“2 + 2 + 2” Framework: Out-of-the-box Scrum Interpretation by Ryan Brucker
A six-week schema for building great FinTech products based on the experience of Ryan Brucker, CTO at Portfolio Pathway
It’s the norm for FinTech startups to explore a variety of development methodologies as they grow. In fact, part of every CTO’s job is finding optimal methodology, choosing sprint duration, and determining other ways of ensuring seamless implementation. To make the right choice, CTOs consider business models, technology stacks, partnerships, and other criteria. They rarely take a pure Scrum or Kanban approach, opting instead for mixes of Agile, implementing some part of Waterfall to enable integration with traditional financial institutions, and/or applying proprietary methodologies.
Another industry differentiator is the high speed of releases necessary to stay relevant and keep up with customer requests. It forces companies to choose short, frequent sprints and release as quickly as possible. But there are always exceptions.
Ryan Brucker, CTO at Portfolio Pathway, a cloud-based platform for performance reporting, billing and rebalancing, found his own way to stimulate the work of his team. He believes that speed isn’t more important than setting priorities wisely and catching up on work is. In our interview with him, we discussed why he implemented a six-week iteration cycle, what it includes, and what benefits it provides for the company.
Ryan told me that theirs is very close to a Scrum approach, but they don’t follow it to the letter of the law. At the very beginning of their development cycle, Portfolio Pathway’s customer-facing team presents collected feedback to our management members, and then they have a regularly occurring iteration schedule to discuss if they can turn that into something useful. The management team includes Dave Miller, CEO, Ryan, and a couple of other business leadership reps.
“At our management team meetings, we discuss our concepts or ideas and decide [if] there[’s] something actionable based on what we’ve come up with. Is that something we want to explore? We get together on a regular basis to prioritize and make decisions about what we want to do and […] when we can deliver that. And if we choose to, then it goes into our backlog with details, resources, and deadlines specified.” –Ryan Brucker
According to Ryan, they do a two-week sprint, which is a little different than a traditional Scrum approach wherein everything is done within a two-week period: QA, development, and business requirements. Instead, they have a requirement cycle for refining ideas that translates into the development cycle, and then a separate QA cycle.
“It’s like a six-week cycle, from start to finish, that we typically follow. I can’t tell you that we’ve never rushed something through, right, but generally speaking, that’s our goal. We try to have everything done ahead of time to make sure that each process gets adequate time.” –Ryan Brucker
Ryan says that they tried to work with a two-week cycle, but among other difficulties, the team found that this approach offered them a very limited scope. It just doesn’t work out well for FinTech, Ryan says, especially with the amount of testing that’s involved in the finance space. Thus, Ryan and his team were forced to adapt.
Right now, Ryan with his team work on providing a thin client experience, remaking the way customers interact with it.
“The idea behind the Portfolio Pathway website is it acts and behaves like [an] application versus a traditional website. It’s not refreshing the page every time you make a click, but you click, and the page changes in front of you.” –Ryan Brucker
Customer convenience is the priority during the development stage at Portfolio Pathway, but they don’t use continuous delivery the way we’re used to thinking about it. Instead, they make sure they work on something that really matters at the moment and allocate enough time for its robust, flawless implementation.
Testing for simplicity
When I asked Ryan what type of testing they using more often, manual or automated, he answered that they do a combination. During their two-week testing period, Portfolio Pathway conducts both manual and automated tests for better coverage. According to Ryan, automated unit tests are set up as part of their solution’s architecture, and they focus on testing user interface (UI).
“The challenge that we had was our changing the user interface so much that automating [became] a challenge.” –Ryan Brucker
Testing for UI and simplicity of use is crucial, but necessary changes that make the product competitive and serve customers in new ways can actually pose obstacles. Sure, once they cease changing it so much at once, they’ll be able to automate UI testing and reduce effort. But right now, the cost of innovation is time.
Focus is key
The trend Ryan observes in the industry is that most WealthTech startups strive to provide a bunch of products. In this case, he believes, one is probably not going to do any of them really well, because it’s not the focus.
“We’re seeing that there’s a lot of product offerings. Some are focused on one aspect of wealth management, [and] some try to tackle a number of processes. We’re focused on integrations [that] allow people to use whatever product they want.” –Ryan Brucker
Ryan’s experience finds that there’s a balance between the integration and simplicity of a platform. He wants to allow for integrations, meanwhile focusing on providing a fuller platform of tools to use.