On the 19th of May 2016 Unicom hosted the Testing, DevOps and Agile Showcase Dublin conference at the Gresham Hotel. Unicom is an events and training organisation, specialising in Business, IT and Quantitative Finance and hosts conferences all across Europe. Linda Beckett (IT Development Manager), Andrea Baker (Agile Coach) and I, Shane O’Callaghan (Agile coach), who all work in the Online Channels area of AIB were asked to speak and share our experiences of the Online Channels Agile journey.

Agile has been adopted by many organisations and is increasingly enhancing the way they work. Whilst Agile can bring great benefits and improvements, it is also true that many organisations still face a number of challenges when it comes to implementing it successfully. Of those adopting Agile, many realise that Agile’s focus on team delivery alone is not enough and there is a pressing need to understand how best to scale Agile effectively beyond teams. This is a question we are currently asking ourselves in Online Channels. Therefore, the theme within the Agile track, was the exchange of ideas and experiences among organisations that have started their own journey towards implementing and scaling Agile.

The morning kicked off with 2 insightful keynote talks. Firstly, Stephen Nelson-Smith, the author of the seminal O’Reilly book Test Driven Infrastructure with Chef, addressed the explosion of the idea of infrastructure as code and how small to large organisations are eagerly rolling up their sleeves and starting to write Puppet manifests, Chef cookbooks and Ansible playbooks. Stephen spoke to the notion of how quickly infrastructure code can get quite complex, given its role in provisioning core systems upon which the business runs. He emphasised how it is considered reckless to put code into production without tests, thus highlighting the importance of using a test-driven approach.

The second keynote given by Ahmad Fahmy addressed the issue of how developers, amongst other roles, are being reduced to ‘resources’ and their drive eroded due to decades of Tayloristic management methods and short-term thinking. To highlight the various understandings of how organisations see the concept of a ‘team’, he contrasted a collection of people reporting to the same manager with a cross functional group of individuals working with autonomy towards a common purpose. The latter, in his experience, being a more accurate reflection of a team, is an idea that Agile has elevated over the years to be the central building block to a successful organisation. To see more of Ahmad’s work visit his website.

Our contribution came in the form of our Agile journey at Online Channels. One that started about 5 years ago and continues today with many lessons learnt and many successes under our belt. Commenced in order to address AIB’s competitiveness in the digital era, it has matured to some of our teams actively attempting to disrupt the Irish banking industry by applying a customer focus and experimental driven development approach. The banking industry will be completely turned on its head with the arrival of SEPA 2 in 2018. With the addition of banks such as Number26 and Atom, digital will be a very large part of AIB’s future. Our journey has not just fundamentally changed how we operate as a group and with our external stakeholders, it has also changed the culture and behaviour of our Desktop, Tablet, Mobile, IBB and Group Website teams.

The title and theme of our talk, ‘Being Agile Vs Doing Agile, our cultural journey — A case study of AIB Channels Development’, discussed our understanding, our experience and debunked a few misconceptions of Agile and how the methodology can go further than a set of practices. By promoting the principles and values of Agile we have created a collaborative, customer first mindset for individuals and groups across IT, business and governance all within Online Channels. Our evidence was based purely on our experience using three teams in particular:

● Mobile Banking

● Internet and Tablet Banking

● Internet Business Banking

What we found across the board was that moving to an Agile methodology not only meant changing our practices it also meant changing how we think, hence the theme of our talk, Being Agile vs Doing Agile. We are by no means at the end of our journey and it continues to progress. Overall, the three biggest lessons we have learnt so far:

1. If you have tried to become Agile and change your culture but failed, it is okay to try again. We certainly did but learning from where we went wrong helped us persevere.

2. There is more than one way to succeed when working with Agile. Focus on the values and principles and not the practices.

3. We ultimately work with people. Success will depend on how well we are able to understand and interact with others.

Over the coming few months I hope to find the time to blog in more detail about what we are doing at AIB. If you are curious about how we are finding success or are looking to start changing your our team or business practices, get in touch.

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