Agile Development and Digital Transformation (CXOTalk #303)

Our guest today on CXOTalk came to me; he
was introduced to me by somebody. I thought, “What an interesting person,” because
he is a CIO at a very large insurance company, very old company that’s undergoing its own
change. He also wrote a book about IT, about projects,
and about transformation in general. I thought, “Wow, he is an interesting guy,”
and so that is our show for today, transformation and something called ‘Flow,’, which our guest
will explain. I’m Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. We’re live with Episode #303. Before we continue, I want you to subscribe
on YouTube right this minute. Please subscribe on YouTube. I’m really thrilled to introduce Fin Goulding,
who is the CIO at Aviva. Fin Goulding, welcome to CXOTalk. It’s your first time here, and I’m delighted
to welcome you. Thank you very much. It’s great to be here. I’m looking forward to this. Fin, please tell us about Aviva and tell us
about your work. Well, as you said, we’re an insurance company,
a very large, global company, and we have the standard product offerings in the general
insurance space, life and health, and probably around 30-plus million customers worldwide. We’re in quite a number of countries. It’s a huge organization, as you say, that
traces roots back 320 years ago to its original start. It’s obviously merged and changed in all those
years. I’m the international CIO, so I look after
the technology teams across Europe, stretching out to India, but I’m based in Ireland where
the majority of my closest team is that I work with. Fin, as an organization that is 320 years
old, how do you manage the change? Obviously, it’s still in business, which means
it’s doing something right. It has to have evolved over all of this time,
and so how do you manage the change? By the way, is that what we would call, today,
digital transformation? That’s an interesting phrase because I’ve
met lots of people that I ask them what they mean by digital transformation, and I don’t
get really a good answer that comes back to me. I think it’s a way of a number of organizations
saying they need to change; they need to adapt. There are threats in the marketplace. Maybe their business model is under threat,
and we hear about disruptors, et cetera. The way that we’ve approached things, and
our CEO talks about it a lot, is to be kind of a disruptor ourselves in the industry and
working with smaller organizations that we bring into our value chain. But, I would say, for us, it’s about changing
and improving and getting a bit of focus on customers and better outcomes for customers. That can mean changing technology, offering
more solutions which are online or whatever it happens to be. I think it’s that word “digital” is the bit
that kind of gets people a bit confused. I’d say we’re all trying to improve our businesses. It’s really about business improvement and
the digital part, these days, of course, comes into play because the change in technology
is one of the drivers of updating processes, training people, and so forth. I’d say you’re right. What happens is that a lot of people didn’t
have a digital capability in their large enterprises and actually put a focus on delivering digital
solutions. I think most of us now have them. It’s just, how do you actually improve those
customer journeys to provide something that’s valuable that you serve your customers correctly
and that also grow at the same time as an organization? All these channels come into play. It just happens to be that it gets stuck into
that kind of digital word. We do a lot of normal interactivity with our
customers where we do happen to have slick systems, which are in the background as well
as in the foreground. Fin, whether Aviva or other companies, this
notion of customer experience or, as you were saying, improving customer journeys, why is
that so central to the concept of digital transformation, just in general? You think that that’s what customers expect
these days is to have a frictionless way of working with you, an enjoyable experience
to be able to get information fast without having to go through maybe some older processes,
et cetera. It’s a get to play. If you don’t have these capabilities, whether
it be mobile, tablet, or online, you’re really not going to get very far with today’s customer
base, basically. Because of the emphasis on the customer, that
needs to be the focal point for transformation and, of course, a subset of transformation,
therefore, is digital transformation. Exactly. I think a lot of organizations talk about
getting close to their customers. They talk about bringing the customer at the
center of everything they do, but do they really do that? It’s the question that I kind of posed and
some of my colleagues as well, which is, how do you actually get to a point where you’re
doing things which customers need and want, you’re delivering value for them, and part
of that is not about the transformation from a technology point of view. It’s about a mindset and making sure that
you are actually putting together a portfolio of work which is appropriate. It’s not technical. It’s that other part at the beginning of the
funnel, shall we say. Let me ask a kind of devil’s advocate question
for a second here. You’re talking about all of these nontechnology
things and, yet, you’re the CIO. Historically, the role of the CIO was to focus
on tech. Yet, we’re having this discussion about customer
experience. What’s going on with that? I think what’s happening is that many organizations
are adopting ways of working, and a lot of the CIOs will know this, but maybe some of
the other audience don’t know about agile. An agile way of working came from the technology
