Standard Bank – Implementing SAFe and DevOps

Standard Bank - Implementing SAFe and DevOps

“SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide. It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, roles, and jobs to achieve our goals for productivity, morale, and quality.”

Alex Keyter, Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4), Standard Bank

Challenge:

The bank sought to improve service quality, efficiency, and employee morale, but previous efforts to scale Lean-Agile beyond a few teams had stalled.

Industry:

Financial Services

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • Time-to-market reduced from 700 to 30 days
  • Deployments increased from once or twice a year to monthly
  • Productivity increased 50%
  • Cost decreased by 77%
  • Predictability is now at 68%
  • Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016, thanks in part to SAFe

Best Practices:

  • Focus on culture change – Standard Bank moved from individual recognition to team awards and KPIs. The bank increased excitement and engagement through gamification, skills building, and automation.
  • Get the business involved early – The bank started the transition with IT. In hindsight, they would have engaged business owners sooner so they understood that the change was not just about IT. A handful of progressive thinkers helped influence the others.
  • Don’t forget to focus on engineering – “SAFe, coupled with a focus on engineering, takes it to the next level,” says Mike Murphy, Standard Bank CTO.

Introduction

Based in South Africa, Standard Bank is the largest African banking group, with total assets of ZAR1.95 trillion (USD143 billion). For more than 152 years, the bank has served the continent and is now present in 20 sub-Saharan countries. Standard Bank operates seven different portfolio offerings across business and personal banking, corporate and investment, and wealth management.

Standard Bank - Implementing SAFe and DevOps

At Standard Bank, the IT team embarks on approximately 600 projects every year to help keep the bank at the leading edge. Yet traditionally, teams have completed only a small percentage of projects within the defined timeframe, budget, and scope.

To improve follow-through, Standard Bank tried a few Lean-Agile pilots. However, their efforts stalled when they attempted to expand beyond a few teams working in isolation.

“We were very much a project-based environment,” explains Alex Keyter, Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4) at Standard Bank. “We tried waterfall, a combined team approach, and other frameworks, but nothing addressed the challenge of delivering value across organizational silos. Standard Bank has over 2,000 systems in IT, which required tremendous coordination to deliver an initiative successfully.”

Changing Culture and Launching POCs

On the back of a number of benchmarks that the bank set locally and internationally, the company initiated a four-pillar IT strategy:

  • Quality of service through brilliant basics, which are defined as IT housekeeping and maintenance; stability of service; and simplifying and reducing complexity
  • Responsiveness to market
  • Sustainability as the foundation of client excellence
  • Affordability through commercial pragmatism

To support its goals, the bank turned to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), and gained backing from executives to move ahead with deploying it. “SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide,” Keyter says. “It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, programs, and teams to achieve our strategic goals.”

But prior to rolling out SAFe, Standard Bank initiated various culture initiatives to start driving the change in behavior of leaders and teams, and launched proofs of concept.

“To affect culture change is like pulling out a rubber band,” explains Josef Langerman, Head of Engineering and IT Transformation at Standard Bank. “When the band is relaxed, it returns to its previous comfortable state. One has to exert energy again to pull it out. By doing this repeatedly and in different ways, the band gets softer and more stretched out. Similarly, culture needs continued effort and reliance on many techniques to move it to a new comfortable or desired state. There is no silver bullet.”

The bank took a number of steps to stretch out of its comfort zone:

  • They pulled cross-functional teams together and began delivering on a cadence
  • The Internet Banking and ATM teams modeled breaking work down into smaller, more manageable pieces and demonstrated to stakeholders the work completed during the sprint
  • Business and IT stakeholders joined in during these showcases to provide feedback to the teams
  • They switched their work attire from suits and ties to jeans
  • They began running off-site sessions with IT to define culture themes, change guilds, and more
  • They initiated DevOps initiatives prior to the SAFe implementation but were formalized during the roll-out

As part of the transition, Standard Bank set out to create a fully automated self-provisioning environment with scripting, and used an automation challenge to drive interest in skills. Automation pilots yielded significant tangible results:

  • 20 minutes – Time to deploy application server stack end-to-end
  • 30 seconds – Time to release new code to customers
  • 0 percent – Deployment impact to customers

Additionally, the bank set a clear vision for the future of the organization. At the top, leaders aligned around a common understanding of goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) and emulated Silicon Valley tech leaders on the kind of change and coaching culture required.

