It has been up for discussion, whether the implementation of agile at banks has reached its pinnacle or not. However, it has also been up for discussion whether agile should be implemented across the organisation or part-by-part through different projects and limit the implementation of agile based on its success. Whichever way you see it, having an agile approach at your organisation or bank can only make your organisations, your projects deliver products, and services faster and at the same time, make people accountable within the organisation. Listen on to Ashish Cherian and Peter Horsten talk on the specifics of agile engineering and what banks need to focus on, in the latest episode of Future on a Platter.

Ashish Cherian: It is true that agile engineering has had rapid adoption rates across industries, across the world. A report by CIO stated that adoption rates for agile was sitting at 97% with teams achieving 98% success. However most teams are not having an in-depth agile approach with 78% of teams stating that they are just experimenting with agile! Now all of this is good news as it shows the importance of quick delivery and importance of finding defects and issues as early as possible, especially when you are having a very competitive market place with intense market pressure. How do you think agile approaches have managed to break into the banking industry and what has changed in the banking industry since then?

Peter Horsten: Small companies, in many cases – start-ups, have disrupted financial sector. They are lean, they offer the client what he needs, develop and offer solutions through new distribution channels. More importantly, they offer it in a way, which the consumer is used to and they use applications like WhatsApp, Spotify and Facebook which are available across all platforms and which have a nice appealing interface. Existing technologies, processes and organisational structures in financial institutes did in the past and even today are not facilitating consumer demand and need to decrease their time to market and they hope that the introduction of agile will bring this to them. The traditional way of working within the financial industry and in other industries did not deliver them success. Less than 10% of the projects are being delivered within the budget and time. There also exists the fact that being a first choice employer among IT and other segments is important today, which means providing an environment with the latest technologies is important. The younger generation prefers working in an agile environment. Therefore, you could say, that it is caused by the dynamically changing markets and by the consumer needs and the needs to quickly adopt.

Ashish Cherian: It is important in this millennial age, that we understand the needs and requirements of our customers, as our customers are changing, their behaviour is changing. It is important to understand where the customer stands and what the behaviour is before we enact some changes into our system.

Peter Horsten:  Yes, but we will also have to be the Devil’s advocate over here. Of course, there are success stories. For example, there is ING Bank in the Netherlands who completely restructured or DSB Bank in Singapore who reinvented themselves. But many teams are experimenting and then they are concluding that it has not been working for them. Therefore, it not necessarily always true that implementing components of agile will make them successful. Therefore, it is necessary that it is being managed at a higher level.  It is an organisational change process. If you isolate it within a single department, it sure will work, but you cannot really call it as a complete implementation of agile.

Ashish Cherian: Now, adoption rates could be high, but according to the same report by CIO, it was stated that approximately around only 12% of companies were having high agile usage within their projects and teams. So let’s go to one of the possible challenges that could be facing decision makers and strategists, which is Fragmented Outputs. Increased delivery outputs help in help in faster releases which impact your customer base in a positive manner. However, when teams work with each other on a particular component, there is no cohesiveness and the output obtained is at times fragmented. What do you think is an approach or a solution that companies could take to mitigate such a risk while using agile methodologies?

Peter Horsten:  That is a very valid question. ING Bank has adopted Spotify’s way of working. They have learning from Spotify on how proper agile development is taking place. A restructuration of the organisation is important. It starts with sharing a clear vision with the whole team and defining a mutual ambition. It is also important to think about the whole architecture of your solution, because with an agile approach, you want to make the team responsible for what they are doing. They need to test and deliver and validate it. Therefore, one should have a look at the solution to see how they can break it into logical pieces. When we talk about IT that will result in a more services based architecture, where you would be able to make an entire team responsible for services end-to-end. You do not want to have too many dependencies with other teams, which is what usually leads to fragmentation. It is important to have that mutual vision, so that they can have their own responsibility within that project or service.

Ashish Cherian: While implementing an agile engineering strategy, what percentage of priority would you give for technology and what for customer experience?

Peter Horsten: It depends, but I am always in favour of thinking from the customer experience perspective first. This is because the only one who can give you the result for your ideation and work is the user.

Ashish Cherian: What would you suggest to an outsider or newcomer in the banking industry? – Agile methodology across distinct projects where it works well or having a complete agile adoption policy across the entire organisation!

Peter Horsten: In my opinion, teams are cherry picking. Agile approaches should not be implemented in an isolated manner. It is fine, but in order to be truly agile, it should be approached through the organisation. Doing it through the organisation is tough and takes years, so initially it is fine, but over time, organisations and banks should look to create an agile approach through projects throughout.

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