world, so how do technologists work together to deliver solutions quickly, of high quality,
frictionless, and not using the old ways of working? Essentially, what’s happening, and that’s
where I’ve kind of seen something that needs to be adapted from this way of working, is
to encompass your business, your leadership, your executives, even your customers into
a more business agile way of working. Using some of the techniques that were used
in the technology space, broadening that a little bit more, and getting us an end-to-end
solution, which is not just agile in the technology world; it’s actually much wider. Now, what are the impediments to being able
to adopt this kind of mindset inside an organization? I know that you wrote a book called Flow that
addresses this point. Tell us about the impediments, and then we’ll
talk about how to address it. Yeah, so some of the impediments, and this
comes also from organizations which are adopting techniques to deliver software quickly like
dev ops and things like that, which is where you’re bringing teams together outside of
the normal structure of organizations and putting them together with holistic, hybrid
teams that have responsibility to deliver things from an idea through to actually making
something go live, shall we say. Traditional organizations have traditional
structures and teams, and traversing those teams horizontally can be difficult when you’re
implementing some of these techniques because you end up getting some inefficient handoffs
or ways of delivering work that requires stops and starts as other teams get involved in
the process. Flow was describing a way of making things
go from beginning to end in a nice [way] without stopping and analyzing how work gets for interplay,
analyzing the best way of operating is, looking at where the blocks are and where things have
stopped, and saying, “Is there a way of fixing this?” Quite often, it comes down to a process change,
a team member change, or a structural change. Sometimes that can be difficult. Is this really mostly about process and handoffs? Is that the key focus? I think when people talk about agile, the
one thing that they do actually uncover quite quickly is where the team gets stopped, it’s
waiting for something, there’s a blockage, someone needs to sign something off, or some
other process needs to be completed. No, Flow is more about, okay, how do we understand
the best way of working and actually use a framework and also a little bit of culture,
a little bit of philosophy in terms of what’s the best way of doing this. Actually, following a rigid process or methodology
is something that we don’t recommend. We say that perhaps you can just pivot around
something or find another way of doing this rather than getting totally blocked and, actually,
having a bit of fun because that’s why I come to work. I want to have some fun. I don’t want to be frustrated by things that
don’t work. I want to remind everybody that we’re speaking
with Fin Goulding, who is the CIO for international at a very, very large insurance company called
Aviva in Europe. Right now, there is a tweet chat happening
using the hashtag #CXOTalk. Please, join us and contribute your thoughts. Feel free to ask questions of Fin. Fin, maybe peel back the onion for us because,
on the one hand, it sounds so simple, “Okay, well, we’re going to make sure everything
flows and remove the blockage at interconnection points,” yet, it’s not quite that easy. No, I wish it was. No, it’s about really getting people more
socially active in the way that we work, but also going right back to the source, which
is customers, understanding customers, segmenting them, providing solutions which fit their
needs, and getting things which are of a value right at the beginning. The more valuable work that you’re actually
defining with a customer in mind and bringing it into a process whereby you’re actually
then starting to determine what the priority is, it’s like value in is value out, and that’s
the way we kind of look at it. That first part is around understanding, are
we actually serving the needs, is our strategy feeding the needs of the people that are most
important, which are our customers? Then, as it comes into our world, can we get
our executives and managers visualizing all that work, prioritizing that work, feeding
in things which are business as usual, regulatory, or mandatory things as well, but making sure
there’s a sufficient amount of strategic work going on that’s important? Doing that, we use a series of visualizations
like an adaptive portfolio of work that you can see on the wall, and getting people involved,
so getting executives out of their offices into a standup way of working and interacting
with staff at all levels to actually shape the work that’s going to be built by the people
that are at those ceremonies. How do you begin to introduce this into an
organization? Yeah, it’s tough. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you because there’ll
be some people watching this from my organization. You kind of sneakily have to start with some
of these standup ways of working, which does come from the agile world. My management meeting used to be something
that I would do once a month. Now it’s 15 minutes a day using a very simple
technique of actually visualizing the work that we need to do and having a list of backlog
and things that we’re doing, things which are done, and showing that visually amongst
quite a wide range of people. You start using that with the leadership team. They kind of thing, “Oh, well, this is agile? We just stand around, and we make decisions
based on Post-It notes?” Well, kind of, yeah. I mean it’s deconstructing the work to a level
