Has being Agile ever mattered more? Uncertainty is at historic highs, customers have more options and less patience than ever, and if you’re leading an organization, business unit, or team, it feels like the safety net is long gone.
Extelli helps teams and their customers Know How, Right Now, by making it simple to create, curate, share, and learn from Best Practices.
Extelli sat down with Sigao Studios, a Birmingham, AL-based venture using Agile principles to build custom software so that their business customers always pay just enough, on time, for exactly the right results, to discuss:
- The need for speed
- How teams want collaboration more than ever
- Working with technical and commercial leadership
- How everything is about feedback
- What makes Sigao Studios and Extelli unique
Let’s meet Sigao.
Meet Sigao Studios
Agile isn’t new. In fact, it started with software development back when programming required mainframes and punch cards.
But as Agile and its descendents like Scrum have become common language, the real application of their tenets – versioning, feedback, building just enough – aren’t always real. That’s where Sigao Studios thrives.
Brandon Bosco is Sigao’s CEO and co-founder. Originally founded in Montgomery, AL with partners Chris Sims, Carter Musick, and Luke Colburn, the team relocated to Birmingham in 2016 as the city’s venture renaissance began. Since then, Sigao has rapidly and affordably built high-quality custom software solutions for clients including Inrule, Alden, and Easter Seals.
Agile, and specifically Scrum, matter a lot for Sigao. In fact, in 2021 they spun off a new venture, CAVU, an upskilling platform rooted in Scrum on a mission to create a more equitable workplace. Bosco is also the Product Owner of Platform for CAVU.
What does an Agile-obsessed software development powerhouse have to do with helping your team do their best work by Knowing How, Right Now?
Let’s take a look.
The Need for Speed
“My dad tells stories about how IBM would build software for 18 months and they’d do 3 different modules with 3 different groups and they’d all test it to absolute perfection and they’d put the modules together and they’d work perfectly… Three competitors would’ve popped up by then. [Taking that long] is not feasible anymore.”
That’s a tough world to live in, much less to compete in. In modern terms, 18 months can be at least 3 product cycles. For some companies, it can be 6 or more. Especially when what you build in those 18 months can be a technically perfect solution… to a problem that doesn’t exist anymore.
For Ethan, that speed is the magic of Agile:
“The versioning was captivating to me because I have a supply chain background. That’s where I spent the start of my career. Then I moved to consumer electronics and you start talking about versioning taking 5 to 12 days just for shipping. It makes each bet existential. Those existential bets harmed a lot of businesses during the pandemic as they spent cash they couldn’t afford to lose on highly variable production and shipping lead times.”
When every bet becomes existential, the margin of error disappears.
What can your team do in the face of these challenges? Find ways to test new versions as quickly as possible, based on collaborative feedback.
How Teams Want Collaboration More Than Ever
Collaboration has always been a buzzword because when it works, it’s magical. But there are many obstacles, not the least of which is poor communication within teams.
For Ethan, this was the inspiration for Extelli:
“That’s the most frustrating thing in the world. You’re running through how to do something but this step [in the documentation] breaks… this screen looks nothing like the screen in the document. And you’re stuck. It’s over. The guide’s value is destroyed. You’re frustrated. And honestly, you’ve lost a little bit of faith in whoever handed you the guide.”
Communication breakdowns like these don’t just hurt teams: they’re a Top 5 reason customers abandon software products. When a customer loses trust that a problem can be solved, they give up.
At the same time, no one is trying to fail.
“There’s a lot of stress for both sides because, for instance, Sales is mad about why can’t you get this done and Development is mad because why are you expecting us to get this done? And, and I think you’re right, like having some sort of overlap, even if it’s just hanging out and like hearing about each other’s job.”
In other words, creating a common language fixes the systemic issues creating the obstacle. The frustration is proof that everyone involved cares deeply. Otherwise, they would walk away.
But what if the challenge is with the people setting directions, making decisions, and deciding where the money goes?
In other words… what if it’s a Leadership problem?
Working With Technical and Commercial Leadership
It’s easy to blame leaders. After all, they’re in charge.
For Brandon, this is exactly where an Agile approach thrives:
“The closeness and partnership. We establish that with people, by interviewing them to learn the way they have done things with their products before. The thing that we hear all the time from people is that they have worked with development teams in the past that were unresponsive… So it’s this kind of black hole of of information… Our competitive advantage is that we are interacting with the clients.”
In other words, the issue isn’t Leadership – it’s lack of a relationship. By engaging deeply with your teams, leadership, and customers, you build a rapport that uncovers unspoken assumptions, educates everyone, and uses Scrum concepts like daily standups to communicate quickly and routinely.
This is an all too novel approach, but a quick and relatively easy way to eliminate the false choice of “getting work done” or “serving the customer.”
For technical leadership, this communicates commercial challenges that inform the product. For commercial leadership, this communicates technical challenges that could be avoided entirely.
Sigao Studios’ approach is to do just enough:
“Sigao works off the rule that roughly 80% of the output or benefit comes from the first 20% of the inputs. All the easy big wins up front are the most valuable and then you’re polishing… Then you can say, okay, does it need the polish? Do we need to spend the time and effort on it? And most of the time, [the customer] doesn’t need the polish.”
Everything Is About Feedback
Speed. Collaboration. Communication.
What we’re talking about is feedback. It is a core tenet of any Agile approach, so it’s built into the DNA of Sigao Studios.
Extelli was created to turn all the knowledge that lives in our heads into useful, accessible, current documentation so that everyone Knows How, Right Now.
Both companies are creating success by doing everything based on real feedback. Having frequent conversations to understand what people really need and what the challenges really are. Bringing what’s in our heads into a shared language. Working in short, fast cycles
It’s all about the number of small bets you can make to determine where you need to go.”Brandon Bosco
I think it’s one of the huge advantages of an Agile mindset. Versioning was historically something to manage, to control, to minimize. And now it’s become, ‘How many versions can we get?”Ethan Summers
Agile makes versioning a virtue instead of a cost. Fast versioning creates fast feedback. Fast feedback creates work that is responsive to a rapidly-changing world.
What makes Sigao unique
Sigao Studios wants to do as little work as possible to achieve the most important value so that everyone can move on to new opportunities.
With a consulting industry defined by extending scopes of work to perpetual retainers, this model is unheard of.
By applying an attentive Agile approach, Sigao gives your team the best chance of building just the right product, as fast as possible, for the lowest practical cost.
Hard to beat that combo.
What makes Extelli unique
Extelli is built from scratch to help teams and their customers Know How, Right Now. With Extelli, lessons learned become goals achieved instead of lessons lost.
By quickly and easily creating, curating, and collaborating on the best practices your team has spent so much time and money developing, your team’s chance of responding to real-time market demands skyrocket.
Create step-by-step Guides in seconds using the point-and-click extension.
Curate Guides by enriching them with context, bundling them into helpful Collections, and sharing them by link or email as a public resource.
Collaborate with your teams and customers by assigning Learning Modules that show someone how to do every process they need to know, by sharing Guides in a Library, and by taking community feedback on every Guide.
It’s never been more important to build just enough, right now, for as little money as possible. That means you need to know what your team knows, and keep that Know How up to date as easily as you can.
Whether it’s with Sigao Studios or Extelli, developing insights into reality is a competitive necessity.
Extelli is on a mission to help teams do their best work by Knowing How, Right Now.