Aegon Asset Management

Aegon Asset Management Unites Executives and Global Teams to Deliver Faster and More Predictably

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With roots going back 200 years, Aegon Group is one of the world’s leading providers of life insurance, pensions, and asset management. The global company operates in more than 20 countries with 26,000 employees and reports more than EUR 804 billion in revenue-generating investments. As part of Aegon Group, Aegon Asset Management (AAM) intends to retain its industry-leading position. AAM set some big goals, including digitalization and accelerating the pace of change. To achieve those objectives, and more, IT leaders realized that distributed teams in the UK, Netherlands, and the US needed to collaborate on a global level. AAM had begun bottom-up, informal efforts in Agile and DevOps, and yet, the teams still weren’t able to work together effectively.

AAM turned to SAFe as a means to expand the company’s Agile efforts and keep teams synchronized across borders. They saw SAFe’s Portfolio level as a way to align enterprise strategy with Portfolio execution and were able to establish a single, global backlog reviewed and prioritized by C-suite stakeholders. AAM is a model for showcasing the importance of executive engagement, Lean Portfolio Management, consistent expectations, and how a successful transformation needs all levels of the organization.

“We saw SAFe as providing a unifying structure to get our different units working together in the same way.”
—Philip Johnson, Global Chief Change Officer, Aegon Asset Management

Presented at the Global SAFe Summit, October 2020.

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Dutch Tax and Customs Administration – Implementing SAFe for Government

Dutch Tax and Customs Administration - Implementing SAFe for Government

“We are delivering faster and more predictably than in the past, which has changed many minds and driven a shift in long-ingrained ways of working.”

Mark Braam, IT Manager/RTE, Interaction Services at DTCA

Challenge:

DTCA sought to improve its speed and predictability in bringing new technology to the organization and citizens.

Industry:

Government

Results:

  • Major releases 3X more often
  • 80% reduction in technical debt
  • Half of managers moved into other roles
  • Greater engagement and collaboration across all levels

Best Practices:

  • Go ‘by the book’ – Follow SAFe training and ceremonies closely for the best results.
  • Anticipate organizational change – SAFe facilitated a cultural and organizational shift at DTCA.
  • Give teams freedom – Trust teams and give them space to do their jobs.
  • Shift to product thinking – Product vs. project thinking provides continuity and life cycle management and a more long-term outlook, plus brings more attention to improvement, maintainability, lifecycle management, and cost of ownership.

Introduction

With 26,000 employees, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (DTCA) is one of the largest government agencies in the Netherlands, and is responsible for collecting taxes and customs, and extending tax credits and benefits to Dutch residents.

Implementing SAFe for Government

DTCA relies on technology to sharpen productivity and simplify online tax and customs procedures. Yet in this process-oriented and risk-averse culture, technology evolves slowly. Initiatives have typically begun with piles of paperwork and then have taken months or years to reach completion, often to suffer from frustrating quality issues.

To address its ongoing challenges, DTCA began moving toward a Lean approach and also started applying Scrum practices. These first steps toward an Agile way of working did help but were not enough to achieve goals such as improving delivery times and elevating quality.

SAFe: A Path to Delivering Value

In the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), DTCA found a method for achieving agility at scale—and long-sought results.

“To deliver more value, we knew that projects and teams needed to be aligned more effectively, and we believed the shift to SAFe would help us get there,” explained Mark Braam, IT Manager/RTE, Interaction Services at DTCA.

The Tax Allowances division, which handles tax credits and benefits for health care, rent, and childcare, began first. Per the SAFe Implementation Roadmap, they provided role-based training to virtually all Agile Release Train (ART) members, relying on an independent Certified SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) for training and coaching.

Early on, managers and team members sceptically viewed the effort and the time they would need to dedicate to training and planning events. Ultimately, they had to trust that pulling 140 people into an event for two days every 12 weeks would pay off in the end—and it did. The first ART began delivering business value during the first PI.

“Before SAFe, we released our software twice a year, with all the fixed requirements and the changes on these requirements during the development phase,” recalled Ramzi Barkoudah, Release Train Engineer (RTE) of the Tax Allowances ART. “But now we are releasing every four weeks. Seeing those benefits helped gain the support of the business and the leadership of the company.”

