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Project Portfolio Management

Connecting Business with IT to Achieve Agility in the Financial Sector

Published By Linda Roach

5 questions and answers from an on-demand webinar with Santander UK

Santander UK, one of the world’s largest retail and commercial banks, has been on an Agile and digital transformation journey for some time. I recently hosted a webinar with Joaquim Cols, Director of Operations for Santander Technology UK, where he described the bank’s progress in aligning business with IT: “Unlock Enterprise Agility: Drive Strategic Delivery for the Business.” Time ran out before we could answer all the great questions asked by participants. Joaquim answers the five remaining questions below.

First, here’s a little more background to set the stage. Santander’s vision was to create an ecosystem that enables enterprise agility by connecting business with IT and strategy into delivery – with a single line of sight into key initiatives at every stage of the journey.

It’s worth listening to Joaquim tell their story: How Santander transitioned from different companies working independently, to an integration of business with IT processes and KPIs under a single operating model. This included incorporating Agile processes and other work methodologies into its traditional project portfolio management (PPM) processes, to help speed delivery of new products and services.

The bank’s main goals were to:

  • accelerate decision making (and simplify governance)
  • improve resource management and capacity planning
  • optimize investment portfolio performance via a traceable process for investment plan decisions and performance tracking
  • create an executive reporting capability
  • develop an integrated financial model, connecting funding to delivery

The first question alludes to how many people and groups were and are involved in making this work.

1. How did you make cultural adjustments?

Joaquim’s response: The starting point was providing a governance framework that aligns the work of different roles to company objectives, KPIs, and cadence, with a good balance of rigor and flexibility. This aligning business with IT topic goes further than the PMO function and includes Finance and business units (Technology being the key one). A key aspect is communicating what outcomes are to be achieved and what KPIs will be used. The “cultural adjustment” happens where different roles see that the framework and tools help them to achieve their part.

In the webinar, Joaquim shared:

“It wasn’t always easy to get different, siloed parts of the organization to work together towards the same principles and KPIs. Remember this was an organization that was corporate driven and locally managed. We had to get many different practices to align. We spent a lot of time trying to understand each other and see how we can best serve the vision together.”

2. Could you tell us how you use reporting for different stakeholders?

Joaquim’s response: Further connecting business with IT, we have developed and distributed a variety of reports for our project managers/initiative managers, the PMO, Governance teams, senior managers and executives, and third parties. We create these reports using Power BI dashboards, FastTrack reports, and a handful of Santander specific outputs within Planview PortfoliosTM.

This helps us drive business decisions such as evaluating change-driven funding requests and determining future resource demand and capacity. With this updated decision model, we’ve moved out of manually created Microsoft Word or Excel artifacts. Our stakeholders can actively drill into and analyze key data points during a given conversation or meeting.

For example, we have a Portfolio report developed via Power BI that’s based on the initiative structure. You can filter down to a single initiative or a group of them. The report shows scope, benefit, time, and budget and is used in online meetings prior to senior management review.

3. What was the biggest issue Santander encountered when incorporating the PPM solution with your existing PMO?

Joaquim’s response: We had two main situations with this in aligning business with IT. In Technology they were used to the processes and tools, so the transition was easy and simple. In the business, there were different practices using spreadsheets and emails as support. The big topic was and is providing a new governance framework and processes across the board that brings all the different actors to work with the same principles, KPIs, and cadence.

Once this framework is created with PMO support and input, the PPM solution isn’t in the critical path as it is just serving the framework. In other areas that may be resistant to a PPM solution, then top executive input is a must to resolve the lock.


4. How are you tracking teamwork (stories) to corporate initiatives?

Joaquim’s response: Work is linked to strategies (initiatives). Strategies are the basic granularity managed and monitored at corporate level. If the question is how user stories in Jira and other tools are linked, the answer is we are working to put it into place in the next term.

The Planview perspective: For a direct integration with Jira, user stories in Jira will typically remain in Jira and the rollup information will be transferred back to Planview PortfoliosTM at the Epic/Work level. For a Lean Portfolio Management use case with Planview AgilePlaceTM in the middle between Planview Portfolios and Jira, user stories will remain in Planview AgilePlace and Jira with data points rolling up to Planview Portfolios at the (Epic) Work and (Program) Strategy view.

5. Please clarify any pre-conditions that helped with the three months migration achievement.

Joaquim’s response: We did it in a context of a tool replacement. Requirements were clear and practices and framework mature. In this business with IT context, you can aim for even shorter periods. When a framework needs to be created or requires major adjustments or changes, the question is how long the organization can resolve this question. The configuration of the tool is possible in a few weeks, in my opinion, if you aim to adopt what’s available to achieve your outcomes.

Other questions Joaquim addressed during the webinar were:

  • How involved was leadership and how important was integrating organizational change management?
  • You mentioned how the Planview solution is being used in both IT and the Bank. Could you further describe how this joined-up approach works?

Listen to the full Santander UK webinar for Joaquim’s answers. He discusses the four pillars the team developed to guide their journey:

  1. Create a vision for the team
  2. Set up strategic goals and OKRs
  3. Work on a roadmap
  4. Measure success

Speaking of success, Joaquim also reveals some ROI details and how in only three months Santander replaced their ERP modules that supported controlling functions and PPM processes for a more adaptable, user friendly, and cost-efficient that supports their journey to enterprise agility.

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Written by Linda Roach Director, Solutions Marketing

Linda Roach champions solutions marketing at Planview, partnering with customers to articulate their business challenges and to quantify the value of implementing change. Linda leads Planview's agile go-to-market team for portfolio and resource management. During her tenure, Linda has helped drive Planview's market advancement and significant growth through marketing leadership roles. Previously, Linda held positions at Pervasive Software, VTEL, and Kodak where she led go-to-market initiatives for new products and product line expansion. Linda holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo.