Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift in how the IT industry develops and deploys software. Traditionally, IT teams developed software using the waterfall approach. Under this model, a project team would kick-off a software engineering initiative with a detailed planning phase, during which the end-user requirements are analyzed and documented in detail. After finalizing the requirements, the project would move on to the design, coding, testing and integration phases, culminating in the deployment of the finished product. While the waterfall methodology provides a clear and structured approach for creating software, it entails long development cycles that do not effectively account for scope change. Specifically, it assumes that the project requirements can be “frozen” at the start, however in reality, end-user’s requirements are likely to change throughout the course of the project.
To effectively account for requirement modifications throughout the course of a software development project, the IT industry has increasingly turned to agile development model because of multitude of benefits of agile development. Under the agile model, software is developed in a series of “iterations”, or “sprints”, each lasting approximately 2 – 4 weeks.
During each iteration, the development team simultaneously performs design, coding and testing activities, with the intent of releasing working software with new features at the end of each period. As opposed to the waterfall model, the emphasis is on creating workable software at the end of 2 – 4-week periods.
While the IT industry has increasingly started to leverage the agile development model to develop software, financial services companies have faced substantial challenges in drafting effective contracts for these types of engagements. In Valorant’s experience, the following strategies can help financial services companies effectively manage and drive maximum value from agile development process.
1. Hybrid Commercial Structure
In most cases, customers prefer that agile projects are executed on a fixed price basis. On the
other hand, suppliers typically push for a time and material-based model. In Valorant’s
experience, however, sticking to either of those commercial models creates inefficiencies.
Specifically, using a fixed price model for the entire project undermines the whole principle of
Agile, as it forces the creation of rigid specifications and lengthy change management
processes at the start of a project. On the other hand, a project executed solely on a time and
materials basis creates disincentives for a supplier to create realistic timelines and stick to
Valorant has significant experience in negotiating a hybrid commercial structure with suppliers
for agile projects. This approach is effective in managing costs throughout the duration of the
project, as well as ensuring customers and suppliers focus their efforts on areas that create
maximum business value. Based on the client requirement, Valorant is successful in
customising and negotiating a hybrid commercial model using some/all the characteristics
Time and materials for initial planning to determine the number of iterations or
development cycles that are expected to occur during a particular software development
Fixed price per iteration (calculated by either the amount of work required for that
development cycle or the perceived value of the incremental features added).
Fixed price per end-user requirement, by grouping all items that have a similar scope/
Fixed price for an agreed number of user stories, beyond which the commercial model
will shift to a time & materials model
2. Termination Rights
From a client’s perspective, one of the key benefits of the agile methodology is that it does not
require a commitment to a long development cycle. Rather, it emphasises creating workable
software, in short intervals of 2 – 4 weeks. Hence, customers should be able to walk away from
the project after each iteration.
In reality, customers tend to face significant pushback in convincing suppliers to include a
contractual provision that enables them to terminate (at no additional cost) after each iteration.
Typically, suppliers highlight the significant time and resources in dedicating a development
team and revenue recognition problems, in including such a clause. To overcome these issues,
Valorant has been successful in including the following provisions regarding a customer’s right
to terminate a contract
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