Case Study: Agile – Why Should Your Business Care ? #

I’m blogging the conference Agile Approaches for Delivering Business Value

Agile – Why Should Your Business Care?

Bill Birnie, Senior Manager, IS Development Solutions, Standard Life Employee Services Limited, Ollie LaFontan, Exoftware


  • What does my business want from Agile ?
  • Creating an Agile culture and the importance of measures
  • Consolidating gains and driving more change.

Standard Life’s award-winning use of Agile techniques is helping it achieve remarkable levels of productivity from its application development spend, and is supporting the positioning of technology provision at the heart of its business proposition.

This session will cover the importance of linking your Agile enablement strategy to the needs of your business, and the challenges created by trying to change processes and beliefs that have been in place for many years.


The values which support Agile: Communication, Feedback, Simplicity, Courage, Respect.

Every instance of Agile looks different.

Agile is not about acronyms – it is about delivering business results – functionality, timeliness, value.

IT is second biggest cost centre in Standard Life – value for money is critical – IT apps development team measure how much of what they deliver is used as a measure of value.

High expectations of leanness from the internal customer (they are award-winners so have high standards)

Deadlines vital.

Predictable process required for auditors and risk managers.

Quality – need to demonstrate

The business internal customers are not interested in the jargon!

You can’t fix it all at once – eat the elephant one bite at a time…

Early experiments with Agile – consultants who had successfully applied Lean to the Standard Life customer service division admitted they couldn’t see how to apply it to software development – so one team “just started doing it”… Courage was required to give them scope…

After success, resisted temptation to force it on others. Key reason for success was motivation – instead talked about it a lot (especially the successes), and allowed people to adopt when they were ready.

Some basic internal measures:

  • How much of applications is used?
  • Gartner says Standard Life Application Development is approx. 2.5 times more productive than industry peers (top quartile). Key contributing factors to efficiency and productivity are their advanced use of Agile and SOA.
  • Predictability – how well do they hit time, cost and satisfaction
  • Quality – sample metric McCabe Code Complexity – reduced from ~5 for legacy apps to typically 2 now.

More to do… especially level of support for teams that want to adopt Agile methods. Looking again at measurement set to provide business case for further investment in capability and leadership. Encouraging and supporting experiments, involving the business more – agile business cases etc.

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change