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Agile Transformation In A Financial Company: A Case Study

In today’s digital economy, Agile is not just confined to the IT and Development domains. Today, Financial sectors even made a headway towards implementing the Agile methodology. At the point, when any financial service decides to go Agile, it bodes well for the progress to be executed in stages.    According to one recent study made by the Harvard Business Review (hbr),  around four-fifths of the respondents said that they are successfully executing Agile methodology in the crucial part of the vital business frames. Below image will specify those crucial business functions-   Discussed below is the case study on ‘Agile transformation in a Financial services company’. It is a story of how Agile practices and principles helped a global financial company towards achieving better business agility. Company Profile The client is a global financial institution with offices spread across Asia and US. Inspired by the success stories that Agile Transformation brought, and with an objective to improve time-to-market for applications delivered this company attempted in bringing added value to both business lines and clients. They chose the Agile framework for the purpose.  While the company showed a lot of interest to bring in change, they also realised that achieving benefits with Agile Transformation would be no small deal, given the complexities of their organization structure, product management, budgeting and the existing waterfall practices that were thriving within the teams! The company realized very soon that in order to have an Agile transformation, at first, they need to build an Agile mindset!  So, the company decided to introduce some external coaches who can help in the journey of transforming to Agile ways of working. Our expert coaches worked with them to address this tricky situation using a multi-pronged, organization-wide approach to help the client teams build their positive experiences, step by step.  Engagement Type Process and Technical Coaching. Business Challenge Finding a way to respond to an increasingly changing competitive landscape, including a much larger direct competitor. Technical Challenge To find the ways to overcome the industry-related challenges with practices that help deliver high-value applications faster and frequently, leading to improved time to market. The Burning Platform Slow-down in making releases and lack of innovation. Key drivers for slow-down are- Detailed Document Requirements  Complex Quarterly planning Domain bottlenecks Developer Context Switching Phase-gate approach to Software Development Integrating Testing Cycles Goals of Transformation Frequent high-value releases, faster speed to market, sustainable transformation, Better follow-through on execution, higher quality.   Proposed Solution “Big Bang” enterprise transformation to address business imperatives for increasing customer focus and pace of innovation. This decision was due to the high degree of interdependence between the teams and the need to establish an enterprise operational framework for staffing, delivery, and governance. Sprint Cadence was common for all the Scrum Teams Common ALM Tool for all the Scrum teams Setting up the Agile Coaching Office External Coaches – Initially Coaches were mapped to BU’s and later the Coaches were assigned at the Program level which resulted in better ROI from Coaches Assess the current situation and rally leadership around an organization-wide change roadmap. Design a plan leveraging Scrum, XP, Lean Startup and other change approaches and techniques and begin execution. Started with Scrum then introduced XP in the teams. Lean startup approach was taken for Product Management which helped only in building features for which the customers were interested in the product. Adjust the plan as needed, scale out small successes, and offer recommendations for sustaining results. Help client initiate culture shifts throughout the organization Setup the Enterprise Transformation Dashboard to assess the progress and monitor the ROI from Transformation Internal Coaches Competency Development Program – To develop internal coaches for sustaining the transformation effort Launch interactive community practices within the organization for teams to learn by sharing Benefits (What Client Got) Our expert coaches worked with them to address long-standing issues delivering high-quality products to the market quickly and consistently. With our guidance, they finally saw the positive and long-lasting effects of a successful Agile transformation that enabled them to visualize— and hopefully, achieve—a nearly limitless future. Together, the Director of IT and our coaches looked at high-level strategies for reducing cycle time, improving the quality of both the existing and future code base, eliminating silos of information, demonstrating what Agile leadership looks like, and ensuring program leadership participated in the decision-making regarding changes on the technology side. A comprehensive assessment of the client’s cultural and business baseline, from which to work toward an organization-wide culture, delivery, and leadership shift Increased visibility into product delivery obstacles Drastically decreased delivery cycle time, removing an “integration window” Workflow and technical training and coaching to stand up high-performance teams Program coaching to ensure leadership decisions supported transformation goals and objectives Visible improvement in the overall quality of production code as well as test code Coaches partnered with software engineers to blend roles and set teams on a path toward becoming more cross-functional—a key ingredient in all high-yield software teams. Software Craftsmanship by using Agile Engineering Practices Delivering high-quality consumable value quickly before the relevant market opportunity is past Advising leadership and helping lead the transformation program, implementing just-in-time changes so that the company could excel in a rapidly changing business landscape Looking for opportunities to align people and processes to ensure continuous improvement Leading the coaching community in the execution of the change management program by involving company’s leadership in Coaching office operations Restructuring the thinking and organizational execution patterns so that portfolio planning and execution is used to manage key initiatives Teams also started delivering monitoring and automation frameworks that implemented continuous integration and automated deployment. Created a portfolio leadership team to manage and implement one Product Backlog with multiple Product Owners Working with HR to define the roles Facilitating conversations between business and IT helping them visualize the work being done Limiting team work-in-progress to help them focus on the products that are most important to the bottom line All parties were able to see the release from a program point of view and to truly understand that the goal of every department is to satisfy and delight customers. Our coaches also delivered several Lean Startup workshops to the product strategy innovation group. These one-to-two-day sessions are designed to help company leaders choose future products and investment opportunities. One of the biggest initial wins for the systems teams was a shortened delivery cycle. What used to take months now took weeks. Quality improved too. One of the was our coaches helped the team in accomplishing this was by introducing teams to continuous integration. Fruit of the Transformation In the wake of executing the Agile technique in the financial territories, organizations started experiencing: Delivery cycles tremendously reduced Teams implementing continuous integration, continuous deployment and some teams working toward continuous delivery Teams releasing consumable value in smaller increments of better quality faster Improved alignment between teams and between department groups Transformed company culture, extending Agility beyond software teams This, exactly, is what we achieved through our Agile transformation. This is not to say that we helped the team eliminate their existing limitations completely. Our Agile efforts essentially made every impediment visible and helped the team to work in unison towards a common goal.  Is your team ready for a similar Agile transformation?
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Agile Transformation In A Financial Company: A Case Study