At lower levels, the development community participated in defining the future state of the bank. Standard Bank also empowered employees to design their own culture as a group—to achieve true ownership.

Implementing SAFe and DevOps

Prior to launching the first Agile Release Train (ART), Standard Bank portfolios embarked on an outside-in model, moving away from the traditional project structures into a SAFe design construct forming cross-functional Teams, Programs, and Portfolios. The bank set a milestone for the first of July 2016 for teams to co-locate, work from a backlog, and establish visual management of work and self-regulated teams.

With the outside-in design taking shape, Human Capital with support from the Group CIO started a program that focused on re-skilling individuals to repurpose them as software engineers, quality engineers, or user experience analysts. Once they passed the aptitude test and went through the program, they were placed in a feature team. As a result, the organization now has more people getting the work done versus managing it.

Standard Bank - Implementing SAFe and DevOps

“We really broke the old business operating model,” explains Adrian Vermooten, Head of Digital for the Africa Regions. “We said, ‘We’re changing our methodology. We’re moving out of this building and you’re giving up your old jobs.’”

In July 2016, two individuals attended SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) training and returned to begin rapidly training hundreds of team members. From July 2016 through February 2017, Standard Bank trained approximately 1,200 people on Leading SAFe in preparation for its first Program Increment (PI) planning meeting in January 2017.

A division CIO set the tone for executive sponsorship by earning certification as a SAFe Agilist prior to the first PI. Then he and other leaders planned heavily for the first event.

The First PI: A Mind-frame Shift

Leading up to the first Program Increment (PI), the bank evaluated the various internal and external teams impacting Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in the Portfolio and extended invitations accordingly. The first PI brought together 300 people from the Card & Emerging Payments group, which depends on more than 32 systems with numerous codependencies. While challenging, the event succeeded in kicking off a major mind-frame shift.

“The way we normally do things, we inherently start with, ‘Why? And we can’t do that,’ as opposed to this process which was, ‘We can do it, and how?’” stated one of the attendees.

Following a successful PI Planning session, the benchmark was set and other Portfolios soon followed with their first PI Planning sessions.

Productivity Up 50 Percent

These days, with more than 2,000 people trained on Leading SAFe, Lean-Agile practices and SAFe are key parts of Standard Bank’s strategic plan. The move to SAFe delivered a number of benefits, both qualitative and quantitative. Standard Bank succeeded in breaking down silos and improving dependency management. They removed complexity and reduced cost—while building more. Business people now prioritize work and budgets to account for IT change.

The bank notes significant gains within some of the more mature Teams or Portfolios:

  • Time-to-market reduced from 700 to 30 days
  • Deployments increased from once or twice a year to monthly
  • Productivity increased 50 percent
  • Cost decreased by 77 percent
  • Predictability is now at 68 percent
  • Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016

As hoped, the benefits have trickled down to the customer. “We put together some teams that much more closely represent the customer value chain,” Vermooten says.

Beyond the numbers, Vermooten sees the changes firsthand every day. Senior staff members get out from behind their desks and interact more with teams, while junior staff feel more free to share ideas.

“We flattened the organization,” he says. “Before, only senior people would speak up in meetings. Now, in every meeting, junior people are leading the conversation. There’s higher energy and intensity in people. It brings out the best in them.”

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Suggested Case Study: Westpac

Vantiv – Scaled Agile Business Solutions with SAFe

Scaled Agile Business Solutions with SAFe

“Since beginning our Lean-Agile journey with SAFe, Vantiv has focused its strategic efforts and its execution. We have improved the predictability of product delivery while maintaining high quality, and have become even more responsive to customers—resulting in higher customer satisfaction. And just as important, employee engagement went up over the past year.”

Dave Kent, Enterprise Agile Coach, Vantiv

Challenge:

Deliver solutions with more sustainable, long-term impact, and do so quickly to stay ahead in a competitive industry

Industry:

Information Technology, Financial Services

Solution:

SAFe® v4.0

Results:

  • In 2015, Vantiv delivered 7 percent more features and capabilities with 9 percent less staff.
  • In response to an internal customer’s request, teams delivered on time—if not ahead of schedule—with a significant positive impact to financial results.
  • Teams delivered on commitments 80 to 100 percent of the time.
  • Year over year, the number of changes in its solutions has doubled, yet the number of quality incidents reported by customers has not increased.

