How UK CIOs are using agile project management

Agile project management has been rapidly gaining advocates since a selection of leading programmers met in Utah in 2001 and created the Agile Manifesto. Their idea was that iterative and incremental short development cycles focused on specific elements of a project would boost collaboration and product delivery speeds.

CIOs and other IT leaders quickly took note. CIO UK hears how they're using agile in their organisations.

Read next: Agile project management CIO guide - The pros and cons of Agile methodology

Additional reporting by Hannah Williams.

Diana McKenzie - Workday
© Workday

Diana McKenzie - Workday

Workday CIO Diana McKenzie uses an agile environment to distribute work across various platforms, whilst forming an inclusive workplace for all employees.

"The way in which we take on work for those platforms is one where we run very much in an agile environment with scrum teams, and those platform teams are engaged from the point that the requirements are drafted, to the development and ensuring that as we roll those changes through to production, we're doing that with this notion of continuous integration, continuous delivery,” McKenzie told CIO UK.

Read next: Workday CIO Diana McKenzie on building inclusion into a firm's DNA

Jacky Wright - HMRC

Jacky Wright - HMRC

HMRC Chief Digital and Information Officer Jacky Wright has been using agile as part of a transformation journey that aims the help the organisation move at a faster pace.

Wright was responsible for overseeing the transformation from outsourcing to insourcing, and although many of the previous vendors are still involved with HMRC, a new tone was set on partnership and collaboration rather than a transactional relationship.

"It's completely broken up," Wright said. "However, the majority of the suppliers who provided the service are still in play. They do still provide a great deal of our services that they did before.

"But before they owned it and ran it for us, and today we're looking at something different; we're looking for them to really partner with us and help us understand what we need to do to reduce our operating cost, to become more agile.

"It's becoming a true partnership, versus an order-taking relationship, which I think has been historically, for the most part, the way our partners have worked with us."

Read next: HMRC Chief Digital and Information Officer Jacky Wright interview - Developing a new operating model and culture for the digital era

James Munson - DVSA

James Munson - DVSA

DVSA Director of Services and Technology James Munson has gained executive level buy-in for the agile ways of working that his digital transformation strategy requires by getting them together to explain the concepts and answer any questions they might have.

A the Gartner Symposium and ITxpo in Barcelona, he conveyed the power of an agile way of working by presenting the executives with pictures of an architectural project that he and his wife had undertaken. They had planned to build an extension on their house, but it took a year before the architect's drawings were being constructed.

"I honestly think - and this is what I said to them - that if we'd got all those people together in our dining room, with my wife and I as the customer, and we had worked it in a few sprints, I reckon we would've got there in a month," he said.

"It's just that idea of working as a multidisciplinary team together on a daily basis - you feel as if you can make much quicker progress than if you are using a more Waterfall approach," he added.

Read next: DVSA Director of Services and Technology James Munson driving the journey to agility

Matthew Reynolds - Southampton FC

Matthew Reynolds - Southampton FC

Southampton FC CIO Matthew Reynolds blends agile and scrum for software development with waterfall methodologies for infrastructure projects and big builds such as a Rolling Stones concert that took place in the Premier League off-season.

Reynolds embeds agile thinking across his team so everyone has the capability to develop their own ideas and to maximise efficiency. He uses a Kanban board to visualise the progress of projects.

"Every year it astounds me of what the team achieved from the size of it because when you have a small, aligned, empowered, motivated team you can produce so much more," he says.

Read next: Southampton FC IT Director Matthew Reynolds kicking tech into football

Mark Holt - Trainline
© Trainline

Mark Holt - Trainline

Trainline CTO Mark Holt moved the ticket retailer to the AWS cloud to make the company more agile and responsive as the organisation continues to expand.

All of his development teams are now in continuous delivery, which has helped them improve from one release every six weeks in 2014 to 185 every week, making them over 1,000 times more agile.

"We're 100% cloud, we've moved to micro-services architecture, we're in continuous delivery and the reason for that is because it makes us more agile and innovative," he says.

Read next:  Trainline CTO Mark Holt CIO 100 interview - 'Wonderfully predictable' analytics mission

Jane Moran - Unilever
© Unilever

Jane Moran - Unilever

Unilever CIO Jane Moran has been using agile to create a platform-based approach that blends growth, innovation, disruption and legacy at the 88-year-old consumer goods company.

Moran has combined agile squads drawn from her IT team, business partners and third parties to help staff "think differently about technology, and their role in technology".

New roles such as solutions architecture experts and senior software engineers have been added to the agile mix to make the company faster and more responsive.

"We've also had a fundamental shift in how we work, from simultaneously running a large portfolio of projects, to focusing on about 30 key strategic technology platforms," says Moran.

Read next: Unilever CIO Jane Moran interview - Developing an Agile platform for growth and innovation

Andrew Quail - SGN

Andrew Quail - SGN

Director of IT and Innovations Andrew Quail has made the gas distribution company more agile by moving the IT estate to the public cloud and creating an environment in which vendors have to work together for shared success.

All of these had to be overcome within a new vendor landscape. Quail ensured that he was getting the right services from these suppliers through an emphasis on mutual benefits.

"There's a lot of new technology being used and different ways of working. I would say all organisations and all of the industry vendors in my landscape are having to learn and having to adjust in order to support what we're doing here, and I have to say they are," he says.

