Agility beyond the IT department

By Frédéric Lé, Offerings & Strategic Partners, DXC Technology

During the Digital-First Conference of The Open Group Etienne Zaninotto from Société Générale and Peter Britton from Fidelity Investments outlined their experiences of scaling Agile. Their talks followed by a panel provided many insights on what it takes to scale agile. In this blog we will map insights with a few features from the new O-AA™ Standard.

The “north star” of an agile at scale transformation is client experience. Société Générale has the ambition of providing a seamless client-to-client experience. Fidelity adopts a customer-in perspective via Customer Journey Maps, and the associated Jobs-To-Be-Done.

The O-AA Standard describes an experience design approach that is based on Design Thinking. It explains how Jobs-to-be-done analysis and experience mapping are used to design products that deliver a superior experience.

Though their agile transformation journey started in their IT departments, it morphed to an enterprise wide transformation which scope includes the business. They have shifted from a siloed organization to an integrated business/IT organization driven by value that leverages industrial digital service platforms.

The O-AA Standard describes an incremental agile transformation approach that covers the new ways of working, the organizational structure, the management system and the culture of the enterprise.

Both Société Générale and Fidelity adopted new organizational models inspired by Spotify with Tribes and Feature Teams or Squads aligned to business Value Chains. Stream-aligned teams are cross-functional, integrated, empowered and autonomous. Deep expertise is either fully embedded into stream-aligned teams though chapters which carry the standards of excellence or is regrouped into centers of excellence when expertise is scarce.

The O-AA Standard provides an approach for defining an agile organization that is tailored to meet the specific circumstances of the enterprise. It leverages lessons learned from implementing the Spotify model and incorporate knowledge from Socio-Technical Systems and from the “Team Topologies” book.

The mindset, behaviours and governance had to change throughout the organization. For example, Fidelity adopted leadership principles such as being client obsessed, enable candid debates, empower others to make decisions or owns the outcome. Société Générale changed the way it manages demand and allocate resources to projects. Top management now allocates budget to tribes based on contribution to strategy. Tribes must prioritize their backlog to maximize value delivered under capacity management constraints.

The O-AA Standard goes beyond prioritizing requirements and suggests managing backlogs based on outcomes. It is value driven instead of being requirements driven which is in line with allocating budget based on contribution to strategy.

Both enterprises position architecture as an expertise which operates as transversal Chapters and Leagues. For example, at Fidelity the E2E Solution Architecture is done in collaboration with the relevant Chapter peers and Squad Leads. Though architects are no longer in a “Ivory Tower”, they continue to connect the dots. For example, Fidelity extends architecture to focus on platform “city planning”.

Both enterprises are light on agile at scale processes and ceremonies. Société Générale uses light sync ceremonies when synchronization is complex, and its scope does not exceed 7 Feature Teams. The overhead of a Release Train Engineer (RTE) conducting PI Planning is only justified in case of a very complex situation. Fidelity has not deployed an agile process framework but leverages agile process tools such as Jira from Atlassian.

The O-AA Standard has been designed to work well with agile at scale process frameworks but does not mandate the use of such frameworks.

Other takeaways from the talks:

  • Objectives and Key Results (OKR) that Société Générale uses as an alignment mechanism that enables autonomy while helping the enterprise focus on strategic priorities;
  • Fidelity’s Data Strategy and Governance which defines key pillars to better leverage the value of data;
  • The central role of platforms with Société Générale setting-up a Service Platform Board and Fidelity promoting intentional product management for every platform and holistic platforms as enablers of end-to-end transformation.

Replays from Etienne and Peter talks are available on YouTube: as well as a replay of the panel discussion: For those interested by the topics covered during the session, I would encourage you to download the O-AA Standard document and read the chapters that cover Architecture Development, Experience Design, Product Architecture, Data Information & AI, Agile Strategy, Agile Organization and Agile Governance.

Frédéric Lé is Technology Strategist working for DXC’s Corporate Technology Office. He is leading the development of DXC’s new Agile Architecture Framework and has over 25 years experience with significant expertise in Technology Strategy, Enterprise Architecture, Lean, Agile and Digital. Frédéric graduated from Audencia business school and holds a post-graduate degree in computer sciences from Paris Dauphine University.