Best Practices:

  • Quarterly Business Reviews—Collaborative meetings keep product teams and the business on the same page.
  • Get experienced help—Agile coaches provided experience and practical examples that made a difference compared to previous efforts.

The partner that made it happen:

Introduction

Payment processing leader Vantiv Inc. powers more than $25 billion financial transactions every year, from the largest retailers in the U.S. to your local coffee shop. The company makes payments smarter, faster, and easier by partnering with software companies and technology service firms to embed payments processing in front and back office applications. Its commerce technology integrates into a broad set of point of sale systems, reaching merchants through an extensive partner network of thousands of point-of-sale software developers and value-added resellers.

Vantiv - Scaled Agile Business Solutions with SAFe

The company also offers a comprehensive suite of traditional and innovative payment processing and technology solutions to merchants and financial institutions of all sizes, enabling them to address their payment processing needs through a single provider.

Exceptionally responsive to customers, Vantiv creates many of its solutions specifically for individual organizations. While retaining its renowned enterprise service, the company sought to take a longer-term view by developing solutions to meet the needs of a broader range of its customer base. The goal is to deliver solutions with more sustainable, long-term impact, and do so quickly to stay ahead in a competitive industry.

SAFe: For Consistency and Continuous Improvement

In 2015, Vantiv embarked on several business transformation initiatives under a common umbrella called True North. True North seeks to create a culture of clarity, direction, and continuous improvement; and rewire the company for excellence in product, IT, marketing, and strategy.

For an objective view, Vantiv brought in a well-respected thought leader in product management and product development. The consultant made two key recommendations: take a more holistic view with a product-led strategy, and pursue a Lean-Agile approach for product development across the enterprise. At that time, there were pockets of Scrum within IT.

To address both those goals, the company started an Agile transformation of its entire enterprise, however, momentum was hindered by a lack of focus on people and teams, and little understanding of Agile. For help, Vantiv turned to Scaled Agile Gold Partners, CA Technologies and Icon Technology Consulting, along with the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) for the structure and methodology needed to deploy Lean-Agile practices.

“To be successful with Agile, we realized that we needed a more concerted effort at the team level and more consistency in how we deliver,” says Henry Noble, Program Director, Transformation. “We found SAFe the ideal framework for achieving that.”

1000+ SAFe Users

With the help of their partners, Vantiv held a series of “Agile Awareness” roadshows around the company’s various locations. They answered questions and encouraged employees to talk about past Agile efforts.

Next, Vantiv employees attended a 2-week formation program with an introduction to Lean-Agile practices and tools. Dedicated coaches worked daily with the group that ultimately formed into seven teams. They began working in two-week sprints, but held off on forming their first Agile Release Train (ART) until they were ready to fully embrace the new way of working.

Vantiv - Scaled Agile Business Solutions with SAFe

Though initially hesitant, teams soon embraced with the new approach. “The biggest misunderstanding that developers had was that if you’re Agile you’re fluid,” Noble says. “But they soon learned there is quite of bit of structure required to be successful.”

Teams soon became more engaged, and after 6-8 weeks teams had matured enough to be ready to assemble an ART. For the first Program Increment (PI) planning meeting, in June of 2015, the event brought together 150 people.

“We see a common pattern where the first PI event for each newly formed train feels like they’re not ready, but post PI event every participant says it’s one of the best planning meetings they have ever attended,” Noble says.

From there, Vantiv’s Agile maturity accelerated with multiple Agile Release Trains containing multiple teams and all of the enterprise leveraging the SAFe framework.

Collaborative Quarterly Reviews

Part of the transformation required improved alignment between business goals and product development.

“Our quarterly business reviews were a great opportunity to provide greater transparency and feedback, and demonstrate how the whole organization adjusts and collaborates to help address customer needs,” says Dave Kent, Enterprise Agile Coach at Vantiv. “Participation in this strategic planning by all stakeholders not only helps with product leadership, but also shows how powerful it is when product and IT strategy are aligned.”

