Search

Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

Working in the Financial Services industry for the past 13 years as a project manager has had its challenges.  My organization is a weak-matrixed structure, so project managers really have little to no power from resourcing to managing costs.  (I’ve never had to manage a budget in my entire career as a project manager – how is that possible?)  Throughout my career I’ve learned that PMP is only valued if you work in IT performing Waterfall projects.  As the company gravitated from Waterfall to Agile projects, the thought process shifted from PMP concepts to our own handpicked, homegrown ways of tracking projects.  I only learned about Agile by being a part of a program where I resided in IT as a project manager, 13 years ago. Since I returned to the business side, IT has become extremely Agile and reinforces use of PMP concepts around the appropriate PMBOK knowledge areas.  For the past 5 years, I am managing business projects and challenges exist around the adoption of Agile and its primary concepts.  PMOs are relatively new to my organization (less than 5 years) and based on our weak-matrixed structure, not much direction exists around the best practices that our IT partners utilize to show the value of ‘their’ projects.  I’ve seen many projects never reach the completion stage and if they do; there is no value provided to senior leadership around ROI, IRR, etc. as it was never tracked properly (if at all) or they wanted to determine ROI after the project closed.For the past 5 years, I have worked on a program in the business to assist with implementing new Marketing Technology throughout my global organization.  The constant question I would be asked from my business partners is, ‘What value are you providing to us in this effort?’  First, let me provide some context.  The group I work in is considered shared services, so we never charge our business partners for our ‘services’.  My group also relies on the business to provide the budget and resources for implementing these new technologies.  I believe this is another reason why it has taken 5 years to implement just 1 technology and we have about 4-5 more in the pipeline waiting for funding.Here lies my challenge – how do I answer the question about how my group is providing value with the work we are supporting and leading?  I’ll use an analogy.  The approach my group has found to be most viable is as simple as teaching a child how to ride a bike.  Until they are comfortable with the training wheels, the parent needs to keep their hand on the back of the bike seat.  Once the parent feels the child has the confidence; they let go and the child doesn’t even know the parent wasn’t supporting them.  Step 1 complete!  Next step, the wheels come off and the process is repeated.  Once the child has mastered balance, the parent let’s go and the child knows how to ride a bike for the rest of their life.  Step 2 complete!Same is the case with a project manager and his team in the initial days and after a certain period of time. This is depicted in the figure below.Since I don’t have a budget and resources to manage, my group goes back to the basics.  Step 1: Riding with training wheels.  We ask our business partners if they are using the new technology and what they are using it for.  In other words, are they using the data they are getting the right way?  For example, In order to assist our business partners with this, my team partners with an analytics insights group within my department to consult with our business partners to help them see the value they may obtain by successfully running a marketing campaign to drive a conversion – such as purchasing or investing in a specified product.  Step 2: Remove the training wheels.  Once the business recognizes they can see the value out of using the data properly, they are off and running with a few touch points for consulting in case they want continue to obtain more value from the data.  It’s that easy, right?  Well, not really.  In my organization, most of our business partners do not know how to take the next step to gain more value; such as tying in all channels – web, mobile, advertising, print, email, etc.  That is where hiring the right resources with the right skillset for roles and possibly bringing in external resources to grow the business in that knowledge area is critical.I feel, in my organization, applying PMBOK knowledge and running projects using many of its recommended standards would be helpful in this endeavor.  First and foremost, with being able to utilize the right resources in-house or external resources who have the skillset you need to be successful is one simple step in the right direction. Secondly, implementing ways to capture value by performing initial analysis through project selection to determine ROI, IRR, NPV, FV and cost-benefit analysis.  Third, during the project life cycle, utilize Earned Value Management and other budgeting techniques to hold the project team accountable for their progress and quality of work.  To me these are basic concepts that my organization isn’t performing well at all levels.  By becoming a balanced or strong-matrixed organization we would be able to leverage the PMO to start recommending standards to head in the right direction.

Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

1K
Is Agile Project Management Effective For Financial Services?

