Suncorp is “agilising” its business and extending agile practices to non-technology areas at the regional bank, following the successful use of the project management methodology in a range of IT projects.
The change comes as the regional bank is also trialling virtualisation technology that allows staff to bring their personal computing devices to work, including iPads and Linux systems.
Agile practices aim to encourage the faster delivery of technology projects with fewer defects, by breaking down a large project release into smaller iterations and encouraging greater involvement of stakeholders.
The bank’s internal audit and human resource departments are already using these methodologies, according to Suncorp business services CEO, Jeff Smith.
In the last couple of years, Smith has almost exclusively used agile practices to complete a large range of technology projects at Suncorp, including the development of a new online claims platforms for the insurance business and a mainframe integration project.
These experiences were used to create an online learning platform, agileacademy.com.au, to which Suncorp contributed 35 courses that can be used and contributed under the open source licence.
Smith said it has become a knowledge hub for the agile community and training providers, and Suncorp wants to encourage the same learning ethos among staff in non-technology business units.
“That was the idea with the agile academy. On an external note, we’re not all-knowing in knowledge and we’re the ones funding and building these courses, but we want other people externally to build some” Smith said.
“The same thing we’d like internally, which is some really smart people in our different lines of business are going to come up and build some content, which we can fold back in.
“That’s what we mean by agilising the business, to create a culture of clarity over certainty, course correction over perfection and speed and velocity, to drive speed through their program. We were very inward focus the last couple of years and now it’s getting a bit outwards focused.”
The courses aren’t IT related but are specific to each business unit to perform specific training, education and coaching, and removing waste from processes and systems.
He said the demand for this was coming from the business units themselves, after they saw the success of agile in IT.
“They’ve participated in the projects,” Smith said. “Our claims project is hitting every common brand across the common claims engine.
“We’re out there in a lot of lines of business or personal insurance specialists, who say ‘gosh the project management works well, the continuous improvement works well, the standards processes work well, I want to go take that into the rest of one of our brands’.
“The demand is coming from them, not from us trying to push it out, so they help us really roll this out more quickly.”
In addition to the agile education, Smith revealed plans to rid Suncorp of having a standard desktop environment and allow staff to BYO computing device, including iPhones and iPads.
“Our aspiration is to get to a point where we don’t have a standard PC anymore,” he said.
“That’s our aspiration, because we’re having a huge growth in iPads and things like that, and what we’ve figured out is if we have a good virtual environment we can make that run independent of device, why do we have a standard PC?”
The BYO technology is being trialled with the bank’s developers, and said it would build on existing Suncorp functionality of a single desktop, and log-in that staff can access from any building or campus.
“We’d give people a virtual machine to load and they can bring their device in, and that way it’s still secure, the corporate data is stored on the network not the device, but they can still use all the tools and stuff from their own device, that’s the idea behind it,” Smith said.
“You can’t build an iPhone [platform] but you have to figure out how to make it work, that’s the same with iPads and macs, and it shouldn’t matter whether it’s Windows, or Linux or MacOSX, we should be able to make that work.”
Smith admitted it was early days but said a formal project would be ready within the year.
“We’ve demonstrated our virtual machines working on all those devices, but we have to take a bit more time to say what does that really mean, do we pilot that in multiple areas? do we do a full rollout?” he said.