Roller Skate Implementation

9 September 2007

A key property of agile development is figuring out how to make a system go live with a small subset of features. We build software for the business value it offers, the quicker we go live, the faster we get at least some of that business value.

My colleague Dave Leigh-Fellows told me one of my favorite examples of this kind of thinking. It came when we has working for a brokerage firm. They had a new kind of product that they wanted to get into the market. The full software support for this was a web page that the customer filled in that generated the necessary transactions against the back-end system. But Dave came up with a way to get the product into the market faster than that.

  • Version 1 was a static web page that described the product and provided a telephone number to call. Some temporary staff then spoke to the customer and entered the information into the back end system.
  • Version 2 was a web form that captured the data the customer filled in. However this version didn't load that data into to the back end system. Instead the web form generated a fax. They hired some more temps to get the orders from the fax machine to the people that keyed the information into the back end system. Since the fax machines were a bit of a distance away, this is where the roller-skates came in.
  • Version 3 hooked the web form into the back-end system directly.

The first two versions may not have been the most elegant solutions ever conceived, but they did get the product into the market much more quickly. I've not come across any other examples of iterative development that use roller-skates, but that may be more due to lack of imagination rather than lack of need.