Working in the Financial Services industry for the past 13 years as a project manager has had its challenges.  My organization is a weak-matrixed structure, so project managers really have little to no power from resourcing to managing costs.  (I’ve never had to manage a budget in my entire career as a project manager – how is that possible?)  Throughout my career I’ve learned that PMP is only valued if you work in IT performing Waterfall projects.  As the company gravitated from Waterfall to Agile projects, the thought process shifted from PMP concepts to our own handpicked, homegrown ways of tracking projects.  I only learned about Agile by being a part of a program where I resided in IT as a project manager, 13 years ago. Since I returned to the business side, IT has become extremely Agile and reinforces use of PMP concepts around the appropriate PMBOK knowledge areas.  

For the past 5 years, I am managing business projects and challenges exist around the adoption of Agile and its primary concepts.  PMOs are relatively new to my organization (less than 5 years) and based on our weak-matrixed structure, not much direction exists around the best practices that our IT partners utilize to show the value of ‘their’ projects.  I’ve seen many projects never reach the completion stage and if they do; there is no value provided to senior leadership around ROI, IRR, etc. as it was never tracked properly (if at all) or they wanted to determine ROI after the project closed.

For the past 5 years, I have worked on a program in the business to assist with implementing new Marketing Technology throughout my global organization.  The constant question I would be asked from my business partners is, ‘What value are you providing to us in this effort?’  First, let me provide some context.  The group I work in is considered shared services, so we never charge our business partners for our ‘services’.  My group also relies on the business to provide the budget and resources for implementing these new technologies.  I believe this is another reason why it has taken 5 years to implement just 1 technology and we have about 4-5 more in the pipeline waiting for funding.

Here lies my challenge – how do I answer the question about how my group is providing value with the work we are supporting and leading?  I’ll use an analogy.  The approach my group has found to be most viable is as simple as teaching a child how to ride a bike.  Until they are comfortable with the training wheels, the parent needs to keep their hand on the back of the bike seat.  Once the parent feels the child has the confidence; they let go and the child doesn’t even know the parent wasn’t supporting them.  Step 1 complete!  Next step, the wheels come off and the process is repeated.  Once the child has mastered balance, the parent let’s go and the child knows how to ride a bike for the rest of their life.  Step 2 complete!

Same is the case with a project manager and his team in the initial days and after a certain period of time. This is depicted in the figure below.

Project Manager Team Road Map
Since I don’t have a budget and resources to manage, my group goes back to the basics.  Step 1: Riding with training wheels.  We ask our business partners if they are using the new technology and what they are using it for.  In other words, are they using the data they are getting the right way?  For example, In order to assist our business partners with this, my team partners with an analytics insights group within my department to consult with our business partners to help them see the value they may obtain by successfully running a marketing campaign to drive a conversion – such as purchasing or investing in a specified product.  Step 2: Remove the training wheels.  Once the business recognizes they can see the value out of using the data properly, they are off and running with a few touch points for consulting in case they want continue to obtain more value from the data.  It’s that easy, right?  Well, not really.  

In my organization, most of our business partners do not know how to take the next step to gain more value; such as tying in all channels – web, mobile, advertising, print, email, etc.  That is where hiring the right resources with the right skillset for roles and possibly bringing in external resources to grow the business in that knowledge area is critical.

I feel, in my organization, applying PMBOK knowledge and running projects using many of its recommended standards would be helpful in this endeavor.  First and foremost, with being able to utilize the right resources in-house or external resources who have the skillset you need to be successful is one simple step in the right direction. Secondly, implementing ways to capture value by performing initial analysis through project selection to determine ROI, IRR, NPV, FV and cost-benefit analysis.  Third, during the project life cycle, utilize Earned Value Management and other budgeting techniques to hold the project team accountable for their progress and quality of work.  To me these are basic concepts that my organization isn’t performing well at all levels.  By becoming a balanced or strong-matrixed organization we would be able to leverage the PMO to start recommending standards to head in the right direction.

Denise

Denise Aronson

Blog author

Denise Aronson has worked in the financial services industry for 18 years, gaining experience in digital marketing, data analytics, and project management. As a seasoned digital project manager, she has a proven track record of implementing $5M+ enterprise level marketing technologies.  Most recently, she managed a Leadership Symposium event bringing 2,600 global leaders to the U.S. for a 2 day conference.  She is passionate about advancing the use of data and analytics to drive business decisions and successfully managing projects. In addition to project management, she is also involved in the Digital Analytics Association Women in Analytics group and her PMI local chapter group. Outside of the office, Denise enjoys attending concerts, sailing, and making artisan breads.
 