Gains in Every Area

Eighteen months after deploying SAFe, the company has measured improvements:

Productivity

In 2015, Vantiv delivered seven percent more features and capabilities with nine percent less manpower. “We can comfortably say we’re delivering more capabilities with less staff while going through a transformation at the same time,” Noble says. “We do more with less by eliminating waste and focusing on core functionality.”

Time to Market

Vantiv has met its goal of becoming more focused on product delivery—creating innovative solutions ahead of market demand.

Predictability

At the ART level, teams delivered on commitments 80 to 100 percent of the time by focusing on incremental delivery and listening to the stakeholders’ feedback.

“To continue to stay ahead of the market, we focused on our responsiveness and predictability, resulting in firm commitments to our customers and providing transparency to the organization,” says Henry Noble, Program Director, Transformation at Vantiv.

Quality

Year over year, the number of changes to its solutions has doubled, yet the number of quality incidents reported by customers has not increased. “Our quality continues to improve, with quality now being built in from the smallest pieces,” Kent says.

Employee Engagement and Retention

With greater transparency comes more trust and employee engagement, making for a real culture change. That led to a decrease in attrition over the past two years, and Vantiv has been voted Best Place to Work in Cincinnati.

“SAFe provides alignment and transparency,” Kent says. “Individuals feel like they truly understand their part in the whole, and how their work aligns with the goals of the company.”

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Suggested Case Study: Royal Philips

Northwestern Mutual – SAFe for Financial Service

“We had been challenged a number of times in changing our underlying CRM platform. After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12M less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted.”

Bryan Kadlec, Director, Client Digital Experience

Challenge:

Market leader Northwestern Mutual sought to apply Lean-Agile practices to remain competitive, though previous efforts had been stymied by a longtime Waterfall culture.

Industry:

Financial Services, Insurance

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • Collection Feature Cycle Time improved 30-50%
  • IT delivers requested capabilities 80-90 % of the time
  • The overall effort on a project came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted

Best Practices:

  • Support experimentation—Leadership at NWM fostered an environment, and provided resources, to enable this transformation. “Our forward-thinking leadership knew we needed to bring in some changes so they invested in continuous learning and improvement,” Schindler says.
  • Use proxies for offshore teams—NWM pre-plans with offshore teams and then brings proxy representatives to PI planning events.
  • Customize SAFe—NWM increased engagement with its own spin on the program board, with the Transformation Railway Station.

Introduction

In business, staying ahead of the competition inevitably requires taking some risks. But how do you do this, when a key part of your success depends on keeping risk at bay? That’s the question Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual (NWM) had to answer while seeking new ways to maintain and build on their 160-year history of helping families and businesses achieve financial security.

To maintain the leadership position NWM has built over nearly 160 years, the organization has taken an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to business. It’s paid off: The past year (2016) was one of the company’s strongest. The company reported record-level revenue ($27.9 billion), was named by FORTUNE® magazine as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies, and has maintained the highest financial strength ratings awarded to any U.S. life insurer.*

300-Day Cycles

In 2012, the company reached a turning point. In addition to a company-wide push for continuous learning and improvement, IT needed to move faster.

“It took over 300 days and many instances to deliver value to our customers,” says Jill Schindler, Manager, Client Digital Experience. “We were getting a lot of questions around, ‘Why does it take so long and cost so much?’ We knew we needed to be more flexible, adaptable and responsive, and it didn’t take us long to realize that Agile was a big part of that.”

SAFe for Financial Services

NWM had tried to adopt Lean-Agile practices before, experimenting with a few Scrum teams in the mid-2000s. However, those efforts ran headfirst into a deeply ingrained Waterfall culture.

“We didn’t start with much training or coaching, and teams worked on the aspects they wanted instead of the aspects that we needed,” says Bryan Kadlec, Director, Client Digital Experience. “We fell woefully behind and then were slammed by a waterfall world to put out the fire.”

A Second Attempt at Agile

Northwestern Mutual shelved its Scrum efforts until 2012, when the company embarked on a more methodical approach to Agile. This time, they set out to train as many people as possible. “We wanted to do this and senior leadership believed in it, so we pushed forward,” Schindler says.

