ICT leaders often say a common challenge they face is prioritisation, or juggling transformational or innovation projects, with business as usual concerns.
Richard Wyke, chief technology officer at Figured, can attest to this, as the fintech found itself working with teams across the globe as part of their expansion to North America.
Our most significant technology project this year has been the introduction of our product into the US market after establishing a partnership with a large agricultural bank, he says.
With existing operations in New Zealand and Australia, the expansion was important to the ongoing growth and success of the business due to the significant potential customer base the opportunity presents.
His teams looked after the technical aspects of the US expansion, including project and product management, design, development and testing, with their partner managing the marketing, sales and customer support activities.
“Alongside the new functionality developed for the market, we’ve also conducted a company wide information security project to ensure we meet the requirements of our partners in the USA as well as those in New Zealand and Australia – another large but crucial piece of work to set us up for success.”
He says these experiences, however, provided him lessons on how to navigate the balancing act on working on multiple innovative projects, while fulfilling functional responsibilities.
The expansion to the US increased the demands on the BAU capability of the team, he says.
“The challenge here was to prioritise resource to ensure we continued to meet delivery deadlines and partner expectations whilst driving forward with future focussed experiments.
“Throughout this process I found that to get internal and external stakeholders to believe in your vision, it’s important that you are able to demonstrate something tangible around what’s possible for the future, as well as instil confidence with your ability to execute today.
“To do this, it was evident that making space for teams to experiment, and structuring the teams so that the mandate for BAU delivery teams is different to those tasked with innovation projects, was critical, as it’s impossible to expect a single team to successfully deliver both.
As to other things that worked for them, he says, they set the goal of
delivering a minimal viable product (MVP) in preparation for the full launch this year.
This meant working closely through the year with a trial group of 250 early adopters.
“To ensure we could deliver, we prioritised this program over other opportunities, giving it sufficient resources as well as some contingency. Throughout the project, the team has worked collaboratively using communication channels such as Slack,” he says. It was important to connect the team to the in the US with the development and leadership teams in NZ.
As well as constant virtual communication, we had a face-to-face steering meetings with our US banking partners every other month, says Wyke.
“Fortunately, our skill sets across the team are incredibly flexible, allowing us to easily move resource and swarm on a priority where needed.”
“A big motivator for us as a team is knowing that we’re building value across our entire platform as a result of the work done in this project,” says Wyke.
“It will serve as an investment that can be reused as we enter other markets and will benefit us as we continue to scale and grow.
“This has meant that when trade-offs needed to happen, the team is open-minded and understanding of the bigger picture.”
As a team, Wyke said they had an unrelenting focus on building robust relationships with their partners, understanding the needs of their customers and ensuring they were appropriately resourced to deliver.
“We’ve also been able to jointly tackle unexpected events as true partners, rather than a more traditional vendor/customer relationship.”
From a technology perspective, he says the team delivered an MVP that they can now build upon that’s flexible, secure and scalable.
To deliver a large and complex project, while working with an established international organisation, has required us to remain disciplined in having constant dialogue as well as regular in-person governance meetings, he says.
“This open approach has enabled us to continuously review our joint efforts, better plan, and pivot as necessary.”
Learning from the startup world
“I am a strong believer that software development isn’t primarily a technical exercise but a social one, and this is the lens that has been applied throughout this work – communication has been key, along with pragmatism and flexibility of resources,” says Wyke.
Wyke says being a startup meant they are a relatively small team with an open, supportive and collaborative culture.
“The beauty of a start up is that we don’t have legacy slowing us down, and despite limited resources everyone is driven to work together and do a great job.”
Dave Dodds, CEO of Figured, attests to the contribution of Wyke to the growth of the company.
“Figured is essentially a product company and Richard in his role as CTO (which includes product, technology and development), has the significant part of Figured ‘s success under his purview,” says Dodds.
“What sets him apart from the purely ‘high-skilled’ crowd is that he has a deep understanding of many specialised domains and can connect that understanding to run multi-disciplinary teams.”
“Whether its contributing to the business strategy, managing and motivating people, steering our product strategy, working with customers, proving out a future concept, or crunching through complex architectural issues, Richard seems to be able to lead the way.
“Often multi-talented people have difficulty seeking out feedback – but Richard is the opposite,” says Dodds.
“He has set up a well functioning tech advisory board to provide a sounding board for his key strategic or operational decisions and actively seeks advice and coaching.”
“I am a strong believer that software development isn’t primarily a technical exercise but a social one, and this is the lens that has been applied throughout this work – communication has been key, along with pragmatism and flexibility of resources.”