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggested Blogs

The Ultimate Guide to Sprint Planning

The Scrum framework has been popular lately and several studies have provedthat the global share of Scrum is more than 50%. One of the reasons for the phenomenal success of Scrum lies in its ceremonies, one of its key pillars.  Scrum has three critical components that create the structure or a skeleton and provides a way of working to the teams and individual, namely, roles, artifacts, and ceremonies. Scrum has four different ceremonies to support Agile software delivery where the Sprint starts with planning and ends with the retrospective. Let us quickly talk about the four ceremonies and then we will start with our topic of the day and deep dive more into Sprint planning. Daily Scrum The event is intended to bring together everyone in the scrum team and talk about what the accomplished last, what is the plan for today and is there any impediment. This event can be categorized under daily planning and collaborative team effort to attain the scrum goal. Sprint planning This event occurs at the start of the Sprint where the team together decides on the Sprint backlog and gains consensus on the sprint goal. They also talk about the estimation, capacity, risk, dependencies, and the timeline. This event is facilitated by the scrum master and occurs once in every Sprint. Sprint review This is the second last event in the print where the team showcases the entire deliverable they have been working throughout this print. This is the time when the stakeholders look at the finished product and provide their feedback. The event provides an effective platform for a collaborative approach with the client towards software delivery. Sprint retrospective This is one of my favorite events in Scrum, though the ceremony looks simple, if done correctly, it can yield tremendous results. It provides the team with a chance to pause and check which things are working, what is not, and how can they improve moving forward. Scrum ceremoniesEach of the ceremonies can be elaborated more as they are deep and dense. This article serves as an in-depthguide on Sprint planning for Scrum practitioners. The Sprint Planning meeting The What Sprint planning can be thought of as a ‘green flag’ that gives a go-ahead to the train called “Sprint”. The purpose of this meeting is to provide the sprint goal and ‘how’ that can be delivered. This is the first meeting that takes place in a Sprint where the scrum team comes together to create the Sprint backlog within a “time-box”, this time-box depends on the iteration length, if the iteration is of two weeks, the time-box can be up to four hours for a team of seven to nine people.  During the Sprint planning meeting, the product owner describes the objective of the sprint and what product backlog items can be utilized to reach that objective. Consequently, the scrum team decides how to work on ‘how’ to get the goal achieved. The How The sprint planning meeting is divided into two parts, first part, constitutes discussion on the sprint backlog creation and the second part revolves around the capacity and estimation. The product owner must keep the product backlog stays in a healthy state, it is prioritized and has the right requirements for the team to work on. The team should also be aware of their capacity and velocity to make appropriate Sprint commitment. Spring Planning meeting agendaThe Who The spring planning meeting is attended by the product owner, the development team, and the scrum master. All three roles are mandatory to run this meeting.  The product owner defines the objective of the sprint and supports the development team with the product backlog. In turn, the development team talks about ‘how’ to deliver and the approach they could take. They can also inform the product owner if the requirement is not doable (at times, the requirements might not be technologically feasible, in such cases the team can discuss the same with the product owner). The Scrum Master takes up the facilitation of the event, they make sure the team sits with an effective ‘input’ and comes out with an efficient ‘output’. The Inputs The Product Backlog serves as the ‘Input’ for the Sprint Planning meeting. It provides the development team with the starting point as it contains the list of requirements for delivery. The Product Backlog is owned by the product owner and hence the responsibility of keeping it up-to-date falls within their purview. The team starts with the highest priority item in the list, clear doubts (if any) and add it up to the Sprint Backlog. To make proper sprint commitment, the team should know their capacity and velocity. The Outputs The sprint planning meeting intends to generate a sprint goal and backlog. The output also defines the ’how’ approach, which the team will take to reach its goal. The team must understand the value of this event, as this draws a path for sprint success. The Scrum Master can help the team and the product owner to come up with an effective plan through their facilitation skills.Input and output of the Sprint Planning MeetingHow do we prepare for the sprint planning meeting? As with other events, the sprint planning meeting has a set agenda and timebox which the team must follow diligently. A healthy backlog is a key to efficacious sprint planning, which means, the Product Owner always must maintain and keep the backlog updated. The team needs to be aware of the available capacity and the targeted velocity this helps in coming up with the correct commitment during the Sprint planning session. What is a backlog? A backlog is a list of requirements from the client to create the desired product. It contains new features, enhancements, bugs, Infrastructure changes, or any architectural requirement. Any work that is related to a product should be in the backlog.  