that’s actually starting to see progress. You’re starting to see the “done” column start
to fill up. Running your meetings in that way is the first
part. The second is to visualizes all the work that’s
happening in your company. What happens then is that you visualize everything
and put them on cards and put them on the walls. You actually go, “Wow. We need a bigger wall. There’s so much going on.” That, to me, is something that I think a lot
of executives and senior leaders don’t have any concept of the amount of work that people
are doing, and it can really help by removing things which are not that important. Again, it’s another visual technique. That’s the sort of beginning part, shall we
say. When you start introducing these techniques
into an established company that’s not doing this, what are the points of resistance that
you tend to have to overcome? Yeah, you get some skepticism at first. I came, prior to Aviva, from a lot of dot-coms,
ten years in dot-coms and from different parts of the world, including the U.S. and South
America. I was kind of used to it, but in a large organization,
yeah, there is some skepticism. There’s a need, for instance, to have minutes
or to have some formal process around the decisions that are being made. What’s happened in our organization is some
of our teams actually just take photos of these walls as a better record of what actually
happened and what was decided rather than having some formal document that maybe people
don’t read as much, shall we say. I think, by and large, a lot of people are
very visual, and that’s a good way of consuming information. We have an interesting question from Twitter,
Arsalan Khan. It’s a little complicated of a question, so
I’m going to read this slowly, but it’s good. “What do you think is the role of culture
in terms of mundane business processes and archaic architecture that affects agile pursuits?” I think what he’s asking is, the role of culture
in dealing with legacy processes and legacy enterprise architecture. It’s a real tough one. I think that, in terms of culture, we have
to have people with the right mindsets, and getting a mindset shift is really quite tricky. I find that when you’re working in this way
of working, you’re actually interacting with people more frequently, getting faster feedback
loops, et cetera. If your culture has an element of social behaviors
within it, it’s a summation of all your values, and you’re living it, you’re actually believing
in it, then I actually think it’s a great way of energizing the staff that are around
you. But, there is a need in a large organization
with some of that process to unlearn ways of working. I got that from Barry O’Reilly who has written
a book called Unlearn. It’s just come out recently. It’s how to unlearn the ways that we’ve always
done things. We’ve always done these 400 steps. Maybe we should just do these five steps. The kind of legacy that we’re talking about
in terms of old systems, in reality, they’re already going to be there. But, what we want to do is really empower
people to have the ability to start chipping away at them and decommissioning and simplifying
them and creating new platforms. It’s investing in people to do that. Yeah, it’s not easy. I must admit. I think you have to, as a leader, get in amongst
your team, roll your sleeves up, and do some work. In my case, it’s just removing blockers and
helping people to get the flow going. What still strikes me as pretty amazing is,
you’re a CIO, and we’re having this conversation that involves enterprise architecture, that
involves development processes and, yet, where it’s sort of boiling down to is you need to
know what’s going on and you need to talk to people. Yeah, you kind of want to have a way of working
where you’re pretty open. You take feedback in the moment. You give feedback in the moment. You’re working with your team side-by-side. You’re working on valuable work. And, it is; I think that you’re absolutely
right. I looked at this world of technology and digital
transformation. Suddenly, you realize, actually, what we need
is a cultural transformation. We need to have people who are engaged and
happy. We need to move people on that are not, the
people that want to actually stop you from being successful. Why not get them to do the best work of their
career in another place where they will be successful? They’re maybe not happy with the journey that
you’re going on. As a leader, you have to be much more in tune
with people and making sure that you understand how to help them. That’s unusual. In fact, in some organizations, if you’re
so far removed in a boardroom or sitting behind lots and lots of reports, and you’re not actually
working with people, it’s very hard, I think, to evoke any cultural change unless you do
that. Where should the locus of responsibility or
accountability or control–I’m not even sure of the right word–where does it lie in the
organization given the fact that you’re talking about deeply technical topics like enterprise
architecture, yet, at same time, you’re talking about profoundly nontechnical topics such
as culture change? Yeah, I mean you don’t throw away some of
the traditional techniques of building a strategy or having alignment around what the important
things are. The enterprise architecture really should
be your roadmap to where you’re going. As a CIO, you need to understand what those
big things are. As far as teams are concerned, to actually
give them the opportunity to work, as a group that has no impediments, no inefficient handoffs,
actually end-to-end, is very invigorating and empowering. You have these persistent teams that have
the ability and the power to do work. You can shift mountains. But, we teach them how to break that work
