This large financial services organization has been in business for over 130 years, but are currently operating in a highly competitive and dynamic agency and customer-driven industry. Their current infrastructure consists of legacy applications, not only in the back end but also in the front with antiquated UI and overall low appeal to end-users. Unless they modernize and increase the overall appeal and efficiency of their processing and servicing applications, they are at risk of losing a significant amount of market share.

The Problem

The organization has defined their desired future state. They have established a mammoth five-plus years, $60 million dollar program but were unsure on how best to execute their plans. Modernizing the front end was a top priority. The new UI will communicate with the back end applications and data sources via APIs.

Another issue that needed to be addressed as part of this effort was the scarcity of business knowledge and skills; highly specialized knowledge is held by very few SMEs which limits the organization’s ability to scale and enable flow of value.

In summary, the organizations goals for this initiative were:

• Optimal execution of modernization effort
• Alignment of SMEs and utilization
• Improved and modernized software platform and applications
• Align Business partners with delivery execution

The Scope

The organization partnered with cPrime to quickly implement this high value solution. The first task was to crystalize and establish the “work to be done”. The team initially launched a value stream mapping workshop, that led to conclusion that there was a series of shared services teams that would need to be engaged periodically throughout the implementation initiative.

Another outcome of this workshop was that the team was able to align the release trains directly to the demands originating from the business. The team worked to optimize the environment in which the shared services team and the SMEs could be collaborate.

The team created a series of value streams for the release trains that relied upon a series of shared services. The team quickly mobilized around standing up one of the release trains and running it through PI Planning.

In January, two release trains were stood up and ran completely through PI Planning. At the end of the PI Planning, a thorough retrospective was held, which highlighted the fact that the problems of shared services teams and SME constraints are yet to be resolved.

To address these issues, the team established a model which included sessions called “architecture look-ahead”, which in addition to looking at solutions for the next PI (10 weeks), also started exploring (at a very macro level) solutions for the next two to three PIs ahead. A new operating model was implemented which allowed the teams to maximize their collaboration and work together to clearly understand the scope of the model. After 3 months with the new system in place, release trains are now all running on their individual cadence.

The “architecture look-ahead” session allowed the team to better understand and plan for future PIs. For example – it highlighted the fact that some future changes may have data impact. Even though the precise nature of the change is yet unknown, it alerted the team to the fact that there would be at least two to three future sprints of work for the data team. The team can now plan and set capacity for that data team to join and be a part of PI three and participate in that release train planning. This resolved a lot of the shared service problems that team was experiencing. It also increased efficiency and response time from all team involved.

The team used cPrime’s BlueKit to elaborate, document and disseminate the operating model. Work prioritization was taking place ACROSS release trains, which increased the complexity but allowed for better planning of time and resources (which proved essential in this shared services environment). Two cPrime coaches joined the effort in November helping to stand up the initial release trains which were executed during the month of January with additional release trains to follow in February and early March. One coach per release train seemed to be the optimal alignment. Later, an additional coach joined the team to help establish a Center of Excellence.

The team made a conscious decision to delay the delivery of training until a major outcome could be delivered. The thinking was to get work defined and assigned to the team for execution rather than focus on process training and implementation at outset. Once this goal was achieved the organization’s practitioners went through training including Product Owner, Product Manager, Scrum Master and RTE training.


Productivity Increases – 50% increase in releases to production

Increased transparency into detailed work – Increased transparency into detailed work – stakeholders from across the organization now have a clear and immediate visibility into the current status of the various tasks, in addition to projected effort and resource requirements for future stages.

Better forecast of work to come (a key element for the organization) – For example, the team now understand in July all remaining work down to a feature level, for the year.

Simplified work flow – the teams are aligned better with the backlog and have an architectural view of the solution AHEAD of implementation time. The solution is defined at a macro level ahead of time, is shared with the teams, who them perform the work, in a constant feedback loop.

One Backlog-One Team – Aggregation of all 700 people in the program all working on one team with shared vision and one backlog. The teams are engaged and dedicated to one clear and shared purpose.

Diminished Attrition – Previous transformation efforts had led to reduction of 40%of workforce. In this case, no major leader or individual contributor has left

Improved Employee Morale and Engagement – Employees empowered by the concept of start less and finish more.

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