CASE STUDIES - AGILE
In today’s highly competitive environment, companies are constantly seeking better business results. In order to achieve this, they aim for:
- Faster time-to-market for their products
- Earlier return on investment
- Better customer satisfaction
- Improved quality of their products
Agile enables these outcomes when compared with a traditional software development approach.
SmartStart, a social franchise for early learning, was having difficulty managing their operational and reporting data which lead to insufficient information availability. This information is critical for SmartStart’s ability to make managerial decisions, and thus needs to be real-time, accurate and easily accessible. IQbusiness was tasked with exploring solutions that could be customised or built relatively quickly, was user-friendly, inexpensive, and could integrate with other systems that were already operational within SmartStart.
After much research and analysis, IQbusiness proposed the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system. The platform provides significant out-of-the-box features that will assist with a number of aspects inclusive of data management, reporting, scheduling, inventory management, notifications, approvals and workflow. However, these out-of-the-box functionalities required significant customisation, SQL reports as well as plug-ins in order to meet the specific needs of SmartStart’s unique business processes.
The development team had twelve to fourteen weeks in which to complete as many requirements as possible, with no defined scope of work set out. The team, which consisted of an Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Architect, Business Analyst and three developers had their work cut out for them.
IQbusiness started the project with a two-day workshop which included all the key stakeholders and user representatives. During this workshop we created stakeholder maps, entity relationship diagrams, project visions, user needs and an initial prioritised project backlog to clarify organisational roles and responsibilities, user roles as well as visions for the actual use of the solution to ensure that the outcome was properly aligned to the need of the client. We took the highest priority functionalities and broke them down into user stories with acceptance criteria.
The project was initiated with a Scrum Framework in order to deliver value quickly and get accelerated customer feedback to improve and refine the solution in an iterative fashion. However, six weeks into the project, the development team decided that it would be more beneficial to run this as a Kanban project. The Kanban process allowed for more frequent changes to the backlog of requirements as well as the prioritisation of these requirements. This change assisted in highlighting bottlenecks in the process and ensured everything was holistically visualised. The Work-In-Progress (WIP) limits assisted in ensuring that everyone within the project team worked and performed at a sustainable pace, considering the rest of the development process.
- Capturing of any personal data is done so quickly, painlessly and is saved in a centralised database.
- Scheduling and loading of training sessions, trainers and trainees is faster and more visible to the organisation.
- Standardised business processes that enforce the correct way of doing things.
- Easily accessible reports are already built-in on dashboards for an immediate view of the different KPI’s within the organisation.
- Inventory management system to track all orders as well as inventory levels.
- Bulk communications system which allows the core management team to communicate via email and SMS to the different entities within the organisation.
- Integrated USSD functionality which allows day mothers to capture daily child-attendance as well as club meeting attendance which subsequently feeds directly into CRM for reporting purposes.
- System generated alerts to particular entities in order to notify them of important events or upcoming tasks.
An African bank wanted to launch a new Corporate Banking platform across multiple countries. There was a gap in their offering to corporates and this resulted in corporate clients having to use the Retail Internet Banking system. One of requirements of the client was to standardise processes across all the countries where possible as well as to create reusable functionality across all the channels as the current processing required manual intervention. The Corporate Banking platform needed to deliver what the current Retail Internet Banking offered as well as extra functionality including bulk processing, RTGS payments and SWIFT payments. This project would require multiple vendors collaborating in order to deliver a single solution.
The client wanted to deploy a solution in a short timeframe and were keen to try out an Agile project to achieve this. The IQbusiness Agility team ran an Agile boot camp for all the vendors that were to be involved in the project in order to give everyone the same foundational knowledge and understanding around Agile and how it works. The project then kicked off with a product owner, scrum master, solutions architect, business analyst, multiple developers (per vendor) and a testing team. The support of the scrum master was vital in keeping the team aligned, assisting in removing impediments to the team and ensuring that the team reached their highest rate of productivity.
A new front-end was designed and deployed in conjunction with an integrated back-end processing engine combining both the new and existing systems. The MVP (minimum viable product) that was delivered to the client in under a year catered for client on-boarding, balance and transaction information, maintenance, reconciliation, internal transfers, internal 3rd party transfers, ACH payments, RTGS, ACH Un-pays and postdate transactions. The solution also catered to the need for a centralized payments orchestration facility.
- Using the Agile framework, the team was able to deliver an initial phase of the MVP in only nine months.
- The client’s requirements of current issues being faced were also taken into consideration when designing the new solution. Issues were identified, escalated and addressed in short time frames.
