Critical Initiative Delivery
3 minute read
Jun 3, 2019
Written by: Shawn Sweeney
Agile isn’t a “big bang” concept. It’s an evolution of what we’ve always done naturally — strive for continuous improvement and quickly learn from failure.
Though introduced and given a name as a methodology less than 20 years ago, it has quickly caught on with forward-focused organizations and taken over other traditional methods of project management outside of the software space from which it originated.
Why? Because it works.
When it comes to project management, it may seem like it’s “all Agile all the time.” Because right now it is. Agile is trending up — way up. But Agile is not a fad. It’s a global transformation of how we do business. It’s so much more than a methodology. It’s a mindset.
As written in Forbes in its “What is Agile?” article just a few years ago in August 2016: “Agile’s emergence as a huge global movement extending beyond software is driven by the discovery that the only way for organizations to cope with today’s turbulent customer-driven marketplace is to become Agile. Agile enables organizations to master continuous change. It permits firms to flourish in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.”
Does the idea of mastering continuous change sound good? Relevant? Critical? In today’s fast-paced world, it’s essential to your ability to survive — and thrive.
Just a few months earlier, Harvard Business Review tackled the topic of Agile in its article “Embracing Agile,” and reflected on its spread within organizations — far beyond its original realm of IT: “Now agile methodologies—which involve new values, principles, practices, and benefits and are a radical alternative to command-and-control-style management—are spreading across a broad range of industries and functions and even into the C-suite. National Public Radio employs agile methods to create new programming. John Deere uses them to develop new machines, and Saab to produce new fighter jets. Intronis, a leader in cloud backup services, uses them in marketing. C.H. Robinson, a global third-party logistics provider, applies them in human resources. Mission Bell Winery uses them for everything from wine production to warehousing to running its senior leadership group. And GE relies on them to speed a much-publicized transition from 20th-century conglomerate to 21st-century “digital industrial company.”
The bottom line: Agile is changing everything. And that’s a very big deal.
Why Agile? Agile empowers you to do it faster, smarter, better — with faster, smarter, better results.
Agile is not just a way to manage continuous change and continuous improvement in a customer-driven environment. It’s “the” way.
Agile focuses effort and resources on people building things that are delivered quickly to solve the highest priority problems in a rapid, test-and-learn fashion that quickly provides feedback. As a result, Agile adds value and accelerates innovation. Project management elements like documentation, process, and structure are still important with Agile, but the #1 priority is value delivery. To learn more about Agile’s four key values and 12 principles, check out Scrum Alliance’s page on the Agile Manifesto.
With Agile, collaborative decisions come out of the team, rather than being driven by a top-down bureaucracy. Admittedly it’s a major shift in how businesses traditionally have been run.
To be successful, Agile’s short-cycle, iterative framework requires cross-functional, dedicated teams supported by executive sponsorship and top-to-bottom behavior shifts — including pushing accountability for success down into the teams, versus up to the executive level where it has resided for decades. The rigidity of things like chain of command and job descriptions fall away, empowering teams to advance when and how they’re ready, dramatically impacting the pace of change.
Compare Agile to the Waterfall methodology, which assumes all requirements stay the same for the duration of the project — which can last for months. How quickly does your business, your technology, your customer, and your market change? In the end, Waterfall often results in delivery of a solution that was asked for, but which no longer fits current conditions. Agile, on the other hand, allows incremental advancement and adaptation to changes throughout a project.
If you seek higher quality, faster delivery, increased productivity, better flexibility, and better alignment to true strategic priorities over time, Agile is your answer.
Want to learn more? This is the first of our multi-part blog series on Agile. Keep an eye on Spinnaker’s blog and follow Spinnaker on LinkedIn to receive updates in your LinkedIn feed. For more specific questions about how we apply our Agile mindset to your challenges, contact Spinnaker Principal Chris Landrum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to project management, it may seem like it’s “all Agile all the time.” Because right now it is. Agile is “the” buzz in project management. Even the Wall Street Journal recently jumped on the bandwagon. But, let’s be honest, Agile is not the answer to every question, nor the solution to every problem. Outside of the full-on “Agile is the silver bullet” approach, we see real-world Agile implementations that look quite different than the by-the-numbers textbook approach you may think is the only way to go.
Critical Initiative Delivery 3 minute read
Most of us are familiar with the old saying “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” Although the origin dates back to the 18th century, the message could not be more relevant today, especially for business owners. From employee turnover to insufficient capital, there are numerous potential threats that could morph into financial disasters overnight. So, when Forbes Finance Council asked me to weigh in on simple steps businesses could take to prepare for such problems, I gladly answered the call.
