Swedbank Group IT Baltic Banking Division improves collaboration, motivation and efficiency with agile42

With the help of agile42, Swedbank Group IT Baltic Banking Division learned how to build better products faster while at the same time improving the collaboration and increasing the motivation among employees.

Swedbank is arguably the strongest bank in the Baltics, the market leader overall as well as in all segments where they are active. Of all large companies in Estonia, Swedbank has received the award for the strongest brand — for six years running and with increasing scores.

But even Swedbank is feeling some pressure. The whole banking industry is facing large changes driven by the digitalization of society. While banks were among the first to use mainframes for their information handling needs, decades of mergers, acquisitions and system integrations typically add up to cripplingly complicated legacy systems. The constantly changing laws and regulations further increase the pressure on IT departments.

SwedbankSwedbank is solving this problem by strongly expanding the Group IT Baltic Banking department and actively exploring different ways of improving efficiency, lead time and throughput. Several years ago one of the teams started using agile practices with good results, and the department wanted to spread these practices across the board. In spring 2014 they turned to agile42 for training and support.

Experienced agile42 trainers and coaches first trained all team members, managers and Product Owners in the theory and practice of Scrum, then worked with the POs to draw up good backlogs and helped the new Scrum teams and their ScrumMasters through the first sprints. After demonstrating and role-modeling the new methods, agile42 coaches helped the teams and their ScrumMasters take ownership of the process. The teams are now self-sustaining in the use and improvement of Scrum.

“The improvement has been tremendous,” says Piret Brett, Head of Division. A fresh survey inside Group IT Baltic Banking shows that 94% of the people involved in the transition are seeing positive effects in development efficiency. “Co-operation with business has improved and the feedback loop is faster.”

As little as a year ago, business and IT worked from their own assumptions, towards their own goals. Small misunderstandings caused large delays. “The weekly meetings used to be a blame game,” recalls Oleg Marofejev, Head of Digital Channels. “Now the meetings are all about what we have achieved together in the last week.”

Group IT Baltic Banking Div. Internal Survey (late 2014)

“In Scrum, the responsibilities and work artifacts are set up so that it makes sense for all stakeholders to contribute their expertise to the upcoming plans,” explains Martin von Weissenberg, one of the agile42 coaches working with Swedbank. “Besides, people are hard-wired to enjoy being part of a team, pulling in the same direction and succeeding together.”

So is there a corresponding change in work motivation? Swedbank measures morale using the Employee Net Promoter System (eNPS), by asking how likely employees are to recommend Swedbank as an employer. Group IT has traditionally measured near the Baltic average, but after the coaching, motivation increased by an amazing 33 points.

The process improvement and organizational development goals for 2014 are looking good. But the work doesn’t stop there — a continuously improving organization is always looking for issues and problems to address. “Now we have new challenges ahead,” says Piret with a smile.

Also agile42 is looking to improve, although the internal survey shows that over 96% of the respondents are satisfied with the support they received from agile42. “This is of course not satisfactory,” Martin ponders. “Clearly, we still have some way to go.”