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Foreign exchange firm OFX does Agile right

Foreign exchange firm OFX does Agile right

Methodology gains currency throughout the business after staff felt short-changed by initial efforts.

When Craige Pendleton-Browne arrived at ASX-listed foreign exchange firm OFX in late 2015, the technology team was already doing Agile. Or at least, they thought they were.

What that really was, was a bit of chaos actually,” remembers Pendleton-Browne, OFX’s chief technology officer. “It wasn’t really Agile for me.”

The result of a consultancy’s earlier visit had led to the creation of small teams working on small chunks of work.

“They didn't have any concept of what I would call product owners or any concept of actually setting scrum teams or making people accountable for decisions that get made in terms of prioritisation,” Pendleton-Browne told CIO Australia.

The inevitable lack of tangible benefits from the pseudo-methodologies was beginning to make OFX’s employees and executive doubt Agile’s advantages.

But now, 18 months later, Scrum-style Agile has been adopted across the technology team and is fast spreading to other business units. Internal metrics indicate significant output gains and in the last financial year alone there were 50 features delivered with this new approach. Putting customers first and responding to their ever-changing needs has become the new norm.

“That cultural change of empowering people, creating a culture where people feel they can all contribute, that takes time. But we are well on that journey,” Pendleton-Browne says. “I see us evolving really nicely now.”

All change

OFX began in a garage in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, as a website that compared foreign exchange rates. The company soon launched its own money transfer services, expanding to the UK, US, Canadian and Hong Kong markets, and in 2013 listed on the ASX as OzForex.

Since then OFX (as it is now known) has been scaling-up and now boasts of 156,700 active clients making a total of 3,380 transfers each day.

Faced with some disappointing recent results and the resignation in February of CEO Richard Kimber, the company believes that investment in technology and customers’ digital experience will help it weather often volatile trading conditions. As the company’s new CEO John Malcolm summed it up, the company is now about: “great people, great technology, teamwork, clear thinking”.

Shortly before Pendleton-Browne joined the company in 2015 – following roles as CTO for News Digital Media, head of content and digital for News Corp Australia and CTO of iCareHealth, Australia’s leading provider of residential aged care software – OFX had made some attempts to adopt Agile.

But hopes of improving the cycle-time of releases, so the customer experience could be constantly improved upon and refined, went unrealised.

“There was a camp in technology and product that was going ‘Please help, this isn't working as effectively as it could be’. And then the business camp that was going ‘I'm not getting the delivery that I was expecting to get by going with this so-called Agile thing’,” Pendleton-Browne says.

Burned by a lack of outcomes, Pendleton-Browne noticed a growing scepticism towards the working practice within teams.

“There was scepticism: We're meant to be agile but it is really delivering on what what it should be delivering on? Are we really getting the productivity gains that we should have gotten?” he says.

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Tags agilefinanceDevelopmentproductionscrumCultureforeign exchangechief technology officer (CTO)fintechOzForexscrum masterAgile methodologiesOFXenvironmentsworking

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