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  #1  
Old 09-25-2016, 01:28 PM
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Default Agile development in insurance

A few people in my department are floating around the concept of agile development. I've searched online to learn more, but I still have a hard time understanding what this means in practice.

Does anyone have experience with agile methods?
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Old 09-25-2016, 03:51 PM
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FWIW, all I know is that it seems to be more of an IT thing.

Ask me in a year, and I'll likely know more.
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Old 09-25-2016, 05:11 PM
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This falls under project management, which comes with its own massive tomes of literature and professional licensing exams.

Traditional project management means that you have set goals and clearly defined project milestones. "We're going to accomplish A in 1 month. B in 2 months, and C in 3 months." Then the project is complete.

Agile project management is an iterative approach where stakeholders reconvene at regular intervals and evaluate the milestones, which are subject to change. "We're going to accomplish A in 1 month. B in 2 months, and C in 3 months, but after we accomplish A, let's reconvene and see if B and C still need to be done as planed or if market conditions change, we may decide to carry out D and E instead of B and C."



There are pros and cons of each approach, traditional being the easiest to deliver and most straightforward but also running the risk of not adapting to changing conditions, which means you might deliver something that is not appropriate for customer needs by the end of the project. The latter is more adaptive to changing conditions but that runs the risk of you never finishing up your project because you're always chasing the next big thing (think about the Duke Nukem game which never really got finished and led its company to bankruptcy).

Anyway, there are other frameworks like XPM but it's all in the literature. You might want to check out PMBOK to learn more but I have to warn you it's very time consuming.
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Old 09-26-2016, 12:39 AM
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Thanks! This is a useful way of thinking about it
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Old 09-27-2016, 01:09 AM
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In my experience, you don't see a lot of true agile development in the insurance industry. You see a lot of lip service paid to it, but it does not actually happen.

Insurance entities have fairly rigid budget and planning processes that conflict with the design ideas behind agile development. We tend to be waterfall development organizations at the end of the day.
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Old 09-29-2016, 05:59 PM
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In practice it basically means instead of a linear progression through a project where you can't start on the next step until X is complete, delaying any final deliverable until all the problems are solved, you aim to provide an initial deliverable quickly and then keep releasing new versions of the deliverable as further improvements have been made. It involves constant communication and quick improvements. Lots of coordination is required.
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Old 09-29-2016, 06:28 PM
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In lieu of actually getting stuff done, you have a lot of meetings.
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Old 09-29-2016, 06:31 PM
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It's meetings all the way down
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Old 09-30-2016, 12:59 PM
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Agile is in contrast to waterfall

Waterfall is: All planning > all development > all testing > release
- this is a sensible process if publishing a release is a difficult and time consuming process. Think software distribution in the 90s: you have to print boxes of disks and ship them to retail stores, consumers have to buy and install them. No internet to download updates.
- or think NASA missions, you only get 1 chance to send a rover and can't enhance it once it's in space. Better have 0 bugs.

Agile emerged because software distribution is near-instantaneous now. The typical web start-up model of "get something to consumers, improve it as you go along"

Agile Cycle (AC): identify customer needs > plan cycle's features > development features > test features > release cycle
Agile Development: AC1 > customer feedback > AC2 > customer feedback > AC3 > etc...

The benefit is your subsequent development can be dictated by customer feedback.

Agile cycles typically last a few weeks. So in 2 years you may have 20-30 cycles. In contrast to Waterfall you would work for 2 years and release once.
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Old 09-30-2016, 01:01 PM
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This is just off the top of my head, and may not be using the precise agile lingo. Buy a book to get the agile terms. Scrums and stuff.
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