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Agile Transformation In A Financial Company: A Case Study

In today’s digital economy, Agile is not just confined to the IT and Development domains. Today, Financial sectors even made a headway towards implementing the Agile methodology. At the point, when any financial service decides to go Agile, it bodes well for the progress to be executed in stages.   

According to one recent study made by the Harvard Business Review (hbr),  around four-fifths of the respondents said that they are successfully executing Agile methodology in the crucial part of the vital business frames. Below image will specify those crucial business functions-

 

Discussed below is the case study on ‘Agile transformation in a Financial services company’. It is a story of how Agile practices and principles helped a global financial company towards achieving better business agility.

Company Profile

The client is a global financial institution with offices spread across Asia and US. Inspired by the success stories that Agile Transformation brought, and with an objective to improve time-to-market for applications delivered this company attempted in bringing added value to both business lines and clients. They chose the Agile framework for the purpose. 

While the company showed a lot of interest to bring in change, they also realised that achieving benefits with Agile Transformation would be no small deal, given the complexities of their organization structure, product management, budgeting and the existing waterfall practices that were thriving within the teams!

The company realized very soon that in order to have an Agile transformation, at first, they need to build an Agile mindset! 

So, the company decided to introduce some external coaches who can help in the journey of transforming to Agile ways of working. Our expert coaches worked with them to address this tricky situation using a multi-pronged, organization-wide approach to help the client teams build their positive experiences, step by step. 

Engagement Type

Process and Technical Coaching.

Business Challenge

Finding a way to respond to an increasingly changing competitive landscape, including a much larger direct competitor.

Technical Challenge

To find the ways to overcome the industry-related challenges with practices that help deliver high-value applications faster and frequently, leading to improved time to market.

The Burning Platform

Slow-down in making releases and lack of innovation. Key drivers for slow-down are-

  • Detailed Document Requirements 
  • Complex Quarterly planning
  • Domain bottlenecks
  • Developer Context Switching
  • Phase-gate approach to Software Development
  • Integrating Testing Cycles

Goals of Transformation

Frequent high-value releases, faster speed to market, sustainable transformation, Better follow-through on execution, higher quality.