Backlog items are placed in a prioritized list manner Every item in the backlog has an estimate it can either be a high-level estimate or the exact/close estimate, depending on where it falls in the list. Usually, the top few items in the bucket have more clarity, details, and close estimates as compared to the items down in the list. Determining velocity Velocity is unique for every team; no two teams can have the same velocity. Every organization has a different approach towards velocity, ideally, the teams should take an average of the last five sprints. The average formula works for the teams who have been in the system for long or they have spent at least eight to ten sprints as a team.  Usually, velocity-based planning is done with mature teams who are aware of the product and they are good at process. With new teams, the ideal approach relies on the completed stories vs accepted stories ratio. Determining capacity Capacity is determined by available working hours in the sprint timeline which also takes into consideration, the leaves, any holidays, and contingency hours (if required). Capacity directly impacts the output as a team and helps them during Sprint commitment.  Sprint Planning checklist While Agile development is more of a mindset than a methodology, checklists can help guidetheproduct owner, the development team, and the scrum master as they plan and execute sprints. Sprint planning preparation A few days out from the actual sprint planning meeting: Review product roadmap and vision.  Ask team members to update boards and focus on moving tickets to done.  Run sprint review and retrospective.  Groom product backlog: Make sure every user story has a clear priority, is fully formed, and up to date with context and estimates.  Choose sprint goal.  Create a sprint backlog of enough user stories to fill two sprints. Sprint planning meeting Ensure your entire team is present for the meeting.  Start video call for remote team members.  If needed, clean up old board(s) with team by checking status of open tickets.  Discuss spillovers: Should these be continued or dropped? Move any spill-over tasks into the right buckets.  Set the stage with product and market updates.  Define the sprint goal.  Create a “new sprint”. Discuss the goal and team’s capacity:  Is this realistic? If not, can the team lower the scope?  Worst case scenario the product owner needs to come up with a new sprint goal. A few days out from the actual sprint planning meeting: Discuss proposed sprint backlog: Let the team pick user stories and tasks that match the sprint goal and capacity.  Discuss the definition of “done”.  Break down each user story into individual tasks: Make sure each task has as much information as possible.  Ask whether the scope of work leaves time for unexpected issues.  Ask if the scope of work leaves space to tackle bugs and technical debt.  Move sprint backlog of decided-upon user stories and associated tasks into the sprint board.  Get verbal confirmation from the team that they know what to do.  Set up due dates and times for future scrum meetings.Here is a quick checklist to help you plan the Sprint Plan. You can modify and adapt as necessary.The outcome of the Sprint Planning meeting The planning meeting intends to come up with Sprint goal and sprint commitment which is in the form of Sprint backlog. This backlog contains a list of stories, bugs, enhancements, etc. as required by the product owner. The output of the Sprint planning meeting is also to define the approach, the task, and other activities required to achieve the Sprint goal.  Everything that needs to be done is part of the Sprint backlog, by the end of Sprint planning meeting the team should have a solid plan with the ownership This output is further shared with the stakeholders, management and within the team which not only helps in being transparent but it also supports the team to stay focused. How to get Sprint Planning right Scrum focuses on time boxing and hence Sprint planning also requires control over the time limit for the event. As per the industry standards, a sprint of two weeks should be time-boxed for a maximum of 4 hours. The scrum master is responsible for making sure the team sticks to the timing and helps them in coming up with the plan. Spend planning can be an exhaustive ceremony where the team brainstorms, discusses the requirements and ownership.  