A years-overdue project was brought to Operational Pilot, saving millions in development time.

By applying agile techniques the throughput of task completions over time improved by 400%, while rejection rates of work submitted for QA testing dropped from 30% to 5% over six months.

Company

A consumer finance company with locations across North America

Challenge

Changing state and federal regulatory compliance challenges caused this company to reinvent its custom-built storefront and home office systems. The IT and PMO teams were geared more for operational maintenance rather than for the complexities of developing new systems. This resulted in an overwhelming workload and schedule overrun measured in years. Project personnel had suffered through turnover of staff and technologies, requiring numerous restarts and integration challenges. Even basic business requirements needed to be re-initiated. Little progress other than some “wire frame” models and discarded technologies had been realized.

Solution

The company reached out to PM Solutions for a senior-level program manager to take charge of the situation. He recommended a “back to basics” approach, including a full project review and the establishment of stakeholder ownership and project governance.  Business requirements were then developed to guide the team in the work necessary to succeed. Gradually introducing agile techniques permitted a quick restart, with a series of sprints to develop “proof of concept” components of the system.  

The company already had Atlassian’s JIRA system for operational maintenance, and PM Solutions expanded JIRA’s use by creating workflows and tools to apply the agile approach to a new development project. Embedding the PMO business analysts and quality assurance personnel with the developers helped to improve timeliness and success rates for delivered work.  

To help pace the work, a Kanban approach was introduced; this also assisted project management in tracking deliveries and reporting progress to the stakeholders. Workload assignment overloads in a department tasked with supporting both new development and operational systems, threatened to derail the project; however, introducing work in progress (WIP) limits improved work throughput, and management effectiveness for the team.

The company next employed PM Solutions to develop a change management system that emphasized the early management review of requirements and authorizations prior to work being assigned. This reduced the overall workload for the IT Department and permitted company leadership to take part in priorities and resource utilization decisions, and focus on the “must haves” before the “nice to haves.” Transparency in the system reduced the impact of politics in getting tasks and projects prioritized in the information systems departments.

Results

After numerous restarts and turnovers of staff and technologies over the five years prior to PM Solutions’ involvement, the assigned consultant helped the PMO reorganize the development team to include project management, stakeholder governance, business analysis, and quality assistance.  With a team of up to a dozen developers, the system was redesigned and delivered to stores in four states as a production pilot in two years.  The team now focuses on improving and developing systems in more states, taking into account complex differences in federal and state legal requirements.

Employing Kanban via JIRA, and a theme of “stop starting and start finishing,” the throughput of task completions improved from about one task in 20 hours to one in five hours of development time.  Improved requirement definitions, and quality assurance participation in planning also played a large role in the improvements to throughput.  Rejection rates of work submitted for QA dropped from 30% to 5% over six months running up to the pilot deployment.  Workflow and success rates are now measured and monitored weekly and monthly.  When some IT managers reverted to a more “traditional” workflow, rejection rates increased and throughputs slowed.  Active governance was applied to bring work practices into conformance with the new, proven processes, demonstrating the value of a strong metrics and monitoring program.

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