SikkaAgile — How Swimming With The Sharks Taught A Small Software Company to be Highly Innovative and Structured
Our offices are located within 5 Sq. miles of some of the most reputed technology companies of the world which also happen to be the most valued companies of the world. The industries are software, artificial intelligence, computing, social networking, energy, space, semiconductors and more. For a small company like ours the opportunity is to balance extreme innovation with feet planted firmly on solid development practices and create incredible software. To achieve this combo is nothing short of a miracle. We just won the best health api award in API World 2017 and it provided one of the proof points that we are achieving a respectable status as an innovative software company catering the healthcare market. The culture of innovation in our company is very deep. We are serving the healthcare market that lives in the previous century and with backend systems that are at least 60 years old. Our customers are doctors who are non-physicians, non-hospitals healthcare providers who open the office in main street but, who are collectively controlling over a trillion dollars in economy. Healthcare is a heavily regulated market with deep privacy, security HIPAA and HITECH protections. Building an award winning API and a thriving marketplace has been possible for us because of the innovation and solid development practices.
Since December 2016: Our Mobile Apps have incorporated Chat Bots, AI, Predictive Analytics to name a few….
Highlights from our build process
· We have nearly 50 releases on both iOS/Android combined since December 2016.
· We have a total of only 2 rejections by the App Store. Our fix/validate/approval cycle has been less than 2 weeks
· We have 0 rejections by Play Store
· All of our major product lines are on this one week build cycle
In this paper we have tried to capture the process that we call SikkaAgile. The reason is that it is a variation of traditional agile programming model. SikkaAgile has enabled us to grow our customer base by 25 new practices a day and that volume is triple that of where we were just 10 months ago. This has enabled us to now have over 100m patients on our platform and over 120k providers. We have also seen a significant improvement in the delivery speed and reduction in bugs in our products.
What is SikkaAgile?
The context in which I am writing this whitepaper relates to a large majority (90%) of the companies today practicing Agile development and release methodology. This means that companies conceive, architect, design, code, validate and release products and features much faster than ever before. It is not simply about TTM (Time-To-Market) or A-TTM (Accelerated — Time-To-Market). In reality, it is about how effectively and efficiently we are addressing the needs of our customer base with consistently improving quality. So, to do it right, we customized and made the wonderful theoretical agile concepts pragmatic. At Sikka Software, we have a fairly distributed development and QA team with product management localized in the USA. One might say that it is extremely hard to be successful when you don’t have developers directly interacting with the product team face-to-face on a regular basis. In the days past, we would have agreed with that and supported that viewpoint. In the recent years, we all have seen the paradigm shift, not just in thinking but in practices, procedures and methodologies as well.
Rules of SikkaAgile
These are a few things we adhere to as part of Sikka Agile practices and disciplines:
· Stick to the scope
· Stick to the weekly releases. Each week has one release
· Be flexible with RRA (roles, responsibilities and accountability) — meaning, cover the gaps when needed for your Agile team
· Regular standups
· Sign off with business stakeholders to clearly understand the deliverables on an ongoing basis
· Clear visibility and smooth hand off with customer-facing teams
This has enabled the Sikka team to really achieve more with less. We can proudly say that to-date we have been doing the weekly releases consistently for over a year. We have also expanded our weekly releases to browser based applications. In addition we have extended the daily standups and the process of SikkaAgile to customer success, sales and marketing.
We manage regression testing via automation and continuous integration. These processes are now fully integrated into our day to day process.
With this paradigm shift, Sikka Agile practices have been customized and adapted to serve customer needs effectively, efficiently and with ever-improving quality. At Sikka, it is also about adopting openness to flexibility in roles, responsibilities and accountability with a common goal: Serve the customer needs us to be the best that we can be. We as a team believe in this, and we went from being in 2- week sprint cycles to weekly releases.
A few topics that can be perceived as challenges when it comes to weekly releases are:
a. Overhead in planning
b. Overhead in regression
c. Overhead in release cycle
Overhead in Planning
If effort is focused on what the customer base needs in the upcoming week, there is not much overhead involved in planning. This, in a way, is simplicity in itself and intrinsically eliminates overhead in planning. We also refer to the usage metrics for our customer base trends.
Overhead in Regression
Focused effort also includes focused areas of modification, in turn reducing “regression risks” in known areas. The approach we take is, “if it is not touched from last week to this week from a coding standpoint, it is already regression tested.” We add automation to this approach, providing coverage week over week with focused effort — making it an effective and efficient approach to a “fix/validate” cycle.
Overhead in Release Cycles
As mentioned earlier, continuous integration works very well for this approach.
Sikka Software is primarily focused on optimizing retail healthcare administration and management, allowing doctors to concentrate on patient care. This is a breakthrough concept where everyone wins. What better way than to lead by example? We optimize our company’s internal practices with pragmatic SikkaAgile discipline so that we can better serve our customers’ interests and needs.
About the author
Suma Kadambi is AVP of Quality at Sikka Software Corporation. Prior to Sikka Suma was director of quality at SquareTrade and Arris Group. Suma served as Director of Quality Engineering at Omnicell Inc and prior to that with BEA Systems and Commerce one. Suma holds a MS in Computer Science degree from Calstate Hayward.