- Agile delivery methods, with their small delivery teams, require less hierarchy and red tape.
- Australian banks are experimenting with agile ways of working to get to market quicker.
- For banking, going agile is hard but necessary to compete in a changing landscape.
When CEO of ANZ Shayne Elliott announced the bank was turning agile, it caught everyone by surprise.
Could you get a job at the bank if you weren’t agile? Could you keep your job if you weren’t that good at agile, and what did it mean anyway? Maybe, some mused, it was a fad and might just go away. But Elliott told PwC that going agile is fundamentally going to change what ANZ is and how it engages with the community and customers.
In an interview with PwC publication The Press, Elliott said he believes the bank needs to act speedily and become more productive, and that this can be achieved by creating less hierarchy through building small collaborative and well-resourced teams.
“We need to listen to what’s happening out in the community and what’s happening with our customers and be able to respond with great features, service and functionality,” he says.
“We’re really about upturning the way we get stuff done here. It’s called New Ways of Working and it’s really adopting some principles around the agile way of working.”
What is agile?
The agile working manifesto was developed by a group of executives from American software companies, who established 12 principles while at a ski resort in Utah. It centres on the belief that it is easier to satisfy customers through early and continuous delivery of services and responding quickly to change.
PwC Consulting partner Paul Eisenberg says agile is a more “light-weight way of working, less military”, explaining that companies adopting it are removing impediments that prevent them from responding quickly to change.
“Agile is speed with stability,” he says. “It’s a fundamental and values-based way of working that allows the business to change its mind and adapt, change direction, with speed and stability and with low risk and low cost.
“Agile is a capability that organisations possess. If they don’t recognise it, all it is doing is blocking them from competing in the market.”
The ability to change quickly and easily
The theory of agile working is that by breaking down the silos in which traditional organisations have worked, it reduces duplication, red tape and bureaucracy that impede quick decision making. It is moving from a command and control model, where ‘commanders’ are seen to have all the answers, to empowering employees so they can help drive better customer outcomes.
Agile working techniques are already being used by leading technology companies such as Spotify and Google. Eisenberg says IAG and Suncorp have been early adopters of agile working in the Australian market, and recently agile has started to be heavily adopted by Australia’s major banks. “In the bank cycle it can take between one to five years to change,” he says.
Adopting the principles of agility
NAB has been adopting agile working principles for the last decade, first introducing it into its wholesale and markets business. NAB Health acting general manager Paul Littleton says PwC helped redesign the Health Bank experience by building NAB E-Health – an interactive portal co-created with healthcare customers (practitioners) to deliver health and financial insights to customers in a different way.
“It was the first time that we have sat down in a structured way and asked our health clients about how they live their lives and what’s important to them and then aligning solutions to that,” Littleton says. NAB Health’s old website attracted on average 500 hits a month, with the new platform launched in December now gaining 6,500 visits on average.
While ANZ announced it too would move to an agile working environment in May this year, 20% of the bank’s technology and digital products, including Apple Pay, have already been delivered by agile working teams.
Using agile working principles allowed the bank to roll out the Apple Pay app from concept to market in less than ten weeks.
Elliott says: “Some areas of the bank have been using agile ways of working for a while now and others are already experimenting with it. For many others, though, this is very new. New Ways of Working will be a focus for the Australia division and supporting functions first, and during 2018 we will bring the approach to the rest of the bank.”
Just last month, Westpac, which already has about one third of the bank working agile, announced it would roll out the practice across its product management and marketing teams.
Building projects around the team
Eisenberg says many people misunderstand and misuse the term agile working. “It’s not about cutting staff. Many companies are building projects around the team rather than the team around the project,” he says.
“If you have a team of motivated individuals you don’t disband them; you leave them together. Over the last five years there has been a push towards having this approach as a business-as-usual function rather than getting temporary contractors in. Sometimes you need to bring in new people, but that shouldn’t change the way of working. The work should be inherently agile.”
Eisenberg says new staff join a business or a particular project they will be asked if they subscribe to agile working principles. “Most job seekers will be asked, not necessarily explicitly about if they can work agile, but more that they will be given scenarios and asked to demonstrate and show those values,” he says.
Why go agile?
Eisenberg believes those companies with monopolies or duopolies will be the hardest hit if they are not agile, as disruptors like Uber and Amazon enter the increasingly globalised Australian market.
“This is the hardest change any organisation will do as it fundamentally tips it on its head and says we’re no longer about management and control any more, we are about trust and leadership.”
Lucille Keen is a senior reporter for PwC’s publication, The Press. This article originally appeared in Edition 3.