Project Management Institute

Change agent



Processing 3 billion transactions per day in an extraordinarily volatile sector, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Euronext would seem like an obvious candidate for agile.

“In this business, things change so quickly. Agile can deliver that speed and flexibility,” says Bob Kerner, senior vice president and chief digital officer at the global financial markets operator.

So when he started his position three years ago, he made agile methodologies the centerpiece of a plan to increase transparency and get the organization's IT projects on track.

Not everyone was convinced, however.

“When I first said I was going to do agile, that was unsettling for a lot of people,” says Mr. Kerner. “Some people are uncomfortable with that level of transparency and are hesitant to change.”

Backed by a few high-profile successes, he's starting to prove them wrong.

What business value does agile bring to NYSE Euronext?

One of the greatest benefits of agile is that we give the business units the freedom to change their minds. They know that when they give us their requirements, they have to give us two weeks to deliver a sprint. Then during the review of that sprint, if the business unit decides it wants something else, that's fine. It doesn't inject chaos into our process.

Were people scared of shifting to agile?

When I told them I wouldn't use Gantt charts, that made people very nervous. But the reality is, Gantt charts hide facts too easily. They tell you what percentage of the milestone is complete, but there's no visibility to track how that's changing or why a task isn't finished. That's what was missing. I wanted to track how we were doing against goals over time.

How did you gain buy-in?

Once we got into delivering projects using agile, people saw the value of the change, and they realized that agile had discipline and transparency. Stakeholders can see every single ticket representing one to three hours of work. They can see what's in the backlog, what's been completed and what's been tested. They can look at that whenever they want.

Did the team struggle to adapt?

It was a challenge in the beginning, but it only served to make our team better. Because we capture and measure everything, we can track every person's performance every day. A lot of people don't like operating in that environment—but the best people do. They're the rock stars, and they like other people to see what they can accomplish.

“When I first said I was going to do agile, that was unsettling for a lot of people. Some people are uncomfortable with that level of transparency and are hesitant to change.”

Is it easier to secure stakeholder support now?

One of the biggest projects we're working on today is rebuilding an e-commerce platform designed to give the organization the ability to roll out new products more quickly, adjust price points and adapt features.

It was originally launched by another business unit, but after running it as a waterfall project for a couple of years, they asked us to take it over. That demonstrates to us that people recognize the value of our agile approach.

What advice would you offer other organizations implementing agile?

Understanding why you do what you do is key. If you do daily stand-up meetings without understanding why, or you do sprints but nothing is captured and measured, there's no point. If you're not measuring and incorporating feedback at every step, you're not doing agile. PM

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