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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.

Call in coach

Unusually for a company of OFX’s size – around 300 employees across six offices – an Agile coach was hired full-time.

"It's fundamentally about changing culture, changing behaviour and changing the way people think, so it's a really really important role for us,” Pendleton-Browne says.

There's a big change from the 'tell people what to do' piece to ‘help people unblock their issues’. That command and control structure doesn't work for me in an Agile environment. It disempowers those teams.

The new scrum-based way of working is resulting in big releases like a new tool for online sellers released late last year, as well as small improvements like the refined customer registration journey across all of OFX’s websites, which has removed unnecessary forms and documentation.

Craige Pendleton-Browne, CTO at OFX
Craige Pendleton-Browne, CTO at OFX

Releases are made monthly – mainly due to restrictions from legacy systems – and are the result of a far more collaborative process. That will improve further as the company completes its transition to the cloud and moves production and development to  Amazon Web Services. The ‘velocity of features delivered’ is improving every quarter. Teams that bring together product and technology focused individuals are developing cultures of their own too.

"Teams are taking accountability, teams are owning not only their own roadmap but their own culture and own way of working,” Pendleton-Browne says. "The conversations are a lot more mature now rather than ‘how do I just get stuff done’ conversations.”

Scrum one, scrum all

With the technology team having now fully embraced scrum working practices, Agile fever is spreading across the wider OFX business. That makes a lot of sense and leads to better results, Pendleton-Browne explains.

“There’s always disconnect if you don’t get Agile working up into the business, and cost and complexity in managing that overlap. I love my engineers questioning the product owners, or when an engineer will go ‘I know you’re trying to do this, but if we did this which is slightly different it would be ten times faster’: where we’ve had a debate and the solution ends up being a better solution because of the debate,” he says.

A walk through OFX’s Sydney offices, and visitors will see work-in-progress boards up in other business units.

"Marketing have a wall up the top. I've just noticed finance this last week has put a wall up, and our customer service team has got a wall up as well. It is spreading," Pendleton-Browne says.

As well as improved products and more frequent releases, Agile has brought an ethic of transparency and collaboration to the entire business.

“We are very transparent in terms of what we are committed to and what we've delivered against. It takes time,” Pendleton-Browne says. "But the pace of change now is even going quicker than the pace of change when we started. I'm really happy with where we are.”

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Tags chief technology officer (CTO)DevelopmentproductionworkingAgile methodologiesenvironmentsfinanceforeign exchangeOFXScrumfintechAgileOzForexculturescrum master

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