Our Work


Finance + Scrum = Agile Accounting

By Jessica Gavlin on June 29, 2015

Jessica Gavlin here, ILAO's Finance Director. My job is to act as the principal financial adviser for ILAO ensuring the organization is in compliance with applicable accounting regulations. In honor of today marking the start of our new fiscal year, I was asked to contribute to the rebuild blog. So what does accounting have to do with scrum and our new website? A lot! An asset is defined as: "A resource with economic value that an individual, corporation or country own or controls with the expectation that it will provide future benefit." An asset in your personal life may be your home or car, items that are easy to value. For example, if you want to find out how much your car is worth, you look at Kelly Blue Book or take it to a dealer. Like many technology companies such as Facebook or Google our major asset is our website. While our websites are priceless to the public and legal advocates, they are difficult to value financially since they are built to meet our users' needs.

As I began my research into building a system for accounting for the new website, it became apparent that the existing accounting literature was designed for a traditional development process. The major phases as laid out in the accounting literature are:

  • planning
  • application development
  • graphics development
  • post-implementation

As previous posts have discussed, traditional development methods are too risky for us to build a high quality product that meets our users' changing needs. Each of the above phases has different accounting rules. With scrum, however, each of these phases may be included in a single, 2-week sprint. Additionally, the accounting standards require each component to be recognized when it is ready for production, not necessarily when the whole project is done. At the end of each sprint the dev team has completed stories which could be placed into production. So in order to stay on the right side of accounting law and meet our organizational needs, I adapted.

Rather than wait until the entire project is done to figure out how much we spent in each area and time period, I evaluate the time spent by the dev team and place it into the proper accounting buckets at the end of each sprint. This method ensures we are able to recognize our website development in a timely and accurate manner. Thus, we have used the scrum process to create an agile financial reporting process.

The website rebuild has been a wonderful opportunity to not only reevaluate each aspect of our websites but also to reassess how we value them from a financial perspective. We have all learned so much, including how little we know. I appreciate the dev team's patience with my questions and my previous lack of knowledge on all things Drupal and Scrum. This cross-functional collaboration has resulted in learning opportunities for everyone. Just as agile was meant to be.