At the time, three or four teams experimented with Agile but the organization simply was not set up to accommodate it.

For next steps, they held their first rapid improvement event (Value Stream mapping). The weeklong event brought together Scrum teams and specialized teams with the goal of addressing the challenges of these distinct groups working together. The end result: a better understanding of the problems and a systematic way of approaching them. Key to that was engaging the IT strategy team to help remove barriers.

The Missing Piece

About that time, NWM found the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and quickly saw it as the missing piece. “SAFe totally lines up with what we were already trying to do but we just didn’t have a platform for it,” Schindler says. “This was the framework we needed for delivering Agile at scale.”

“In SAFe, we could see Agile and Lean together and had this sense that it was a very powerful thing,” Kadlec adds.

Schindler and Kadlec went back to the leaders or their respective organizations and secured resources to try SAFe—becoming pioneers not just for their own company, but also establishing NWM as the first large company in Wisconsin to take this course. They believed firmly in their chosen path, but it still felt risky to apply new practices to a large chunk of the company’s portfolio.

“It shaved a few years off our lives!” Kadlec quips. “We believed that the path we were taking would deliver high value, but it still felt high risk. But if we’re going to compete, we had to have quicker response time.”

The First Program Increment (PI)

SAFe for Financial Services

Schindler and Kadlec trained as SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) and additionally tapped Al Shalloway, CEO, Net Objectives, along with SAFe Fellow Jennifer Fawcett to facilitate the company’s first PI planning event. NWM asked 270 people to come together for the first two-day event—in January in Wisconsin—where they launched their first four Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

The response was heartening. People were engaged and ultimately on board. “At the end of the day, we felt a huge sense of accomplishment,” Schindler says. “Everyone understood what was expected of them.” Northwestern went on to train as many people as possible. In fact, for some team members, training was the first sprint.

Making the shift in the company’s longtime waterfall culture wasn’t easy. Coaching was key, especially at the beginning. As teams went through cycles of Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, old behaviors would emerge—and need to be addressed. In truth, some individuals chose to leave—but most chose to dedicate themselves to the new way of working. The “new era” behaviors the Agile mindset fosters have taken such a firm hold companywide that they are now a factor in performance reviews.

By the second PI event, again with Fawcett facilitating, Release Train Engineers had a sense of ownership.

Transformation Railway Station

Northwestern Mutual took a clever twist on the ART program board, dubbing it Transformation Railway Station. On its board, a tunnel image represents the funnel of new work/ideas and cows represent impediments. The former is particularly apt given that, in 1859, two policy owners were killed when a train hit a cow and derailed. When the new company lacked the full funds to pay out those first life insurance claims (for $3500), NWM’s president at the time personally borrowed the funds.

On the board, laminated trains make their way along the track (the Portfolio level) from the departure station through various stages:

  • Identify—Communicate change vision, and determine Value Stream, ARTs, scope, PI planning date and training
  • Prep—Perform SAFe training
  • Launch—Conduct final prep and first PI planning event
  • Mature—Coach and develop the ART
  • Inspect and Adapt—Hold Inspect and Adapt workshop, plus second PI planning event
  • Aftercare—Complete coach strength, weakness, opportunity and threats (SWOT) assessment; discuss future coaching engagement

Through the PI, all parties keep a close watch on progress and metrics. “Leadership can walk up and know where we are at any time,” says Sarah Scott, Agile Lean Organization Coach at Northwestern Mutual.

SAFe for Financial Services
Transformation Railway Station

Cycle Time Improvement

Since deploying SAFe, and beginning its first earnest Agile efforts, Northwestern Mutual reduced Collection Feature Cycle Time by 30-50%. And surveys of business representatives indicate that IT delivers what they requested 80-90 percent of the time.

Ultimately, the changes affected the bottom-line—for the better. “After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted,” Kadlec says.

Now in year three, with 12 PIs behind them, the company has five SAFe instances and 14 ARTs in progress across a wide range of product areas. Northwestern Mutual provides leadership for SAFe in Wisconsin, even hosting a Scaling Agile Meetup Group that draws as many as 300 attendees to its monthly gatherings.

