“SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
—Dr. Ronen Barnahor, Head of Agile Business Transformation, EdgeVerve Systems
With releases every 6-18 months, the company set a goal of further improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
- Release time improved by 50 – 66%
- Planning every 10 weeks sharpens predictability
- Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
- The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
- Reduction in escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
- Managers first – By beginning training with managers, EdgeVerve gained essential buy-in that helped influence the C-level and team level
- Merging Testing and Engineering – Bringing these groups together reduced what were distinct silos
- Common cadence – EdgeVerve kept everyone on a common cadence, even before bringing all teams into the Framework
- Hybrid model of implementation – ARTs and managers of non-ARTs aligned on the same cadence and planning activities
Banks across 94 countries, serving 848 million consumers, rely on Finacle, an industry-leading universal banking suite from EdgeVerve Systems Ltd. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the global IT company, Infosys, EdgeVerve develops software products that enable businesses across multiple industries to innovate, accelerate growth, and have deeper connections with stakeholders. Gartner and Forrester consistently name EdgeVerve at the top of their rankings for banking platforms.
In 2015, the company set an aggressive goal of improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
SAFe: a framework for faster results
For guidance, the management brought on Dr. Ronen Barnahor, now Head of Agile Business Transformation. Barnahor recommended the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) to help instigate real change, quickly.
“Our mission is to adopt a Lean and Agile mindset and practices, and become a learning organization focused on continuous improvement to provide better value to our customers,” Barnahor says. “SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
Prior to adopting SAFe, the teams at EdgeVerve were working in cadence, however, their approach wasn’t effective in meeting new organizational goals.
Building a coalition from the ground up
To bolster internal buy-in, EdgeVerve appointed Jasdeep Singh Kaler, an AVP and 20-year veteran of the company, to help Barnahor lead the effort. Through a contest, the transformation earned the name “Mach 1”—a nod to the importance of speed.
In alignment with SAFe, EdgeVerve began with training, choosing first to focus specifically on managers. VPs and directors, and about 30 leads across all functional areas attended two days of Leading SAFe®. The SAFe training created a buzz about the agile transformation and gave the C-level confidence that moving to SAFe was accepted by internal leaders. By the end of the class, participants signaled they were ready to move forward with SAFe, with confidence scores of 4 and 5.
With positive feedback from leaders, C-level executives attended a one-day management workshop that included principles from Leading SAFe. There, they set implementation goals and approved the new direction. Knowing they would begin with the Finacle banking solution, they identified dependencies, defined all Value Streams and established who would join in the first two Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
“This was a crucial meeting with leads from product strategy, delivery, architecture, and testing, to help them embrace the concepts of the Value Stream and the ART, optimize the whole process, gain a systems view, decentralize decisions, and more,” Barnahor says.
In April 2016, EdgeVerve kicked off the first Program Increment (PI) using SAFe with a 2-day planning meeting in Bangalore, India. The event brought together 60 individuals from multiple locations across India. The CTO attended, sending a message about the importance of the change for EdgeVerve.
In subsequent ART launches and PI planning events, the heads of engineering, product strategy, product management and other senior leaders participated with great commitment—bolstering the adoption at a grassroots level.
The event itself excited and motivated team members: “We had fun as a team in PI planning and that enabled us to do better work,” says one team member.
Hybrid implementation model—ARTs + Non-ARTs
As the company launched two ARTs, it did so with just two coaches. For that reason, EdgeVerve continued running non-SAFe teams on the same cadence—in what it calls a “hybrid model.”
“We didn’t have the coaching capacity to structure everyone into SAFe, but they all aligned on the same cadence with a centralized backlog,” Barnahor explains.
While EdgeVerve began implementing SAFe, managers of other products outside of ARTs were trained concurrently in Program-level activities.
Under the hybrid approach, all product teams (ARTs and non-ARTs) aligned in several ways:
- The same cadence (sprints and PI)
- Working in IBM Rational Team Concert
- Pre-planning + PI Planning (For non-ARTs, only managers joined in PI planning)
- Execution (For non-ARTs, there was no coaching. Leads managed the work as previously but with a focus on demos in cadence with ARTs.)
