In NexJ’s experience, user adoption is key to the success of any system. If employees aren’t using the system, it can’t be effective. The company chose NexJ because our flexible integration allows them to weave enterprise data together into a comprehensive customer view, and provide seamless access to the complete, financial services-specific functionality each user needs to service clients. The resulting integrated desktop improves user adoption because it provides users with what they need and want in a system, when they need and want it.
The organization also wanted a modern user interface and enhanced CRM functionality to improve productivity and efficiency, and offer a better user experience. They were looking for very specific enhancements related to their business needs. NexJ worked with them to design a user interface that fully aligned with their requirements and standards.
Because the Siebel system is obsolete, many of the features that have become a standard part of modern Customer Relationship Management were unavailable. NexJ’s solution enabled the firm to roll out best-of-breed CRM for financial services, as well as strategic CRM functionality and workflows for Capital Markets. For example, automating workflows and common business processes reduces manual workload and the duplication of data. This saves individual users time and ensures that procedures are consistently followed. Another example of feature advancement is customer insights and analytics. Improvements provide a decision support system that helps users better understand and capitalize on the customer’s needs, the company’s interactions with the customer, and the customer’s buying cycle.
Because companies often have many applications that are not aware of one another, and also many different data sources, integration is key to modern CRM. The NexJ Integrated Desktop offers a customer-centric view of front, middle, and back-office information and integrates with enterprise data stores and applications in a single, seamless application. This helps support superior customer service by providing users with all of the information and functionality they need in one place.
The health of a financial services organization can be severely affected by outdated systems because the modern economic climate is very competitive. If your system is outdated, you can’t provide the service customers expect, nor the capabilities your users need. By sunsetting your obsolete system and upgrading to a modern CRM system, you can foster customer loyalty and improve your market share.
I’m not a developer. I don’t work with code, and though I use computers every day, I don’t understand what’s running in the background. But that’s okay, because I’m a writer instead. So I spend a lot of time asking developers about their process and trying to understand how they do what they do and why. Fortunately for me, they tend to be very patient people.
So, when I talked with Ron Tabata, the Director of Professional Services at NexJ Systems, and asked him about NexJ’s delivery model, Ron was kind enough to walk me through it. For people that aren’t familiar with software development, some of the concepts and terms can be complicated. Software companies are constantly trying to improve their processes to build software in the best possible way, deliver what clients need, and minimize waste.
When NexJ recently started a major migration project for one of our customers, Ron and the developers on the project also updated our delivery model process. This delivery model has set the new standard for our development. The process is highly agile and highly responsive. In many ways, this has challenged our developers, pushing them to reinvent how we do things here at NexJ.
So what’s different about this delivery model? What makes this worth pulling a director away from his work so that I can ask him about it? Why do I want to write about it and more specifically, why do you want to read about it?
Agile development is becoming more popular. It’s a responsive style of developing software that allows the development team to react and change their plans according to the actual problems and requirements they have. The customer for this project actively embraces agile, and they challenged NexJ to redefine how we plan and complete projects. Though NexJ already employed agile development, the customer wanted something extremely responsive to allow for user feedback and dynamic changes.
One major innovation for NexJ is streaming the project for prototyping on a live environment and creating a sandbox for NexJ’s developers to work in and the users to provide feedback on. This creates a direct line into the product for users and a direct line of feedback from those users to NexJ developers. Feedback could, hypothetically, be gotten and responded to in as little as a month after it’s been sent. Indicative of modern development paradigms, quick responses mean less time spent developing something that doesn’t fit, because the product is constantly adapting and changing. Development becomes a dynamic process rather than a static process.
Another major difference is the rapid pace of deployment. With this project, NexJ developers have been deploying weekly to production, faster than any previous deployments. With each deployment, feedback and comments from previous deployments are incorporated, so that new feedback and comments can be made around the changes. Developers are defining what they’re working on up to only two weeks before they actually do the work, rather than starting with a specific plan and following it rigidly through development. This creates a highly adaptable and dynamic process that is allowing NexJ to push continuous integration and an evolutionary approach.
The developers at NexJ work hard to stay current and up to date on trends in the software industry as well as the industries of our clients. Many companies choose NexJ because we’re industry experts that work with clients in a strategic partnership where we are committed to their success. In pursuing better partnerships, part of our vision is to shorten deployment cycles, working towards continuous deployment, so that we can offer the quick responses and effective solutions our clients need.
Working with this client to establish highly agile development practices shows our commitment to providing the best product in the best way for your company. Or, more simply, it shows our commitment to being the best.