Case Study: Implementing Scaled Agile and Portfolio Release Management within Financial Services

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Our client, a global financial institution recently set out to transform its existing release management process.  Their goal: to improve operational efficiency and increase the speed of releases across a broad array of high profile applications at the bank.  These applications include those responsible for managing $13T worth of assets daily, meaning that quality and assurance processes ensuring no outages were of the utmost priority.

The client, already on a journey to a more agile organization, was still facing challenges with structuring their workload and scaling their releases. They were looking for a way to deliver faster value to clients and have a more responsive portfolio. Although Agile maturity was high in pockets, the client needed help in standardizing and optimizing best practices and visualizing all concurrent development in one portfolio tool. 

MIGSO-PCUBED was engaged to provide Project Portfolio and Change Management expertise in two main areas.

The first: deploying Portfolio for JIRA, migrating all existing projects into one new consolidated view, and implementing components of Scaled Agile to support broader portfolio delivery.The second: streamlining the client’s release management process for improved communications, accountability, and speed of releases across the portfolio of projects.

MIGSO-PCUBED deployed an Agile Project Management delivery team focused on centralizing and coordinating efforts around the client’s Release Management transformation initiative in order to ensure its ultimate success.

Scaling Agile to the Portfolio Level

With over 500 users and tasks spread across 4 JIRA projects, the client needed to implement a tool that would provide visibility to the teams across all its projects. With no standardization in place across the projects, it was difficult to rollup status across the portfolio. And without a single portfolio level roadmap, there was no way to keep the various project teams aligned and executing towards the targeted release dates. As such there was a general lack of collaboration between Technology, Business, and UAT/QA teams.  The teams needed the ability to know exactly where work was in the process in order to better support each other and drive faster releases.

As JIRA software was already in place and in use, the team of MIGSO-PCUBED Agile Practitioners quickly set out to deploy Portfolio for JIRA.  This required migrating all existing projects onto one new consolidated site.  Merging the projects in JIRA allowed the teams to automatically roll up real-time status into a single Portfolio view, saving the client significant time and effort downstream. It also provided top-down visibility into the portfolio objectives for the CIO, while supporting the bottom-up collaboration amongst the teams.

The team continued to drive enhanced collaboration amongst the teams through Agile Coaching.  Through a combination of one-to-many training courses and workshops, and one-to-one coaching, our team of certified Scaled Agile Practitioners and Scrum Masters rolled out Scaled Agile Framework concepts including PI Planning to the organization.

The Scaled Agile Framework was updated last year to SAFe 5.0 drawing a larger focus on Business Agility and scaling agile to the portfolio level. PI or Program Increment Planning is a staple of the Scaled Agile Framework, setting out the objectives for the next increment of work.  In this case, its biggest advantage for our client was on aligning and synchronizing the work amongst the various project teams into one Agile Release Train.  This ensured that everyone was on the same page as to the next release and could drive towards its successful execution.

Finally, our team revamped existing JIRA workflows to support integrated QA/UAT presence in the Scrum teams.  These result of these quick-win initiatives was the improved collaboration between technology, business, and UAT/QA teams, and the enhanced visibility on portfolio status.

While the focus of one part of the team was on scaling agile techniques in order to increase organizational efficiency, the second half of the team was focused on speeding up the cadence of product releases. To do so required a focus on the release management process itself.

Release Management Process Optimization

The MIGSO-PCUBED team set out to resolve a number of challenges currently being faced by the client organization. Processing gaps within the client’s product release management process created delays and rework. The existing workflow did not clarify timelines, deliverables, or accountability. The organization needed to optimize the process across multiple teams globally in order to expedite products to the market.

Working with business and technology stakeholders (including senior executives) across four countries the MIGSO-PCUBED team conducted an assessment or retrospective of the Release Management Process, including root cause analysis.  They identified several short-term and medium-term actions to address identified challenges. Initial quick wins addressed gaps in logistics and stakeholder engagement.  The team also established a cadence for releasing on demand.

Through application of Agile Product Delivery, Design Thinking, and Organizational Change Management techniques the team helped the client to streamline and optimize the release management process. The results produced a new, lean process with enhanced accountability, improved communications, and a 30% reduction in the process cycle time.

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