As one example, every year, tax allowances, which have been granted in advance, are calculated and extended based upon the determined annual income of each citizen. This massive process involves allowances for millions of citizens. In the past, DTCA could implement changes in this process only once or twice a year. With a major investment in the delivery pipeline and improving the delivery process by implementing SAFe, the organization now makes changes to the process in small batches, releasing changes every four weeks.

Progress in the Tax Allowances ART inspired the Interaction Services division to make the leap as well. Going ‘by the book,’ they asked everyone joining the first ART to go through role-based training, approximately 140 people.

When it was time for the first Program Increment (PI) Planning event, team members arrived excited and optimistic. They quickly saw the impact the Framework brought as the number of risks on the Program Board grew to 100. Identifying those risks allowed teams to resolve them together, one by one, and to categorize each before moving on to set PI objectives.

IT/Business Collaboration = More On-Target Products

In a culture of such ingrained practices, DTCA has had to educate team members and Product Owners continuously on the value of spending time in PI Planning, and to prove that SAFe delivers better results than traditional project management.

Siebren Biesma, Process Director for Supervision in Interaction Services, has spent nearly 35 years at DTCA. With SAFe, he has seen new ways of working replace long-held practices.

Before, Biesma’s team would spend months writing plans for projects with occasional interaction with him. Then, IT teams would go away to work on the project—often for at least a year.

Implementing SAFe for Government

Today, Biesma remains engaged from the start. “With SAFe, as a Business Owner, I’m always participating,” he explained. “The RTE asks a number of questions and I need to explain loudly and clearly what I want. It forces me to be prepared and prioritize what’s most important.”

Biesma stresses that relentless involvement, from PI to PI, not only creates a more on-target product, but builds in flexibility to make adjustments along the way. Product Ownership continuously informs the development process—ensuring that the final product meets their needs and that funds are allocated in the right areas. While budgeting itself hasn’t changed, transparency regarding the budget has.

“In PI planning events, I get a better understanding how much we’re spending and if it’s on the right things,” Biesma added.

Biesma and fellow decades-long colleagues have noticed a significant cultural shift; they clearly know who is doing what, and collaborate and discuss more than before. Such collaboration has led to tighter alignment between the business and IT, which Willy Rovers, Managing Director of IT, says is one of the biggest benefits of SAFe.

“To maintain optimal alignment with societal and market changes, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration’s processes must be continuously and short-cyclically adjusted,” Rovers said. “Business and IT use SAFe to be able to realize and implement the required IT facilities quickly and predictably.”

Braam gives credit to the teams for self-organizing, increasing their engagement. Train leaders asked 100 people to assign themselves to one of the teams, with each team comprising seven to nine people. They provided guidelines around the composition of each team, such as the ratio of junior to senior people.

“We stepped aside and let people self-organize instead of management telling them where to go,” Braam said. “After a week, we only had to ask about 10 people to move to other teams. It was quite a victory for us.”

Technical Debt Down 80 Percent

DTCA continues to run two large ARTs (125+), with four Value Streams (one in Tax Allowances and three in Interaction Services). In fact, DTCA follows a hybrid way of working where every department can choose either SAFe or a more ‘traditional’ project management-oriented way of working, depending on what fits best. The organization has driven notable results across the two ARTs and within a few smaller ARTs:

  • More frequent releases – Major releases come out 3X more often, from 4 to 12 in a year.
  • Improved software quality/technical debt – DTCA improved quality by reducing the number of ‘problems’ by 80 percent, and security issues by 87 percent (Interaction Services).
  • Less management overhead – The number of people with the word ‘manager’ in their titles dropped in half. These individuals moved into other roles.
  • Increased engagement – People are more engaged, connected with each other, and willing to help others.

“We are delivering faster and more predictably than in the past, which has changed many minds and driven a culture shift in long-ingrained ways of working,” Braam said. “And we expect even more progress as we move ahead on current objectives such as continuous deployment and release on demand.”

