Eleonora Mazzitelli | Published: 18 September 2019
What are the first words that spring to mind when you hear the words ‘Agile methodology’? Some may believe a project following an Agile methodology equates to problems, instability and a pressure to respond quickly to new, unpredictable developments. Others may be excited at the prospect of something new; and some may understand that like all project management processes, it requires the ability to adapt. I meanwhile see Agile as an opportunity; an opportunity to be challenged, build bonds with stakeholders and create a collaborative environment where everyone knows they’re adding value to reach the end goal.
Working on an Agile project for a tier 1 global bank for over a year-and-half has taught me a lot, but most importantly to be adaptive and flexible with my management style. The project involves delivering a new banking platform to corporate customers across 53 countries, coordinating commercialization activities across 11 regional teams, and balancing the relationship between Business and IT (often a challenge on its own!).
Our goal is to deliver the best customer experience by providing our clients all the services they require in the most up-to-date technology. As a result, the project undergoes continuous change, both from a development side, with releases launching new features and functionalities monthly, and customers being migrated to the new product offerings bi-monthly. To successfully meet the demands of the job, I saw Agile as its real operative term – team.
When it comes to adopting an Agile methodology, culture and mindset are often deemed to be the two biggest challenges for companies. I have certainly noticed that an Agile project requires a degree of open and adaptive mindset, in addition to a desire to work collaboratively in observing gaps, implementing features and keeping all stakeholders engaged throughout the journey. Since the role requires coordinating migration activities and providing guidance to various teams, I learnt the importance of building on mutual support and encouragement.
Making sure the teams I work with feel empowered, trusted and motivated to get the job done has been imperative and achieved so far through maintaining daily interactions with cross-functional stakeholders, building rapport, defining accountabilities and keeping an equal level of support on both sides.
The project affects payment screens globally, so we often run into regulatory deadlines, which means juggling inter-dependencies: releases that implement regulatory features, a constraining customer eligibility criterion with features to support different customers implemented in cycles, in addition to the actual customer experience and migration strategy. This can definitely be seen a challenge of Agile, but it’s also where collaboration and the sense of being part of a greater united team really comes to life.
There are so many moving parts to a project of this size that trusting the process can be a task on its own; and even more when tied with having to keep pace with changes that can have an impact on the customer’s daily banking activities and the bank’s reputation in providing that service. In this setting, hierarchy is less pronounced and every individual needs to get out of their comfort zone, to be a decision maker and be equally exposed to risk. It also means having the opportunity to work with a magnitude of stakeholders – from the BA working on the API integration for a feature in Hong-Kong, to a Regional Head who wants advice on how to manage its customer base.
Overall, the fast-paced environment has proven a great learning experience and demanded a high level of adaptability. I have learned the importance of building rapport with all team members, recognizing different behavioral traits and working styles, and in turn how to alter methods to improve efficiency. I learnt from observations, and leveraged learnings to foster a friendly environment but one where every individual is held accountable. This empowers teams to problem solve and feel comfortable to share ideas. Because at the end of the day, you want to ensure your team understands that we ‘fail together and succeed together’, which for me, encapsulates the spirit of Agile.