- Automated processing and STP was achieved on multiple payments processes efficiently
The organisation wanted their teams to go faster, be more productive and produce better quality technology products. Through various discussions with IQbusiness the decision was made to adopt the Scrum framework and partner with IQbusiness to help the Leading Credit Bureau start their Agile journey.
The IQbusiness team was appointed to do an initial assessment of organisational readiness, facilitate 2-dayScrum training (Agile Boot camp) for three pilot teams and coach these teams in order to embed the Agile principles, practices, tools and techniques with a focus on implementing Scrum as the selected framework.
The Leading Credit Bureau offers various product offerings to both consumers and businesses through several operating divisions: Credit Bureau, Analytic and Decisioning Services and Auto Information Solutions. For consumers, the Leading Credit Bureau provides information resources and helpful tools for a clear understanding of their credit history and financial reputation, and to guard against the theft of personal information and potential fraud. Consumers also rely on this organisation for car value and history reports. For businesses, the Leading Credit Bureau provides powerful analytic and decisioning solutions, backed by professional service and current, comprehensive data for all Southern African businesses.
Key business challenges:
- Roles – Scrum was a new process for some of the teams and team members had to step into new roles and responsibilities such as Scrum Master and Product Owner
- Testing – most of testing efforts were outsourced to a vendor in India
- Dedication (100% allocation to projects) – some employees were shared between multiple teams
- Business understanding of Agile – most stakeholders and executives were new to the process and some of the concepts were not clear to them (i.e. sprints, stories, story points, velocity and other)
The Agile transformation project for the Leading Credit Bureau took place between October and December 2013 over three phases:
1. Initiation (five days) Review and assess the current Leading Credit Bureau project environment in relation to the proposed pilot projects selected to assess the constraints, governance requirements, team structure, infrastructure and other factors which were to be considered in order to tailor the Agile approach most suited to the selected pilot projects.
2. Tailored Agile Boot camp (two days) Scrum training for 30 attendees with the following key objectives:
- To provide an overview of the Agile approach to projects including values, principles and demystifying the myths.
- To provide a detailed understanding of the Scrum Framework focusing on roles, ceremonies and artefacts.
- To provide a practical walkthrough of the Scrum Framework by using practical exercises to reinforce the theory learnt.
- To provide an understanding of how to estimate and plan in an Agile environment.
- To provide additional learning content covering engineering principles (XP), a brief overview and application of Kanban, Scaling models and integration with traditional approaches and roles.
- To workshop requirements and produce working Agile artefacts that would be used in the projects.
3. Agile Coaching Over an eight week period We assisted teams with their practical implementation of Scrum focusing on the Agile principles, practices, tools and techniques learnt during the Agile boot camp. The objectives of this phase were:
- To provide guidance and support to team members new to Agile.
- To work through initial challenges in practice.
- To facilitate the Agile ceremonies such as Sprint Planning, Backlog grooming, Sprint reviews and retrospectives in Sprint 1.
- To coach allocated Scrum Masters and Product Owners during Sprint 1 as well as handover knowledge during Sprint 2.
- To ensure adequate handover to the allocated Scrum Masters for each team to ensure that the Leading Credit Bureau has the necessary skills and knowledge to own the process going forward at the end of the engagement.
IQbusiness recommended the allocation of a skilled Scrum Master with 2-3 years of Agile experience through contracting engagement, or a permanent hire to help with one of the teams. This will result in better execution of work during sprints and will speed up development. We also recommended the implementation of Agile coaching circles. Agile coaching circles are an opportunity to share experiences within the Leading Credit Bureau and to learn from peers. Coaching circles allow for spreading learning to avoid making mistakes already made by other teams, and to build stronger teams through collaboration.
The Leading Credit Bureau will need to continue to educate business on Agile through hosting knowledge sharing sessions with business and executives. This will bring stakeholders closer to the team and improve communication. Other steps include introduction of Agile to other teams (already running and new). We also recommended establishing Agile metrics for all teams (such as velocity, burn-down rates, time to market, cost of delay, etc.). This will assist in the measuring of progress, performance and success. On conclusion of the initial engagement, the Leading Credit Bureau sent through an additional 16 delegates to further Agile training to further embed the learning.
How we helped their business grow:
Included in the engagement was a report presented to the sponsor and key stakeholders which represented the key observations, outcomes and recommendations. All teams improved their productivity with one of the teams increasing their average velocity by 78% by the end of coaching.