With great facilitation skills, the scrum master can ask the team to start with an item they know well and subsequently move forward. The team can utilize various estimation techniques to define a number or a story point for each requirement. They can use T-shirt sizing, poker planning, or any other technique they are comfortable with. For effective estimation, the team needs an environment that is transparent, trustworthy, and open to new ideas. This reminds us of the Scrum values and principles that form the foundation of the framework. Common reasons why Sprint Planning fails Multiple reasons can contribute to scrum planning failure. Let us look at some of the frequent cases: Uncooked backlog Most of the time the product backlog is not up to date and lacks prioritization. In such cases the team struggles in defining the Sprint goal, they face difficulties in defining the Sprint commitment due to lack of clarity and details. Unrealistic expectations Oftentimes teams are required to work on requirements that are not feasible, or the team faces some technological challenge. Over-commitment When the teams do not realize the capacity and their velocity and tend to over-commit, this leads to hurdles in delivery. Beyond Time-box Spending too much time in Sprint planning can also jeopardize the event, the team must follow the time-box, going over minute details is not required. Scrum is an empirical process, which means You do not have to plan everything upfront.   Quick tips for success Set a Goal The Product Owner should come up with a sprint goal and share it with the development team. The goal helps the team and staying focused throughout the sprint, they can also use baby scrum meeting to check if they are on track with the goal. Healthy product backlog If the product backlog is in the Good shape, and has stories in order of priority, the team can start pulling from the top. they can even plan a pre-planning meeting, which is also known as backlog grooming who defines the upcoming sprint backlog. Valuable meeting measures Everyone in the team should have the sprint planning meeting invite and if required it should contain the link to video conferencing in-case of a distributed team. The team should have the data on capacity and velocity, and they understand estimations and prioritization. They can use different colored stickies to represent backlog items for example stories can be represented with green and bugs can be presented with red. As per the discipline, the team should follow timeboxing strictly, they can finish early but to go beyond the time is not recommended.  Best practices in Sprint Planning To course a positive sprint, you need to be very prepared and have a solid understanding of what is practicable to shape with the team you have within the timebox. This is the reason why a sprint planning session is so vital for placing the foundation for an agile development project. Let us touch base on some best practices that the teams can adopt for the smooth running of the scrum event. Strategy for uncertainties During the sprint planning meeting, the team talks about capacity, velocity, and shapes their Sprint commitment around the confident items. Planning for uncertainties not only helps in contingency but it also reduces the upcoming risk that can pose an impediment for the team. Sprint skeleton Laying out the stories or Sprint items in the form of a map helps the team in getting a tentative idea around each deliverable. this also helps in defining the internal dependencies and the teams can better plan by moving them up and down. Building consensus It is important to get the team onboarded together as a single group for the sprint goal. They should understand the importance and the urgency of the deliverable and they are ready to take the ownership, this also requires supporting the teammates. Benefits of Sprint Planning A successful Sprint planning creates a smooth runway for the team to start their work. It provides clarity in terms of commitment, goals, timelines, and ownership. The output of the Sprint planning meeting sets an expectation with both the parties - the scrum team and the stakeholders - on what to expect by the end of the Sprint. It can be visualized as the team pulling a bucket of work from a big pile and focus on delivering that bucket with expected quality. Ready, set, sprint! “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - French writer and pioneering aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Done in the right spirit, Sprint planning can do wonders in sprint delivery. All it requires is a focused approach, discipline, few best practices, and a collaborative approach towards a solution.  If you have followed this guide, at the end of your sprint planning session you and your entire team should walk away with: An agreed-upon Sprint Goal and a clear definition of “done” Commitment to a realistic sprint backlog Understanding of the bug fixes and support work included in the backlog Detailed tasks for each user story with an estimation and acceptance criteria Due dates and scheduled scrum meetings Now, all you have to do is the work.Ready to start or grow your Agile career?  Check out our latest courses, learn the skills and get the personalized guidance you need. 
6891
The Ultimate Guide to Sprint Planning

