Towards scaled agility : A case study on successfully initiating agile transformations at large banks
Abstract: Large banks are facing challenges from a new regulatory and competitive landscape which have led to 30 % of banks adopting agile using the Scaled agile framework (SAFe). The transformation process towards agile is complex and has led to a change process covering aspects such as a product development, leadership and organizational design. Currently scientific knowledge on how to conduct an agile transformation successfully is lacking. The current explorative case study aimed to provide an empirical contribution assisting theory building in the field of scaled agile. Empirical data was collected through thirteen semi structured interviews, totaling ten hours combined with ten ethnographic observations spanning 34 hours. The subsequent findings identified four approaches to scaling agile combined with eight aspects of scaled agility providing a new depth regarding how to apply them and what to achieve. The four approaches identified were: creating a virtual organization, standardization of agile methods, unifying around one portfolio and, changing towards an agile mindset. The eight aspects include strategic agility, payoff agility, business agility, product agility, agile organization, tools agility, people agility, and organizational culture. The eight aspects where synthesized into a framework from the fields of agile software development, agile portfolio management, Scrum, SAFe, Lean, New product development, Lean product development, aspects of change, emergent change models, organizational design, resistance to change, and organizational culture. In addition, insights from previous agile transformations was conducted by researching benchmark studies of the bank ING. The results indicated an initial successful implementation as the interviewees expressed joy in working with the new methods. Furthermore an effective use of all four major approaches to scaling agile was evident. The results showed that the scope of the transformation kept growing and was managed through iterative improvements. Integration of already agile parts of the organization such as projects was enabled, and initial changes in leadership and delegation as well as new roles were managed. However some struggles remained regarding product development which could not be conducted in a fully agile way due to large releases and a regulated environment. In addition dependencies between different teams limited the creation of autonomous teams capable of delivering end to end. Furthermore as the work was visualized the amount spent on non value adding activites such as preparing low value task could be avoided, which however required extensive refinement. The focus on the new methods furthermore led to less time spent with customers. One challenge that emerged was that the virtual organization started to interfere with the traditional organization. A shift in power from hierarchies to teams took place. Aspects such as recruitment and rewards remained in the old structure highlighting a double organizational culture. This provides some uncertanty regarding further adaptions in the long run. The study has provided an empirical contribution as well as conceptualization of the approaches and aspects of scaled agility which provides hypothesis that assist future theory building. In addition the implications showed to be noteworthy from as sustainability pespective by enabling ecnomic benefits such as efficency and new IT-infrastrucutre combined with good jobs and limited enviromental impacts. To validate the results more studies could be performed at other companies, other parts of banks as well as more extensive data collection such as quantitative approaces and long term observations.
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