A large South African-based financial services provider was searching for a way to ensure consistent and visible delivery within their Internal Audit space. The need for this arose due to a number of factors, including the fact that 75% of audits were completed in the last 25% of the timelines. This resulted in an unpredictable working environment and unsustainable working hours.
By introducing concepts centred around Agility and lean thinking, the delivery of audits could become more of a continuous process with increased visibility and consistency. The Internal Audit area selected four teams to pilot the more ‘agile way of working’ requesting Agile training and coaching offerings from IQbusiness.
The teams went through a 2-day Agile Bootcamp introducing them to the use of Kanban principles and Scrum Ceremonies, and enlisted the support of an Agile coach to ensure the correct implementation of the values and principles of Agility. Once the teams had attended the Bootcamp, the coach then assisted the teams in setting up their very own Kanban and Scrum boards as tools to implementing their “Agile way of working” successfully into their working environment.
The coach facilitated all of the teams’ initial Scrum ceremonies (Daily Standups, Planning and Retrospectives) which allowed for the teams to learn from the coach and understand the value of each of the sessions as well as the process as a whole. The coach then involved the leads for each audit to co-facilitate the sessions whilst guiding them through the intricacies of the ceremonies. Through continual practice with the coach, the leads gained a plethora of experience and began to facilitate the sessions themselves, with the coach providing some minor feedback but becoming less and less involved so as to allow the teams to become comfortable in practising this way of working in their own right.
The coach also assisted in developing an understanding and appreciation of Agility at the management / EXCO level, in order to begin to address the organisational constraints which the teams operated in and had been identified as counter-intuitive to business Agility. Due to the success of the pilot, the client is planning to roll out Agility into their Internal Audit teams throughout Africa.
The client achieved the following beneficial outcomes:
- Higher levels of collaboration within the audit teams, as the team members were traditionally accustomed to working in silos.
- Increased consistency through delivering valuable audit information to the business on a set cadence.
- All work being done on each audit was visible to all interested parties.
In South Africa, many micro and small enterprise owners (MSE’s) use their personal bank accounts for their business transactions and financial management. Furthermore, their staff are often paid their wages in cash, which proves a security risk to these individuals. To address this problem a large multinational financial institution wanted to create a banking solution for micro and small South African enterprises such as these, to change them from being ‘unbanked’ as they have been. As no specific MSE banking solution existed, the IQbusiness Digital team were tasked with implementing, launching and scaling an innovative and effective banking solution.
Key business challenges:
- Implementing an ‘agile’ way of working, in a structured, complex banking environment
- MSE business owners’ lack of trust towards financial institutions meant the team faced a difficult task in attracting such clients to use the solution in their day-to-day business
- Managing banking rules, regulations and limitations, while delivering a first-to-market solution
- Designing an easy-to-use app which these micro and small business owners and employees would be comfortable with and understand. Market research was required to gain a better understanding of these users
How we helped their business grow:
- We implemented an app solution, which enabled business owners to better manage their finances. Further, employees could now be paid in cash which removed the risk they faced when it came to walking around with their salary in cash.
- By attracting a new market (‘unbanked’ MSEs), we grew the bank’s brand name and influence in an untapped market with high potential
- Created APIs related to our MSE banking solution which enabled third parties to make use of the bank’s capabilities, further expanding the bank’s client reach
- Through running an agile approach to the project, the app solution was implemented ahead of schedule, and as a result, this was the first specialised MSE banking solution in the market
A large UK challenger bank wanted to innovate their mortgage application submission process to make it easier for customers to apply, and to make it easier for 3rd party brokers to manage document submissions, without invoking a costly large-scale project.
In partnership with our FinTech partner in the UK (Aicura) we helped the bank to run a lean project to rapidly iterate through a prototype and POC, gain feedback from the target audience(s), and then deploy a Minimum Viable Product in as short a time as possible, with as little integration into back end systems as possible.
A Web and Mobile Document Scanning and Submissions system was developed to manage the document submission process. Brokers and Branch Staff can scan a customer’s documents immediately – even in low / no bandwidth situations (for example at property development locations with no internet connections) and the solution will automatically submit the documentation when the user is online again.
The Digital team undertook 1 week of discovery and planning, and 6 weeks of development to iterate through the various releases of the solution.
The client achieved the objective of innovating at low cost and in a short time. – a competitor took the same time to prepare a quotation as it took our team to release the first version into production. Customers of the bank now receive an answer to their mortgage application in shorter timeframes.
Brokerages prefer to use the solution over normal fax or post as it is faster and only costs a fraction of the alternatives. Large brokerages enjoy the ability for administrators to submit and manage submission on behalf of brokers, and are sending more business to the bank.