A recent five-month effort to complete a business intelligence (BI) project for an internal division marked a major turning point for life reinsurer, RGA Australia, as its developers charged forward with an Agile-driven methodology that replaced traditional bottom-up development processes with an iterative effort to see how much could be done within a five-month timeframe.
“As a business we knew how long we were prepared to spend building that capability, so we said ‘let’s see how far we get up to’,” explains transformation manager, Josh Melville, who drove organisational change to bring Agile to fruition within the organisation.
The validity of that approach became clear after a month, when a functional review of the project revealed it wasn’t proceeding in an optimal way. Instead of pushing back the timeline and trying to fix it, the team just rolled back its efforts, changed its business objectives, and kept going.
“I could have spent four weeks just designing what we were going to build, but that effort would have been completely invalidated,” Melville explains. “Agile is all about taking whatever makes sense in the context you’re in, at the point in time you’re in, to improve delivery of the outcome you’re going for. We had fixed iterations that could have gone live at any point in time, and it really has to be about continuous improvement.”
The project went live after five months, with enough functionality to meet the business requirement.
“Objective clarity is really what I think a project manager’s role is about,” Melville says. “It’s bringing people in a team together, and getting them working towards a very clear outcome. Our team cannot wait to start another BI project: They learned so much in the first project, and they have great new ideas for how they’re going to approach the next one.”