The Scrum framework has been popular lately and se... Read More

6 Metaphors To Understand The Value Of Scrum Values

The Scrum framework, a team-based approach, follows certain rules and principles helping the organizations and professionals both to identify ‘what works best for them’. The commitment, focus, openness, respect, courage are the five core Scrum values which are often underrated. These values add ethics to Scrum project management encouraging the members to follow a defined route for project management; therefore, the understanding of these values is very important for Scrum team members.  The following six metaphors simplify the understanding of Scrum values:  1. Scrum Values Are Like "Fasteners" The fasteners are used to bind two materials, similar or different, together and resist their separation. The Scrum values serve a similar purpose by keeping the Scrum team members together despite their different roles. Scrum team members need to practice all the Scrum Values as the parts of a unit for performing up to the full potential, whether the results are as per expectations or not.    2. Scrum Values Are Like the "Foundation" The Scrum values provide a stable foundation for sustainable project development. The foundation is built on the confidence and trust of members over each other. In a well developed Scrum team, members believe in the capabilities of other members; and, it helps them to handle the challenges collectively in a planned manner. The strong foundation encourages delivering the best for each Sprint goal. The strong relationship and mutual understanding help the Scrum team perform as a unit for the common objective – profitable on-the-time delivery of best-quality project.          3. Scrum Values Are Like a "Compass" A number of times, a Scrum team struggles hard to hit the Sprint goals despite having required skills, resources, support and opportunities. Without having a clear vision, team members feel perished. A great vision always precedes the success; but just having a vision is not enough until you understand it in the light of your mission. Therefore, it is important to check the vision whether it is compelling all the team members to deliver their best or not.  Scrum values are the compass-like guiding tool. Scrum team members embracing the Scrum values possess the moral compass that drives them towards the Sprint goal, helps them stay together, and guides to choose the right process. The Scrum values guide the Scrum team like a compass to go ahead for a successful project delivery.  4. Scrum Values Are Like a "Magnet" The ‘Law of Magnetism’ mentioned in ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John C. Maxwell, 1998) states that “Who you are is who you attract.” The practicing of Scrum values develops a positive energy helping you to develop an effective Scrum team and to keep all the members intact. The attitude to follow the Scrum values strictly instils the feel of unity among the team members; and, this magnetic force improves the project quality and individuals’ performance.       5. Scrum Values Are Like The “Sportsmanship” The metaphor “sportsmanship” to define Scrum values brings the notion to compete. It drives the Scrum team members to manage the complexities, challenges of shorter sprint duration, new guidelines, backlog work pressure etc. Like the sportsmanship keeps the sportsman cool despite the tough competition on the track, the Scrum values  encourage the members to focus on the targets without being perturbed by the new developments.      6. Scrum Values Are the "Identity"  The defined Scrum Values are the identity of a Scrum team because these values guide the team members on ‘how to behave and act’ securing the organization’s interests while satisfying the customer as well. Your beliefs as a team member identify you because these beliefs govern your thought line and actions. The management expert Ken Blanchard says that organizations claim for having a set of behavioural values but these values are the commonly accepted generic organizational beliefs pertaining to profitability, responsiveness to customers and integrity. Scrum values guide the members’ behaviour in the line of organization's vision & mission.    The word "commitment" is a #Scrum value, but was removed from the Scrum Guide several years ago in relation to the team's Sprint Goal. Why? Because committing to behaviour is effective, whereas committing to achieving x output in a fixed timeframe isn't. — Neil Killick (@neil_killick) March 13, 2018 Conclusion:    Scrum framework guides to imply a team-based approach ensuring the maximum values to the customer and business. After the successful development of Scrum team, the next task of Scrum master is to get the best from each member; and, it is possible only if each member understands the importance of Scrum values and respects them as an organizational culture. Organizing the ‘Scrum certification training’ for the concerned team members helps a lot to get the best from the individuals through the smooth processes, ensuring the peak deliverance at project completion.
6 Metaphors To Understand The Value Of Scrum Value...

The Scrum framework, a team-based approach, follow... Read More

INFOGRAPHIC: SCRUM Process In A Nutshell

We provide Certified Scrum Master training, to check out the schedule click here
INFOGRAPHIC: SCRUM Process In A Nutshell

We provide Certified Scrum Master training, t... Read More

Useful links