Digital financial startups are taking the market by storm, and many big banks are struggling to keep up. In a world where agility and rapid feature delivery are crucial, sprawling, siloed organizations laden with top-down processes are at a disadvantage. One of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations, faced with a rising tide of defect work and a clamour of customer complaints, decided it was time to act. They chose Planview Viz® to measure the flow of value through their systems and guide their agile transformation. By adopting value stream management practices, including Flow Metrics, and leveraging insights from Planview Viz, this company turned the tides, reducing Flow Time by 70%, improving quality, and leaving customers much happier. Here’s how they achieved their transformation.
The Challenge: Slow Delivery, Defective Features
There was one delivery team – about a hundred people – that faced a constant stream of complaints from customers about how long it was taking for value to be delivered. Morale and performance were at an all-time low, and the team’s backlog was almost entirely filled with defect work.
“There was a general internal distrust of the team’s ability to deliver value.” — COO of Securities Services Division
This team was ripe for change, so they were chosen to pilot the organization’s agile transformation, using Flow Metrics to guide and measure their progress. Rather than spending their time on “reactive firefighting,” leaders wanted this team to be able to focus on proactive, strategic initiatives. The organization set an ambitious target of becoming three times more efficient at its delivery.
How They Used Planview Viz® to Experiment Safely
The financial services provider focused their attention on three Flow Metrics in Planview Viz:
- Flow Time: Time elapsed from when a flow item enters the value stream (i.e. when a commitment is made), to when the item is released to the customer.
- Flow Efficiency ®: The proportion of time flow items are actively worked on to the total time elapsed. This can be used to identify inefficiencies such as overly long wait time for artifacts.
- Flow Load ®: Number of flow items in a value stream, including both active and waiting items. This is a measure of work in progress (WIP) in the value stream. Overly high flow load tends to result in inefficiencies and lead to reduced flow velocity or increased flow time.
To start, the leaders decided to use Flow Time to benchmark the team’s performance. They used an internal tool that examined Jira projects and tracked the time between an artifact’s creation to its completion.
“We were looking to understand the drivers behind that Flow Time. That focus on Flow Time enabled the Product Team Lead and Delivery Team Lead to make some significant changes in how the team was structured and how work flowed into the team.” – COO of Securities Services Division
Once the team’s baseline Flow Metrics had been established, they began to experiment with structural changes, all the while measuring flow to see how their efficiency and speed were impacted. First, the team shifted from project-based pods to feature-based pods. Instead of handing off a project to various silos through the delivery process, long-lived multidisciplinary teams owned the delivery of features throughout the end-to-end value stream and were responsible for any change requests after release (known as “build-and-run teams”).
The new team structure also allowed for cross-training, such that the different functional groups began working as a cohesive team. Now, business analysts could manage simple code changes. The front-to-back ownership is fundamental to the way the team operates.
The team also moved from a quarterly release cycle into a “release when ready” cycle. That means the team releases smaller pieces of code more frequently, rather than letting it pile up until a big quarterly release. This practice dramatically reduced the time that features spent waiting, such that Flow Time and Flow Efficiency both saw a great improvement.
Finally, after observing that the team was constantly starting but rarely finishing work, they implemented a work in progress (WIP) limit based on Planview Viz analytics. Keeping WIP to a minimum allows teams to swarm around high-priority items and get them to the finish line as fast as possible.
Throughout their experimentation, there was no change to the underlying technology platform or to the way the team is funded; rather, after observing inefficiencies and dependencies in Planview Viz, the team found creative ways to remove roadblocks and speed up delivery. Team leaders’ relentless focus on Flow Metrics drove the changes and positive results.
The Results: Customer Satisfaction Soars While Spend Declines
Having access to Flow Metrics has drove results. Flow Time became one of the core metrics the team uses in regular discussions to drive improvement.
From 2020 to 2021, the team that began measuring value delivery with Flow Metrics drastically reduced its delivery risk. The organization’s figures show that delivery incidents decreased by 90%.
Additionally, the team’s work backlog transitioned away from a focus on managing urgent problems towards proactive and strategic work. New features are released more frequently and with fewer defects. As a result, customer satisfaction improved across the board.
“We throttled the amount of work-in-progress, cutting it in half, which allowed the team to see an increase of about 15% in throughput.” – COO of Securities Services Division
Finally, a focus on Flow Metrics has helped leadership reduce and stabilize the team’s investment spend, going from $10.4 million in 2019 to $4 million in 2022
What the Future Holds and Three Big Takeaways
After experiencing such great success in its first use of Flow Metrics, leaders decided to scale this way of working across the organization. Moving forward, the organization will take advantage of the lessons learned and continue applying Flow Metrics to other teams.
Their biggest takeaways are:
- Managing flow has a positive impact on the performance of the team, client satisfaction, and employee engagement.
- It’s important to empower teams to be accountable for their improvement journeys, because they experience different constraints and blockers. The best ROI comes from providing teams with coaching.
- Flow Metrics are powerful when used end-to-end, extending beyond the technology teams to the business. Improvements are accelerated by creating incentives and aligning objectives through the entire value stream structure.
Visit Planview’s Value Stream Management Solution Page for more information about how you can start using Flow Metrics to optimize your product value streams.