These are exciting times in the Marsh ClearSight Product & Technology Organization, as we continue to evolve our software development methodology, building upon the recent success we’ve had implementing agile methods.
Originally instituted with small teams, agile processes emphasize collaboration, incremental development, and customer feedback, leading to higher quality and efficiency. Given the proven successes of agile projects within small development teams, larger product organizations have acknowledged the benefits of agile methods. However, implementing agile projects at companies with distributed development teams and multiple stakeholders creates challenges that simply don’t exist at small companies, where teams are likely sitting in front of a white board or huddled around a conference room table. Further, companies have looked to incorporate lean development principles with agile methods, emphasizing concepts such as—among other things—eliminating waste, empowering teams, and providing a positive, balanced customer experience to system users.
Chief methodologist Dean Leffingwell—the man behind the Rational Unified Process—recognized these challenges and in 2012 released the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to guide organizations as they implement lean-agile principles in large enterprise development environments. Companies that have adopted SAFe since then include BMC Software, Discount Tire Corporation, TradeStation Technologies, Valpak, Nokia, Siemens Networks, and John Deere. In fact, SAFe has gained such traction in the software industry that development management tools like Jira Agile, Rally, and VersionOne all support the Scaled Agile Framework. In 2014, Marsh ClearSight began adopting the leading-edge best practices of the Scaled Agile Framework.
Since no two organizations are alike, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” methodology that can be adopted across all development organizations. SAFe is no exception, and a few of its idiosyncrasies don’t fit in a Marsh ClearSight development environment. Nevertheless, I’m a strong advocate of the SAFe’s core principles, paramount of which is organizational alignment.
SAFe views the organization at three levels: the team level, where groups of developers collaborate on specific software features, the program level, which aligns teams and manages the product release process, and the portfolio level, at which strategic decisions are made to align programs with the company’s business strategies. Within a SAFe organization, there is transparency throughout the hierarchy so that everyone knows what they are doing and how their individual contributions fit into the company’s big picture at any given time. Moreover, the benefits of agile practices, such as collaboration, incremental development, and customer feedback, are applied at all three levels of the organization, allowing Marsh ClearSight to ensure that business strategies are aligned to customer needs.
So what does all of this mean for you? What you’ll be interested in, whether you’re a Marsh ClearSight client or a Marsh ClearSight employee, are the advantages that agile development offers. SAFe enables Marsh ClearSight to increase development throughput while improving product quality, encouraging collaboration, and increasing efficiency across our geographically distributed employees. And, because there is transparency and decentralized decision making at the team level, there is collective ownership of release programs. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver value and innovation to our customers sooner.
I look forward to sharing our successes as we strive for continuous improvement leveraging lean-agile principles through the Scaled Agile Framework across the Marsh ClearSight organization.