 

Proposed Solution

  • “Big Bang” enterprise transformation to address business imperatives for increasing customer focus and pace of innovation. This decision was due to the high degree of interdependence between the teams and the need to establish an enterprise operational framework for staffing, delivery, and governance.
  • Sprint Cadence was common for all the Scrum Teams
  • Common ALM Tool for all the Scrum teams
  • Setting up the Agile Coaching Office
  • External Coaches – Initially Coaches were mapped to BU’s and later the Coaches were assigned at the Program level which resulted in better ROI from Coaches
  • Assess the current situation and rally leadership around an organization-wide change roadmap.
  • Design a plan leveraging Scrum, XP, Lean Startup and other change approaches and techniques and begin execution. Started with Scrum then introduced XP in the teams. Lean startup approach was taken for Product Management which helped only in building features for which the customers were interested in the product.
  • Adjust the plan as needed, scale out small successes, and offer recommendations for sustaining results.
  • Help client initiate culture shifts throughout the organization
  • Setup the Enterprise Transformation Dashboard to assess the progress and monitor the ROI from Transformation
  • Internal Coaches Competency Development Program – To develop internal coaches for sustaining the transformation effort
  • Launch interactive community practices within the organization for teams to learn by sharing

Benefits (What Client Got)

  • Our expert coaches worked with them to address long-standing issues delivering high-quality products to the market quickly and consistently. With our guidance, they finally saw the positive and long-lasting effects of a successful Agile transformation that enabled them to visualize— and hopefully, achieve—a nearly limitless future.
  • Together, the Director of IT and our coaches looked at high-level strategies for reducing cycle time, improving the quality of both the existing and future code base, eliminating silos of information, demonstrating what Agile leadership looks like, and ensuring program leadership participated in the decision-making regarding changes on the technology side.
  • A comprehensive assessment of the client’s cultural and business baseline, from which to work toward an organization-wide culture, delivery, and leadership shift
  • Increased visibility into product delivery obstacles
  • Drastically decreased delivery cycle time, removing an “integration window”
  • Workflow and technical training and coaching to stand up high-performance teams
  • Program coaching to ensure leadership decisions supported transformation goals and objectives
  • Visible improvement in the overall quality of production code as well as test code
  • Coaches partnered with software engineers to blend roles and set teams on a path toward becoming more cross-functional—a key ingredient in all high-yield software teams.
  • Software Craftsmanship by using Agile Engineering Practices
  • Delivering high-quality consumable value quickly before the relevant market opportunity is past
  • Advising leadership and helping lead the transformation program, implementing just-in-time changes so that the company could excel in a rapidly changing business landscape
  • Looking for opportunities to align people and processes to ensure continuous improvement
  • Leading the coaching community in the execution of the change management program by involving company’s leadership in Coaching office operations
  • Restructuring the thinking and organizational execution patterns so that portfolio planning and execution is used to manage key initiatives
  • Teams also started delivering monitoring and automation frameworks that implemented continuous integration and automated deployment.
  • Created a portfolio leadership team to manage and implement one Product Backlog with multiple Product Owners
  • Working with HR to define the roles
  • Facilitating conversations between business and IT helping them visualize the work being done
  • Limiting team work-in-progress to help them focus on the products that are most important to the bottom line
  • All parties were able to see the release from a program point of view and to truly understand that the goal of every department is to satisfy and delight customers.
  • Our coaches also delivered several Lean Startup workshops to the product strategy innovation group. These one-to-two-day sessions are designed to help company leaders choose future products and investment opportunities.
  • One of the biggest initial wins for the systems teams was a shortened delivery cycle. What used to take months now took weeks. Quality improved too. One of the was our coaches helped the team in accomplishing this was by introducing teams to continuous integration.

Fruit of the Transformation

In the wake of executing the Agile technique in the financial territories, organizations started experiencing:

  • Delivery cycles tremendously reduced
  • Teams implementing continuous integration, continuous deployment and some teams working toward continuous delivery
  • Teams releasing consumable value in smaller increments of better quality faster
  • Improved alignment between teams and between department groups
  • Transformed company culture, extending Agility beyond software teams

This, exactly, is what we achieved through our Agile transformation. This is not to say that we helped the team eliminate their existing limitations completely. Our Agile efforts essentially made every impediment visible and helped the team to work in unison towards a common goal. 