"It's quite different from the go to market, find a contract, sign the contract, let it run model. It's much more iterative, much more – dare I say – agile, and much, much more engaged."

Read next: Andrew Quail reveals how SGN works with regulators on digital strategy

Jackson Hull - GoCompare
© GoCompare

Jackson Hull - GoCompare

GoCompare CTO Jackson Hull led a business transformation strategy that transformed the business along agile and streamlined working practices.

Staff were organised into small cross-functional teams that could quicken the pace of development by focusing on discrete problems.

"What we're left with today is you just have a group of people who are conditioned to change," says Hull.

"More change is good and that's going to be our key asset going forward, to change as needed. Because we can move quickly we don't have to know exactly where the future is going. We just have to be able to move faster than anybody else and let it become clearer as we go."

Read next: GoCompare CTO Jackson Hull on business transformation for innovation

Mayank Prakash - Department for Work & Pensions
© DWP

Mayank Prakash - Department for Work & Pensions

Department for Work & Pensions Chief Digital and Information Officer Mayank Prakash has delivered more than20 agile iterations to help build universal credit, Europe's largest digital product.

Prakash has used an agile methodology as part of his effort to develop a new operating model at the DWP based on a bottom-up culture and building multidisciplinary teams around products to create at pace.

"The way we work is as vital as the services we run," he told CIO UK. "In DWP digital we foster a culture of collaboration and inclusiveness, where teams work together across boundaries, iterate and show progress every week, and are curious and supportive.

"We've redesigned our organisation in favour of multidisciplinary agile teams iterating frequently and delivering often. No longer do we spend all our efforts tracking milestones on a plan. Instead, we ask ourselves 'what did we deliver last week'?"

"We collaborate closely with colleagues from DWP policy and operations, using their knowledge and expertise to design digital services that meet the needs of our users, with shared accountability for outcomes."

Read next: Departing DWP CDIO Mayank Prakash reflects on four years in the role

Charles Ewen - Met Office

Charles Ewen - Met Office

Met Office CIO Charles Ewen takes a multi-modal approach to software development, combining a waterfall model for big infrastructure projects and agile for more innovative ventures such as the Met Office app.

"We have squads and tribes and we work in sprints and we have retrospectives and epics and all that kind of stuff, and we deploy that where it's needed, but equally we can work in more traditional project approaches," says Ewen.

"We have a very flexible delivery model that is essentially a combination of an [Agile to Waterfall] delivery style and also in-source, internally managed and full out-source as a kind of matrix. We are always clear which approach we are taking when we initialise production activity."

Read next:  Met Office CIO Charles Ewen on how supercomputers forecast the weather

Fin Goulding - Aviva International

Fin Goulding - Aviva International

Aviva International CIO Fin Goulding is so enthusiastic about agile that he wrote a book on the subject. Flow: A Handbook for Change Makers, Mavericks, Innovation Activists and Leaders uses real-life case studies to show how to develop an agile culture.

Aviva has used agile to reduce the time it takes from an idea to become a product from months down to days, and plans to further cut this time down.

Goulding believes that culture and behaviour are essential to make agile work, and that many organisations fail by instead focusing on protocol.

"Agile has become bogged down in certification and consultancies telling you how to do stuff, and scaled frameworks that no one understands," says Goulding.

"People are monetising Agile. It was all about being simplistic, making things simpler and continually learning, and cutting down on the bureaucracy; but now we're adding to it."

Read next: Aviva International CIO Fin Goulding interview - Bringing Agile flow to 'Jurassic' insurance sector

Tom Clark - Leeds Building Society

Tom Clark - Leeds Building Society

Leeds Building Society CIO Tom Clark has implemented an agile approach based on 90-day challenges that encourage staff to focus on what can be done quickly rather than aiming for perfection.

The award-winning strategy has helped his team respond more quickly to customers.

"To ensure change is still possible for the business, and ultimately for the customers, I run a number of "90-day challenges" where we change process, communications and systems to solve a problem or seize an opportunity," he says.

"The 90-day approach was introduced in 2015 and won us the Agile Awards for Best Use of Agile Outside of IT and Best Lean Implementation. It has continued to be used with great success in delivering improvements while the major transformational work progresses."

Dan Fiehn - Markerstudy
© Markerstudy

Dan Fiehn - Markerstudy

Markerstudy Group CIO Dan Fiehn uses an agile approach to develop data-driven products at the motor insurance company.

To make the IT team at Markerstudy more agile, Fiehn flattened the hierarchy of the organisational structure.

"We consciously have created small freely autonomous teams who move in a different direction," Fiehn explained at the IoT Smart Summit in London.

"For this truly to work we've had to really push down the decision-making so the teams can make a lot of the decisions themselves to move with the utmost velocity."

Read next: Markerstudy Group CIO Dan Fiehn explains how he deals with the pace of technology innovation while battling the business change backlog

Rob Harding - Capital One

Rob Harding - Capital One

Capital One CIO Rob Harding implemented project management techniques to change the bank's culture and the behaviour of staff and make the organisation more responsive.

"The technology team was the epicentre for our adoption of agile methodologies," he says. All our product teams now use some form of agile approach."

"This has extended beyond software engineering into our operations, HR and finance teams, with the ultimate goal of creating a more nimble business."

Read next: Capital One Europe CIO Rob Harding interview - A six-point master plan to fuse financial services with technology

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