“We’re at a tipping point now, continuing to break down barriers,” Schindler says. “The whole organization is in the heart of a major transformation and we’re leveraging SAFe to accelerate our Lean-Agile IT transformation. We’re at a whole other level that I don’t think would have happened as quickly or with as much impact if we’d just had a handful of Scrum teams.”

* Ratings are for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, as of the most recent review and report by each rating agency. Northwestern Mutual’s ratings: A.M. Best Company A++ (highest), 5/2016; Fitch Ratings AAA (highest), 11/2016; Moody’s Investors Service Aaa (highest), 1/2017; Standard & Poor’s AA+ (second highest), 6/2016. Ratings are subject to change.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NWM), Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries.

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Suggested Case Study: Fannie Mae

Westpac – Implementing SAFe in Banking Services

Westpac - Implementing SAFe in Banking Services

Everyone hearing the same message from the same trainers at the same time was a huge enabler for alignment and a ‘one-team’ culture.”

Em Campbell-Pretty, Context Matters

Challenge:

After the successful rollout of a new online banking platform, Westpac received numerous requests for additional features and needed to deliver quickly.

Industry:

Banking

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • Westpac successfully took 150 people from waterfall to Agile in one week, and garnered positive feedback from teams
  • Team and business engagement went up
  • Cycle time and defects went down

Best Practices:

  • Get executive buy-in—Getting leadership on board—and participating—is essential to achieving team buy-in
  • Include all roles in training—Triple check that everyone is scheduled to get the training they need
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare—A one-week launch takes significant pre-work

Overview

One of Australia’s “big four” banks, Westpac serves approximately 10 million consumer and business customers across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Challenge

In 2015, Westpac launched a new online banking platform. Though very successful—and award-winning—the launch resulted in a huge demand to deliver additional features quickly. The company wanted to take an Agile approach to rolling out new capabilities but lacked the training and know-how to apply it to this initiative.

Solution

Westpac reached out to Scaled Agile Partner, Context Matters, for guidance, leading to the decision to adopt SAFe, and form an Agile Release Train (ART) for the new features.

Before launch planning began, the company settled on a vision, a prioritized feature backlog, an approach to product ownership and a decision on capacity allocation.

At the time, teams were focused on delivering the final release of the in-flight program. If they were going to change the delivery approach for the next release, they would need to move fast. With a small window of opportunity, a SAFe QuickStart seemed the only answer.

Implementing SAFe in Banking Services

To achieve launch in one week, Westpac began by training everyone at the same time. Midweek, they aligned all teams to common objectives, secured commitment and continued training during planning. By week’s end, they provided orientation for specialty roles, open spaces and tool training for teams.

Development teams would be available in six weeks, so Westpac grabbed that time slot—knowing the window would be tight. After buy-in from executives on the business and IT sides, they were ready for next steps.

To support their efforts, they also established Communities of Practice and hold monthly technical workshops for developers.

2 Days of Leading SAFe® Training

Next, 32 leaders across business and IT came together for two days of Leading SAFe training to discuss SAFe in the Westpac context, generating team excitement. Together, leaders came up with a theme for the train—Galaxy—with all teams receiving related names.

“Giving the train a shared identity helps create a bond across the team of teams that is the Agile Release Train, seeding the “one-team” culture that helps trains excel,” says Em Campbell-Pretty of Context Matters.

SAFe Scrum XP training brought together 60 people in one release train of eight teams over two days with two trainers in one room. The RTE additionally joined team-level training for both days, leading team members to note his commitment to SAFe.

“Everyone hearing the same message from the same trainers at the same time was a huge enabler for alignment and a ‘one-team’ culture,” says Campbell-Pretty.

The following Monday, Westpac launched the train. Some last-minute feature requests presented a hiccup, but the teams and leadership committed to a plan.

Results: Cycle Time, Defects Down

  • Westpac successfully took 100 people from waterfall to Agile in one week, and garnered positive feedback from teams. Team and business engagement went up while cycle time and defects went down.
  • Agile at Westpac continues to grow, with the company holding its third PI Planning session recently.

Additional Reading

For a deeper dive into this SAFe experience, download Em-Campbell Pretty’s presentation to AgileAustralia16.