Training At-a-Glance

The organization trained more than 250 people across multiple SAFe courses:

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Royal Philips

“Philips is continuously driving to develop high-quality software in a predictable, fast and Agile way. SAFe addresses this primary goal, as well as offering these further benefits: reduced time to market and improved quality, stronger alignment across geographically distributed multi-disciplinary teams, and collaboration across teams to deliver meaningful value to customers with reduced cycle time.”

Sundaresan Jagadeesan, Program Manager – I2M Excellence SW Development Program

Challenge:

Philips sought to transition from traditional development to Agile, as well as bring an Agile mindset to business units beyond software to address the needs of a dynamic customer environment.

Industry:

Information Technology, Healthcare

Solution:

SAFe®

Results:

  • Average release cycle time down from 18 months to 6 months
  • Feature cycle time reduced from >240 to <100 days
  • Sprint and PI deliveries on time, leading to “release on demand”
  • Quality improvements—zero regressions in some business units
  • 5 major releases per train per year on demand

Best Practices:

Philips recommends a straightforward, 4-step approach for any organization aiming to transition to Agile

  • Develop products in the Agile way with focus on basic Agile practices (Scrum)
  • Establish product ownership with a focus on enabling scaling aspects (SAFe practices)
  • Establish a release pipeline with continuous integration (supported by automation)
  • Adopt a DevOps culture with focus on continuous delivery (to production environment)

Introduction

Netherlands-based Royal Philips is a $26 billion medical technology company committed to making the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation. Their goal is to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025, so being able to achieve faster time to market has a direct impact not just on bottom line, but on millions of lives as well.

Agile Transformation Journey

In 2014, the company began exploring the use of Agile methods to improve processes and increase efficiency across the organization. With a traditional, project-based approach to software development, release cycle time averaged 18 months. Philips had to accelerate delivery to meet market demands.

“Changing customer expectations and the tremendous pace of market disruptions require a framework and processes that are quick, scalable and responsive,” says Sundaresan Jagadeesan, Program Manager at Philips Electronic India Limited. “The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) with its non-linear approach and adaptability, is the way of the future.”

Vigorously Deploying SAFe

At Philips, the SAFe initiative fell within a program called I2M Excellence Idea to Market. The program is part of Accelerate!, a multi-year, worldwide business-transformation program designed to change the way the company does business and unlock its full potential. To that end, the company formed a foundational core of Scrum, upon which it could build SAFe practices.

“We chose SAFe to meet our goals of reducing time to market, improving quality, strengthening alignment across geographically distributed multi-disciplinary teams, and collaborating across teams to deliver meaningful value to customers with reduced cycle time,” says Jagadeesan.

Philips is now vigorously deploying SAFe in its software businesses and is piloting its use in complex systems environments (hardware, software, mechanical engineering, customer support and electrical teams). What’s more, the company has brought SAFe beyond software development to the R&D activities of a number of businesses, particularly in the Business Group, Healthcare Informatics, Solutions & Services (BG HISS).

Agile Transformation Journey

Driving Feature Cycle Time Down 58%

To date, Philips has 42 ARTs running across various business units, making this one of the larger-scale SAFe implementations. With a focus on the systems business, the company has launched multiple ARTs there as well, including the first ART in Philips China.

Agile Transformation Journey

The results:

  • Average release cycle time down from 18 months to 6 months
  • A greater focus on the customer mindset
  • Feature cycle time reduced from >240 to <100 days
  • Sprint and PI deliveries on time, leading to “release on demand”
  • Quality improvements—zero regressions in some business units
  • 5 major releases per train per year on demand, each catering to multiple products
  • 3700+ people engaged in a SAFe way of working
  • Around 1300+ trained and formally certified in Agile and SAFe
  • Process and tooling alignment

The results from the original pilots caught the attention of and acted as catalyst for many other business units in Philips.

Offering Key Learnings

Through this process, transition leaders at Royal Philips learned what worked most effectively. They found it important to embed the Agile mindset and approach in other crucial areas of work—not just R&D, but in areas such as HR, Finance and Q&R—to ensure streamlined, efficient processes and quicker turnaround times.

Philips also found it critical to involve the senior management and leadership team of the organization in this transitional journey.

