Capital One reimagines product and delivery through SAFe
“The products we’re developing are bigger than one Agile team. For the teams to interact and plan together, we really needed SAFe as the foundation. It brings the practices and methodologies to coordinate multiple teams working on the same product at the same time.”
—Mike Eason, CIO, Commercial Banking
Capital One started as a small and nimble company in the mid ‘90s. But as it grew to become one of America’s best-known brands, it began losing its agility. To meet the fast-changing market demands, they understood they needed a new way of working. That’s the topic of our latest case study, which represents one of the most mature SAFe implementations on record from the banking industry.
In 2012, the Commercial Banking group led the effort to speed up responsiveness. Key to that, they knew, was bringing IT development back in house. The group took steps toward cultivating internal talent and building an Agile workforce, however it felt a bit like going through the motions. Development was still largely a waterfall approach and upper management was yet to be sold on this solution.
They turned to SAFe for the clear guidelines, training, and experts to support the organization through its Agile journey. With a framework in place, support from the head of Commercial Operations brought essential leadership backing.
Prior to the first Program Increment (PI) Planning meeting in 2013, Capital One focused heavily on role-based training for everyone joining its Agile Release Trains (ARTs). Initially, teams were resistant to the new approach, but soon began embracing it.
Capital One took a few critical steps to improve team dynamics:
- They transitioned to full-feature teams—equipping an entire team to deliver working software independently in a two-week sprint
- They reduced team sizes to seven or eight people to improve team chemistry and problem-solving
- Additionally, they moved from project-centric budgeting to team-centric budgeting
With that, the effort gained momentum. To ensure the implementation remained on track, Capital One decided to evaluate its Agile maturity every quarter. They ask individuals to react anonymously to neutral statements across five areas: sustainability, value delivery, scaled Agile, culture, and technical health. Then they address any low scores and set goals.
Today, Commercial Banking has 13 ARTs and seven value streams. Since deploying SAFe, the group has seen gains that benefit employees, partners, customers, and the organization as a whole:
- Time-to-market – They now deliver working software into production at the end of every sprint
- Engagement – With employee engagement up 15-20 percent overall, morale and retention has improved
- Predictability – With each PI, Commercial Banking sees greater predictability in what it can deliver
- Customer satisfaction – The company reports that business partners prefer the new approach and would not want to go back to the old way of working
For more insights from Capital One’s path to success, take a look at the complete case study.
Many thanks to Rob Alexander, CIO; Mike Eason, CIO, Commercial Banking; Anand Francis, Director of Agile Coaching Services, Commercial Banking; Greg Jaeger, Agile Coach; and Christy Gurkin, RTE, for sharing their story.