Is your team ready for a similar Agile transformation?

Sandeep

Sandeep Kshirsagar

trainer

Sandeep is an Agile mentor with more than 12 years of experience as a Developer, Test Engineer, Automation Engineer, Scrum Master and an Agile Coach. He is presently working as an Agile Coach at Knowledgehut Solutions Pvt Ltd. Up until this point, he has prepared 800+ programming experts and trained more than 450+ programming experts in Agile journey at different organizations.
 

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The work items appear in the column as per their current state in the development workflow and then move across the board from one column to the next till they reach completion or last stage.The “To Do / Ready” and “Done” states appear in almost every Scrum Board, the “In Progress” items can be further categorized into various states e.g. – Analyse, Design, Code, Test etc. These states are solely created as per the needs of the Scrum Team and Project.                                                                                                               Image 1: Simple Scrum Board  Why is a Scrum Board needed? The Scrum Board visually represents the amount of work along with their current states in a Sprint.  The Board speaks to the team everyday about the holistic progress made by the entire team towards their Sprint Goals and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement when work items are completed. It avoids creation and progress of “Hidden Work” or “Shoulder Tap” injected work that may not be prioritized. In the event of an interruption (like production issue, any new or changed requirements, changed priorities), it helps Business to reprioritize the work items quickly looking at the current state of the planned items in the Sprint.   It also keeps reinforcing road blocks and impediments faced by the team to all the major stakeholders. Any number of written and verbal communication may not be able to visually represent the state of the entire sprintas a whole as effectively as this visual radiator.Scrum board allows teams to manage the flow of work across the sprint as it helps in avoiding multi-tasking, overloading one person because everything is visible and traceable. How to organize a Scrum Board Physical and Virtual Scrum Boards Teams that are entirely collocated can benefit from physical boards that caneven just be a whiteboard placed near their work cubicles. A physical board could also be on a wall having coloured tape for columns and sticky notes for cards.  Team members typically swarm around the board /agile wall/task wallduring their daily stand up or whenever there is a need.                                                                                                                            Image 2: A typical physical scrum board                                                                                                                                 Image 3: A typical Jira scrum boardDistributed teams on the other hand find virtual boards easy to use. There are many tools available in the market to set up Scrum Boardssuch asJira , Rally , Monday.com etc.  In some companies, the Scrum boards are displayed on giant monitors placed near the teams work cubicles. Cards and Columns are the two basic entities on the scrum board.Card is the entity on the board that represents a “Work Item”. 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Well, the term dates back to the 1680s when large logs were placed at the back of a fire to keep the blaze going and concentrate the heat. By the 1880s, the term was adopted in its figurative sense of "something stored up for later use". So, a Backlog is a prioritized list of items the teams’ need to work for the successful delivery of a product. According to the State of Scrum 2015 report, surprisingly, only 56% of the respondents reported using extensive scrum artifacts like Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog. Major success criteria for any Agile project lie in its backlog and it demands a lot of focus both in terms of keeping it refined and updated with current situation. Thankfully, it is the topic of the day, and here we will talk more about it! Product Backlog  What is a Product Backlog? The Product Backlog is the ordered list of requirements of all that is required to successfully deliver it to the client. It contains the prioritized list of requirements that can be detailed or vague and has everything that needs to be done for a particular product. One can visualize it as a big bucket that has all the items/necessities needed for a product to be successful and competitive in nature.  Who owns the Product Backlog? The Product Backlog is primarily handled by the Product Owner who takes care of the client's needs and makes sure the product backlog represents the exact requirement. The product owner is responsible for keeping the backlog healthy and in a state that is readily consumable by the team. The product backlog is never frozen, the items can change as per the demand and market scenario. Anyone can suggest items to be added in the list but the final say will always be on the Product Owner.  