- Product and solution-level demos
- Retrospectives (In non-ARTs, only managers joined.)
“The hybrid model of implementation of a full ART plus managers first in non-ART teams contributed to faster alignment and predictability across products within the integrated banking solution,” Barnahor says.
Very quickly, teams began delivering on cadence, demonstrating early value to management. SAFe also sharpened visibility, enabling them to predict more accurately. As a result, the Product Management Organization began to understand the power of “velocity” as a prediction metric and began using the Agile dashboard that EdgeVerve developed.
Changing the Culture
As EdgeVerve launched trains, the company concurrently focused heavily on changing the culture, with the belief that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” According to Kaler, since EdgeVerve focused on ‘managers first,’ these individuals became key influencers in the cultural change. The main focus was around breaking the silos, establishing common ownership on quality, managing and improving through data, and an emphasis on outcome and business value instead of on utilization.
The new, common terminology of SAFe (ARTs, ceremonies, and cadence) ensured everyone spoke the same language. With a common language, they could more easily understand expectations and minimize misunderstandings.
“From a change management perspective, everyone understood that EdgeVerve had embarked on something important at the organizational level that is based on a proven industry framework,” Barnahor says. “We had fewer arguments on definitions. I told them, ‘Let’s adapt SAFe definitions and practices, observe the impact on the ground during execution, and then change. Why reinvent the wheel?’”
The company also altered its success measures to help influence behavior, asking questions such as…
- Are we delivering desired value to customers?
- Are we on time? If not, when can we deliver the committed scope?
- Are we on scope? If not, what we will not deliver on due date?
- Are we on top of quality?
- Are we on flow? Any bottlenecks? Starvation? Backlog readiness for the next PI? What is the average cycle time?
- Can we predict well?
- How do employees feel about the change?
As attitudes changed, EdgeVerve collected feedback from the field and shared positive comments from team members and managers widely on posters and in videos—with the goal of spreading enthusiasm.
Additionally, the company adjusted the organizational structure to support the change. From developer to head of engineering, EdgeVerve reduced the number of organizational layers from seven layers to just four layers.
Perhaps the biggest difference came in moving the distinct testing organization, which was under delivery, into engineering—a decision that quickly improved relations between developers and testers. In line with SAFe, testing also now happens concurrently with development with greater focus on acceptance automation.
Reducing cycle time, increasing quality
Today, the company runs eight ARTs with approximately 800 people across three value streams and one portfolio. They launch a new ART every six weeks. At the same time, they run five teams of teams that are not part of the SAFe transformation.
Less than a year after deploying SAFe, EdgeVerve reported significant gains:
- Reduced time-to-market – For large enterprise products, release time dropped from 12 – 18 months to six months, and for small products, from six months to three months
- Improved predictability – The company plans consistently every 10 weeks, which increases flexibility for changing scope with minimal cost
- Expedited feature speed – Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
- Elevated efficiency – The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
- Fewer defects – The company significantly improved early detection of defects, leading to fewer escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
As the PIs progressed, team members could clearly see the advantages of the new approach. Most notably, communication and collaboration improved, with evidence that silos were dissolving.
“The way teams were working, even a minor downtime was clearly a cascading effect in the team’s progress,” says one team member. “Teams identified it, they came up with solutions, and they worked together.
“If code was not working, we got the right contacts, spoke to the code team and got the issue resolved,” says another team member. “This is a big change from the software developer’s perspective on how they approach their work.”
“The developer-tester relationship was better,” says another. “You can directly check with them for the issues you’re facing.”
Additionally, anonymous participant surveys reflected progress. The company asked approximately 300 people about the impact of SAFe. Most notably, there was an 89% improvement in trust and communication across different functions while 73% believe that SAFe helped increase productivity/throughput.
Even as EdgeVerve sees positive results and culture shifts, transformation leaders find it is an ongoing process. With demonstrated results, they gained backing to hire more coaches. Looking ahead, the main challenge, Barnahor says, is middle management’s mind-set—transforming managers to act as Agile leaders and mentors to the teams by focusing on an Agile leadership program.
“It’s a transformation of hearts and minds,” Kaler says. “We made sure that managers believed in what we’re doing and slowly the culture is changing.”