Bankwest feeds agile methods into CBA

Bankwest feeds agile methods into CBA

Banks uses agile to develop debt management application

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is watching the use of agile practices at recently acquired subsidiary Bankwest, which helped cut two-thirds out of the project deployment time.

Bankwest chief information officer, Andy Weir, spoke about the bank's use of agile practices for a technology project to develop a debt management application at the conference in Melbourne.

Apart from the faster development time and fewer defects, agile has had several effects on staff and processes, he said, including the threat of developers leaving the organisation if there are not enough agile projects and using agile practices in waterfall project methods.

The west coast bank has applied agile in the single project but is looking to re-use it in future, Weir said, despite the bank's recent acquisition by Commonwealth Bank.

Bankwest shouldn't put initiatives on hold for several years simply because it was waiting to merge with Commonwealth Bank, he said, adding the agile projects also provide a “test bed” for agile which could potentially be fed back into CBA.

“There's a lot of value that needs to be added to the organisation and rather than sit there and say, 'it's a waste of time because we're going to do something differently in a few years’... that's not the way,” Weir said.

“Part two is we're sharing with our CBA colleagues. We do work very well, our relationship is excellent and we do have a lot of cross collaboration, so consequently they use us as a bit of a test bed for these types of things, and then we can reverse engineer that back into the mothership, so to speak.

“We still have loads of stuff to do ourselves, and secondly, I think there's value, rather than just sitting here.”

Agile is often promoted as a way to energise staff with high value work, and in this regard it has almost worked too well, Weir said. After some initial objections, development staff embraced the methods to the extent that they could leave the organisation without more agile-based projects to work on.

“We've now got the situation where, frankly, the developers working on this agile project are a flight risk. They're saying 'don't send me back to waterfall or I'll go somewhere else'.”

“On the one hand it's brilliant; they’re wonderfully engaged. But going back to that resource management point it’s a real issue if you haven't got the pipeline of agile projects behind you. That IP is going to walk straight out the door.”

Another human resource issue is the staff stress levels in response to the changed workloads when moving away from waterfall project practices, he said.

“Developers moving from waterfall projects to agile are needed immediately, not three-quarters of the way down the food chain," he said. “The resource management profile becomes much more difficult, because you're not operating in a vacuum. Those developers weren't due to be free until X [date], you can't just sit there and think 'we can't do agile stuff, until the next project comes free'.”

The debt management project was completed in 15 weeks, from the design phase to deployment, and Weir estimated it would have taken 13 months to complete using traditional waterfall project methods.

Despite the gap, he said Bankwest has been “strong in agile because it was strong in waterfall”, the key to which was having a significant involvement of stakeholders from the business who have the authority to quickly make important decisions.

“While waterfall and things like this get a boot for these challenges, it's still a decent methodology and we're pretty good at that. We have good levels of buy in from those stakeholders and business customers.

“We didn't really have a problem in that area to start with. Rather, we've done something clever to get better at it.”

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Tags agileBankWestCommonwealth Bank of AustraliaAgile AustraliaAndy Weirwaterfall

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