“Finally, to ensure an effective move to Agile, it is critical to change mindsets within the organization,” Jagadeesan says. “Agile implies continuous learning as enterprise behavior, decentralized decision-making, quick adaptiveness and more.”

“Any transformation program will be successful if you actively seek and solve business problems,” he adds.

Philips Royal recommends a number of organizational and cultural changes for any company making this transformation:

  • Create an environment that encourages proactive, feedback-seeking behavior
  • Motivate teams and give them the autonomy they need to function well
  • Engage in courageous conversations
  • Enable cultural change in the organization
  • Focus on building teams for the long run with emphasis on stability
  • Trust the team to solve problems by “teaching them to fish” instead of fishing for them
  • Enable teams and support them by removing impediments
  • Differentiate between outcome (value generated) and output (velocity-productivity improvements)
  • Identify value streams and optimize around value to help the alignment and effective collaboration across the team
  • Gain stakeholder alignment, and leadership commitment and support
  • Train and coach based on roles
  • Have a deployment strategy and change leaders’ coalition to help accelerate scaled Agile transformation

“Our Agile transformation journey is successfully underway,” says Jagadeesan. “It has been a tremendous learning experience, and we continue to deliver value to all our stakeholders and customers. Agile learning is an enriching and fun-filled journey!”

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TomTom – Implementing SAFe in Consumer Electronics

Implementing SAFe in Consumer Electronics

“There is no doubt in my mind that without SAFe and Rally we would not have launched this in only 140 days. It is also our best new product ever.”

Industry:

Consumer Electronics

Introduction

Best known for being a global leader in navigation and mapping products, TomTom also creates GPS sports watches, as well as state-of-the-art fleet management solutions and industry-leading location-based products. They are the mapping provider for Apple Maps, and the maps and traffic data provider for Uber drivers in over 300 cities worldwide. Headquartered in Amsterdam, TomTom generates 1 billion euros in annual revenue, with 4,600 employees worldwide.

In 2012, the organization was facing a number of challenges:

  • Organised as waterfall projects
  • Many projects working in all parts of the code with minimal module or component ownership
  • Many releases are months-quarters late
  • Multiple code lines and branches
  • Negligible automated testing & no continuous integration
  • “downstream” teams spend 3,4,5 months accepting the code and often changing it
  • Poor visibility and facts-based decision-making

After reading Dean Leffingwell’s Agile Software Requirements—their SVP read it cover-to-cover on his vacation—they decided to transition to SAFe. Their first step was to provide SAFe training for their CTO, SVPs, and 50 CSMs and CPOs. From there they began reorganizing from the Scrum teams up, arranging product clusters and component Scrum teams around the idea of one Agile Release Train (ART) per product.

Six months into the transition, they were given a previously unheard of goal of a 126-day launch cycle for their 4th generation of consumer navigation products. This put SAFe to the test, as it cut their development time down almost two thirds from what was previously a 1-year cycle. Launching 5 ARTs—1 product each—they assigned 4-14 teams to each train, working across multiple locations.

Highlights of SAFe Benefits

Implementing SAFe in Consumer Electronics
  • Reliable and predictable releases of production code
  • Fail fast (<2 weeks) is better than after 6 months
  • Detect/prevent issues with each new submission
  • No bottleneck at the end
  • Reduces waste as others stay up to date
  • Improved transparency and info sharing
  • Teams establish ways of working & esprit du corps
  • Improves estimating by allowing historical comparisons
  • Team controls their own commitments
  • Sustainable development

Today SAFe is practiced by all of TomTom’s large product teams representing navigation software, online services, map creation and sports software. That represents approximately 750 FTEs, with 200+ trained and certified in SAFe.

Their 32-page case study is well worth the read as it summarizes their experience over a 5-year period, revealing both wins and challenges. Their breakdown of the “Good” the “Bad,” and the “Ugly,” makes it particularly interesting for any large enterprise wanting to understand the ins and outs of a real world SAFe adoption.

A special thanks to TomTom’s  James Janisse, VP Connected Navigation System, and Han Schaminee, SVP Location Technology Products, for sharing your story.

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