Spinnaker News 1 minute read
The Big Picture Pick up recent copies of The Wall Street Journal or American Banker, and you’ll see headline after headline about consent orders and hefty fines issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to mortgage companies caught using deceptive advertising practices. This summer alone, eight have been issued. Two things immediately strike me when I see these stories: Many of these cases didn’t have to happen. And while these particular consent orders were concentrated in the mortgage sector, similarly problematic issues are most certainly occurring in other lending segments across the financial services industry. After a hundred years or so, you’d think we would know how to follow regulatory rules –particularly those put in place to protect consumers. Indeed, the first such laws were framed by the states before World War I – although the first meaty federal law, the Truth in Lending Act, wasn’t passed until 1968. Every new regulation layered in since then largely continues to further shield consumers from unfair practices – which often start with glossy ad campaigns designed to get them in the physical or digital door. The reasons why we’re still struggling with compliance aren’t too difficult to understand: turnover within organizations, competing priorities, a lack of sound controls, new staffers who are unfamiliar with existing regulations, and a never-ending list of new ones, including Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices (UDAAP) and the Mortgage Acts and Practices (MAP) – Advertising Rule. There’s also often a gap between the intent of any new regulation and how marketing teams interpret it. The risks of not crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” are significant, as evidenced by these recent consent orders. Doing things the wrong way also can mean costly penalties, time-consuming regulatory remediation, and loss of customer trust – which can translate into higher complaint volumes and even lawsuits. Let’s explore some long-lingering myths about how banks advertise their lending products – and, more importantly, what your financial institution should be doing. MYTH: Legal and Compliance don’t need to review my ad since I’m the expert in marketing. FACT: This is the biggest myth that persists in financial services marketing and advertising. Every word you use to communicate has specific and nuanced meanings, and your legal and compliance teams have a responsibility to protect your company and consumers alike. No external ads or marketing materials should be released until you get signoff from your legal or compliance team. It’s not any more complicated than that. MYTH: Our marketing team knows what Legal and Compliance have told us. We get it, but we need leeway to make our ads eye-catching and even a bit sexy so we can get business in the door. One little word change doesn’t really make a difference. FACT: Remember how former President Bill Clinton faced legal drilling over his interpretation of the word “is”? You’d be surprised at exactly what a bank must validate before it advertises anything as “free.” That word “free” – and countless more – are triggers, often requiring specific disclosures on how they apply to what you’re advertising right at that moment. Ideally, your marketing and advertising teams should collaborate almost daily with your legal and compliance teams. Of course there’s going to be some friction between the advertising folks, who see in every color of the rainbow, and the legal and compliance folks, who typically only see in black and white. The important thing is to build processes and procedures that enable effective and efficient reviews of all advertising and marketing materials, and that begins with concepts. When you involve those responsible with compliance up front, they can help rethink an approach in ways that ensure the final ad meets regulatory requirements. Also, try taking their early “no” to mean “not yet” and be open to ideas on what could translate into an easy reframing. But go to them at the end with an ad that fails on every compliance front, and their “no” will be just that. When I was at a bank that now has more than $30 billion in assets, my compliance team worked diligently to become a strategic partner to the marketing team. It took some time, but our peers came to see that we never aimed to derail their vision. As our relationship evolved, so did our interactions. In fact, we created a desktop resource that allowed marketers to easily look up the latest laws or match sales terms with the necessary disclosures, delivering a self-service tool that also empowered them to create responsibly and expedite the review process. Rest assured, the goal of your bank’s lawyers and compliance officers is not to thwart creativity, but to ensure that amazing ad concepts give consumers precise, clear information about the company’s products and services, allowing them to make smart financial decisions. Believe me: Compliance teams want powerful, compelling and even award-winning advertising that brings more revenue in the door, because when you have that, everyone benefits. MYTH: Our market competitor ran an ad just like that. If they got away with it, then it’s OK and the legal and compliance team is overreacting. FACT: This is the corporate version of your mother asking you, “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do it, too?” The only truth here is that your competitor ran an ad. You don’t really know if that financial institution “got away with it.” In fact, you might learn not too far down the road that your competitor actually got caught red-handed with a compliance violation. After all, the underlying premise of advertising is to spread the word, and regulators are paying close attention. Frankly, you should be analyzing what your competitors are doing, but I’m not talking about their advertising. Take a good look at every consent order or other regulatory action you hear about and compare it to what’s happening in your shop. Are you doing things the right way? Are you identifying and avoiding the possible risks in your process? In other words, consider that the teacher has given you every answer to the test, and you don’t want to fail down the road. MYTH: The bank’s advertising agency developed that campaign – not our internal team – so we’re not going to get in any trouble. FACT: Time and time again, oversight organizations stress that any third-party vendor – whether it’s an ad agency or a cross-sell phone queue – is a seamless extension of your financial institution. If they get it wrong, so do you. You don’t outsource the compliance responsibility along with the work. MYTH: All of that applies to my bank or mortgage company – not to me as a loan officer. I’ll post a special offer on my social channels just for my customers. FACT: Your very title of “loan officer” means you’re an officer of your financial institution, and the same exact requirements apply to you. Without question, the growing influence of social media makes consumer outreach easy, but the brevity and ease of these same platforms also make it more difficult to keep your team members from going rogue. The same compliance standards apply to all of your advertising, including any unsanctioned materials. Every employee needs to understand this responsibility. (BTW, don’t forget about old-fashioned tactics, such as a quick sales flyer that a teller might create and post in a branch. Whether that flyer meets your advertising brand standards is the least of your worries, because you’re most likely out of regulatory compliance.) MYTH: Getting an internal review takes so much time that we’re losing competitive advantage. FACT: Doing it right takes a fraction of the time needed to fix things – particularly if you’re cited for a regulatory infraction – and maintains your institution’s reputation. Yes, a legal or compliance review is another step in your marketing process, but it’s a short blip in the lifetime of a successful business. In my previous role, I was intentional about building interactions with the marketing team that served everyone’s needs as efficiently as possible. If a federal agency comes at you with a consent order or Matter Requiring Attention, you’re going to spend significantly more time finding the root issue, solving for your misstep, gaining regulatory signoff and getting back to work. You also can’t rebuild consumer confidence overnight – even with the most attractive offers in your marketplace. After all, if your customers know you’ve been under scrutiny before, do you think they’re going to trust that you’re being straight with them this time around?
Regulatory Compliance & Risk Management, Compliance, Risk Management 5 minute read
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