Australian bank saves with agile development

Getting the most out of in-house coding efforts is an ongoing task, but Macquarie Bank in Australia claims to see greater productivity and quality with agile development and proactive internal communication.

Grant Gardner, associate director in the information systems division for Macquarie's banking and property group, said because there is a lot more talk about agile processes in the media people expect a methodology to be a "magic bullet" in solving process problems.

"There's no substitute for good people but we make good use of techniques," Gardner said. "

About four years ago the bank started a $1 million (US$750,000) project to modernize its client/server architecture and made a "straightforward" decision to go with Java. This move also gave Macquarie an opportunity to adopt an "agile manifesto" which set principles valuing individuals and processes over tools, working software over documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.

"We are a bank and the conservatism that comes with that is apparent," Gardner said. "We looked at the market and found a partner with good agile development experience - ThoughtWorks."

Macquarie's agile development practices involve iterative cycles of typically two weeks, which are a smaller version of the overarching plan done "repeatedly and frequently".