Example of a Product Backlog Let’s look at an example to further understand it better: Build a mobile application for a local bank so that the users can access the bank on the go. Product Backlog would look like: S. No.RequirementPriority1Create a sign in page for the usersHigh2Create a logout pageHigh3Create a home page to land after successful sign in to the applicationHigh4Create a page for AccountsMedium5Create a page for Money TransferMedium6Create a page for LoansMedium7Create a page for User ProfileLow8Create a page for 'Contact Us' sectionLowThere can be multiple other requirements both frontend and backend to get this mobile application delivered, but, here for understanding, we are just taking a few of them. Each item in the list will have a priority attached to it, this makes it easy for the development team to pick work once they are done with the one in hand. Product Backlog can also be termed as the master list of requirements. Sprint Backlog What is a Sprint Backlog? Sprint Backlog is a list derived from the product backlog or the master list. When teams start working in Scrum, they have sprints which are a timebox for delivery, it defines when a customer can expect the shipment and at what intervals. The period can range from a week to a months’ timeline. Here, in sprints, the team pulls the work from the product backlog as per the priority and their capacity and put it in a smaller bucket called ‘Sprint Backlog’. It is like delivering the big Product Backlog in chunks called “Sprint Backlog’. The Sprint Backlog can also be defined as a subset of superset ‘Product Backlog’. For a successful product delivery, both are essential, and hence the need to keep them healthy.  Who owns the Sprint Backlog? Sprint backlog is owned by the scrum team andtogether they create their sprint board which consists of the user stories, bugs (if any), and spikes. It is the development team who determines the Sprint Backlog. Here, the Scrum Master can facilitate the Sprint Planning meeting to help the team come up with the Sprint Backlog. The scrum team utilizes the sprint planning meeting to discuss on the sprint goal and the commitment they can make for the upcoming sprint. They pull the items to discuss from the top of the list and create their sprint backlog according to the capacity and complexity of parameters.  Example of a Sprint Backlog So, the sprint backlog is a subset of product backlog and going back to our example let's create a Sprint backlog now: S.No.RequirementPriority1Create a sign in page for the usersHigh2Create a logout pageHigh3Create a home page to land after successful sign-in to the applicationHighIn our example, we have pulled the sprint backlog items from the master list which was already in a prioritized state. Product backlog vs Scrum backlog: Understanding the difference The Scrum Master can help the development team understand the difference between Product Backlog and the Sprint Backlog, this can be done through coaching the teams about the process and the Scrum artifacts and can help the Product owner in maintaining a healthy backlog. The team uses Product Backlog to create their sprint backlog. During the Sprint planning meeting, the development team should talk about the complexity and the efforts needed to get the job done. They pull the items from the product backlog to the Sprint Backlog to be completed in the sprint timebox. How to create a more effective Product Backlog? Effective Product Backlog depends on a clear understanding of the result and the need. The Product Owner must clearly define the requirements that have details enough for the team to get a clear picture of what is needed to be done. The product backlog needs to be a thorough list of all the work that must be done to get the project delivered successfully. Once a high-level list is created, the development team can help in further refining and creating an exhaustive backlog with all the technical aspects needed to deliver the functional side. Creating a backlog should be a collective team effort, this also helps in bringing about the ownership and collaborative environment amongst the group. Though the development team can help the Product Owner in creating a proper efficient Product Backlog, the sole responsibility for the Product Backlog lies with the Product Owner. How to create a better Sprint Backlog? Once you have a good Product Backlog, pulling out the Sprint Backlog gets easy. Sprint Backlog gets its shape during the sprint planning meeting which is the first thing in a new iteration where the team sits together, either, physically or virtually, to discuss the requirements they can work on in a new sprint. Essentially the discussion circles the functionalities, the technical aspect around it, and how much they can load in an iteration. Here, the Scrum Master can help the team with excellent facilitation skills to come up with a sprint goal as a joint team effort. The team pulls up the highest priority items from the product backlog to discuss functionality and complexity, they also converse on the steps they could take to reach the goal. What are the benefits of Backlog Prioritization? Prioritization is one of the critical aspects of a Product Backlog that helps in keeping it in a healthy state. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of prioritizing the backlog: Helps in the Sprint Planning with the story selection as the Product Backlog is already Prioritized. Better visibility to pull items during the iteration if the team has the bandwidth. Effective risk management due to pre-known issues during the grooming of the backlog Improved supervision of dependencies Early return of investment as the requirement follows value-based delivery. %
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