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Suggested Case Study: Capital One

Seamless Payments – A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation

To sum up, the case study of Seamless is evidence that small or medium-sized companies can benefit from a scaled agile framework with custom modifications.”

Challenge:

  • Multiple environments
  • Feature requests coming from different markets
  • Synchronizing work between teams (Software Engineering department spans 4 countries)
  • A way to deal with inevitable change of culture due to fast growth

Industry:

Technology, Financial

Introduction

Founded in 2011, and active in more than 30 countries, Seamless handles more than 3.0 billion transactions annually, making it one of the world largest suppliers of payment systems for mobile phones. Perhaps best known for its flagship mobile wallet product, SEQR (se•cure), the fast-moving Stockholm-based company has grown from 50 to 200 employees in 2 years, and is pursuing an expansive growth strategy that has presented challenges both technical and organizational.

Challenges

Seamless Payments - A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation
  • Multiple environments
  • Feature requests coming from different markets
  • Synchronizing work between teams (Software Engineering department spans 4 countries)
  • A way to deal with inevitable change of culture due to fast growth

Wanting to avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy that often comes with expansion, they turned to a scaled-down version of SAFe—along with major technical investments in the deployment pipeline—to provide a structure that would provide a solution for current challenges, and accommodate growing complexity.

More Stories in Less Time—Despite Setbacks

Seamless Payments - A Story of Successful SAFe Transformation

The story of this SAFe transformation is published in InfoQ, and comes from Agile and Lean Product Development Expert, Mikael Lundgren, and Seamless Payments’ Software Engineering Manager, Tomek Pająk. They provide an account of the experience that is rich with detail, and goes beyond tactical execution to include the strategical thinking behind this scaled-down transformation. They recount:

  • How they down-scaled SAFe while maintaining its core ideas
  • Tools utilized for managing backlogs of features, epics, and stories
  • Recruiting Scrum Masters to act as Agile coaches for entire organization
  • Establishing new roles to better support working environment
  • Introducing WIP-limited program execution where work is planned in Agile Release Trains

Many thanks to the study authors, Mikael Lundgren and Tomek Pająk, for sharing your story and providing inspiration for small to medium-sized companies seeking scalable solutions as they face similar growth challenges.

Read the full story in the InfoQ article, Downscaling SAFe.

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Suggested Case Study:

Standard Bank

Nordea – Agile Adoption with SAFe

Nordea - Agile Adoption with SAFe

“To see a waterfall Program Manager embrace SAFe after only two days of participating in a PI planning session is remarkable. He is now one of our biggest ambassadors of promoting SAFe within Nordea.”

Industry:

Financial, Banking

The partner that made it happen:

Overview

With branches in 19 countries, and over 11 million customers, the European banking giant, Nordea, set a goal to deliver a new digital banking experience for its retail customers.

They determined that the best way to meet their goal was to adopt an agile development approach, and so in 2014 Nordea teamed up with Scaled Agile Gold Partner, Ivar Jacobson (IJI), and were introduced to SAFe.

Agile Adoption with SAFe

IJI kick-started Nordea’s SAFe introduction with a two-day session with management and stakeholders to establish a common
way of operating. They simulated how an agile-at-scale approach would work in Nordea’s environment, provided workshop style training for the staff involved, and one-on-one training for the Release Train Engineers (RTEs).

They combined two existing delivery streams to form their Agile Release Train; a total of 80 people formed five development teams, one system team, and various cross-functional roles to represent architecture and user experience. By January, 2015 Nordea had made it through two 10-week Program Increments (PIs) and planning sessions. In both sessions, all members participated in visioning and planning; as a group, they identified inter-dependencies and were able to establish both Team PI objectives and Program PI objectives.

Nordea’s fully-committed dive into SAFe produced immediate benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency with team members aligned and working together
  • Greater creativity as teams are empowered to make decisions
  • Management aligned and supportive of Agile teams

The teams continue to evolve and improve their delivery system with each PI, and it has inspired other parts of Nordea to scale agile with SAFe.

Of course, there is more to learn from their experience, so make sure to download the attached study for the rest of the story.

Many thanks to the folks at Ivar Jacobson for providing the guidance, coaching and training that enabled Nordea to accelerate agile adoption with SAFe, and for sharing the story of their success.

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