November 01, 2013

Adding Value Through Agile Thinking

In addition to moving functions to the cloud, Enterprise Bank also builds on its IT resources by using development methods originally used in the manufacturing sector, such as value stream mapping and other lean production tools, along with agile software development techniques.

Using these techniques, Enterprise Bank has been able to accelerate product development and identify earlier in the cycle opportunities for improvement. For example, value stream mapping early in the development cycle helps identify waste in the process and suggests improvements in process flow prior to developing the software. Agile methods, including the scrum technique for organizing software development, allow the team to generate iterative improvements through small incremental changes -- an important advantage in a fast-changing environment.

By shifting its IT team's focus from maintaining systems to delivering solutions, Enterprise Bank has benefited from faster innovation and automation of workflow processes. With success has come the need for a more mature technology development process, replacing informal approaches with a governance process that is more structured but also more transparent and adaptive. Crowe provided advice and assistance in designing and implementing this technology governance approach. Individual lines of business are now responsible for developing the business case for new products or enhancements they desire, and an organizationwide steering committee prioritizes projects.

Information security is paramount for all activities, and all new initiatives undergo an exhaustive due diligence process. Full transparency extends to the critical areas of risk management and compliance. Auditors and examiners are kept fully informed of new technologies being adopted, impending system changes, and potential new products.

For such an approach to work in other institutions, senior management support is essential, as is a progressive corporate culture and a willingness to use a disciplined, collaborative, and, at times, nontraditional approach.

Banks that are able to create and sustain such an environment will find that today's rapidly evolving technology does not merely present challenges, it also offers real opportunities for differentiation and efficiency.

Jason Bomers is a principal with Crowe Horwath LLP in the Grand Rapids, Mich., office. He can be reached at Reimink is with Crowe in the Grand Rapids office. He can be reached at