Permission to fail in an enterprise: How culture drives change and rapid innovation

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wpid-thumbnail-94a3150bff17bcd468d8fa8ef58b039e.jpegWhen the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (BABL) set on its journey of digital transformation to compete in a market facing substantial disruption, the leadership, team structure and open mindset became the critical success factors – trumping the technology.  They then were able to embark on a journey of change to bring about speed and flexibility within a 150 year old company.

While change can be done within an organisation by any employee, traction can often be difficult without senior leadership.  Either by design or accident, BABL MD Mike Hirst kicked off this change with a simple statement: set up a team to try a new approach, and remind them they have permission to fail.  In practice this meant approaching challenges that the Bank had seen as too hard or complicated, and finding new approaches and solutions in an agile fashion.  A small group of highly skilled individuals with different skills, from infrastructure to application, operations to development, was assembled together to deliver on capabilities designed to drive new value to the bank.  Value could be internal in the form of productivity through a business banker application, or external in REDY, the banks online payment solution.

At first, the colleagues of this new team were sceptical of their decision to embrace this project. They saw the brightest of their colleagues with the potential to lead and manage moving to an unknown effort where unsupported technologies would be leveraged.  The new team were undeterred, and quickly set about testing new technologies and rapidly prototyping solutions to business problems as a group.  Following the success of several of their projects within just a few months of the program, various business units’ requests for change were now landing in the team’s backlog as they recognised the rapid value this team could deliver in far shorter timeframes than previously faced. In fact, the team proved out a 20x faster deployment time to solve an issue when compared with their traditional approach.

Requests and ideas for leveraging the team and the cloud technologies and methodologies are also now being brought up by more traditional units, such as the information systems and business intelligence, in order to gain faster and continuous insights.  Crucially the wider groups within the Bank understood the agile approach and were willing to participate in success or failure equally as part of the new way of innovating and delivering ideas.  It is the team’s diversity of skills, the cloud technologies and methods that are being used to address challenges, discover and innovate quickly and independently without needing to rely on the traditional IT support, business decisions and processes.

How does it look now?  The culture change is now seen across the organisation as a shining light of how the Bank must transform if it is to succeed and compete.  Executives, and the managing director himself, regularly come to visit the team’s “war room” to hear of their projects, and outcomes, and ask for help to solve problems outside their ongoing projects.   Most importantly the new team’s addictive way of work has inspired excitement about the potential the bank has to be a leader in the market and an example for others.  And while the cloud technologies under this have been a crucial enabler, none of it would have been possible without the permission for the team to fail.

Hear more about the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank story at InterConnect 2016 in sessions: NAP-3847, CCD-4360, and DES-4756.




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