down into smaller deliverables because we can’t do these mega projects anymore. It’s much easier to do things step-by-step. I always say that CIOs don’t build systems. Our people do. If I can get our people engaged and happy,
then they’re going to do that work. Fundamentally, then, there’s a type of training
in terms of how to understand the goal, which is going to be embodied into your enterprise
architecture. But then, as far as the process of getting
there, to rethink the way that we go about that journey. Precisely. It’s about moving away from project management
offices to, a degree, to value management. It’s about doing things which are of priority
and working with groups of people that are engaged and are actually working towards a
purpose in conjunction with their counterparts in different parts of the organization. We try to not say “business and technology.” We try to say that we’re all together as teams
trying to achieve things. That’s trying to get away from those old-fashioned
handoffs and barriers between different groups. That kind of thinking is a little bit old-fashioned
these days. It’s a very interesting perspective that you’re
offering. At the same time, however, the reality is
that, sure, we’re all part of one team following one roadmap but, at the same time, the skills
of people working in marketing, accounting, finance, whatever it might be, are completely
different than the skills that are required inside the technology development groups. Therefore, correct me if I’m wrong, but it
seems that a lot of what you’re talking about is how to improve those interfaces because,
sure, we’re part of one big team, but we have very distinct and different sets of needs
on both sides. If you’re in the same location working together,
then you really can be a team. You get to learn each other’s skills and disciplines. But, I’ve been kind of promoting, recently
in my talks, how to work outside of your job description because I find that that is a
limiting factor. There are many people that could do two things,
and we just seem to restrict them. I’ve worked with startups where the CEO has
been doing testing, or the marketing chief has been doing programming. We kind of do get a little bit hung up on
our job roles and we don’t tend to sort of think, actually, we can roll our sleeves up
and work together. That’s what small companies do. Trying to replicate that in big companies
is by saying, “Right, we’ll bring these persistent teams together, and we’ll blur the lines a
little bit of the job descriptions and get them to deliver outcomes.” If I need to do some work within that team
that’s not generally what I do, well, then do it. They’ll do it to a level that somebody else
can verify that it’s okay. I’m never going to be a marketing expert tomorrow. I could certainly help the marketing team
with picking up some of the load. Okay, but this raises yet another layer of
complexity. You’re saying people should wear multiple
hats; basically, do what needs to be done. Yet, in many organizations, compensation is
not tied to being a generalist. It’s tied to doing one thing really, really
well. Now you want me to be sort of looking out,
taking responsibility, and being part of that team spirit, but that’s going to cost me money
because I can’t focus on the thing that gets me my bonus. How do we handle that? Yeah, that’s a great point. I didn’t say that my ideas were fully accepted
by everybody. I did say that that’s the way I feel it should
be. It’s difficult because those kinds of ways
of rewarding and compensating people have been shown that they’re not always effective. I think there are more than just bonuses. I know that’s important, but I do think that
people do enjoy the outcomes that they deliver in doing something successful. That can be really rewarding in a different
way. I don’t know. I think the instruments that we use today
are a little blunt and they’ll need some form of what I call HR 2.0, some new ways of working,
people functions to understand, is there a different way of compensating maybe the team
in their efforts, not necessarily always individuals? I’m coming to that more from looking and talking
to more millennials that millennials themselves are saying, “I want to be part of a team and
I want to be rewarded as part of a team, and not as a person just completely on my own.” But, this thinking, it’s not necessarily all
nailed down. Yeah, well, the thing is that these days–this
is what I think–it’s only possible to accomplish that kind of end-user customer focus if you’re
breaking down the silos internally. That means that the nature of the work, the
nature of the leadership, the nature of the expectations that leaders hold of the people
inside the organization, and definitely the nature of compensation also has to encourage
the sharing of information and the breaking down of silos. If you’re not doing that, you will never be
able to transform to present a holistic view to the customer of the business. It would be impossible, I think. Yeah, I totally agree. Actually, getting people that don’t normally
interact with customers interacting with them is high on the agenda there as well, so they
can see who they’re serving and who they’re working for. I do think that you’re right. I cannot go into a big organization and say,
“Right, you need to reorganize around this way of working,” but we can do it in certain
areas and pockets to show as a lighthouse how it does work. Maybe there is a way that you can actually
traverse those groups with people working together in terms of understanding that this
is actually achieving a great result at quite a rapid pace. Yeah, you’re right. Those are the challenges, and I think things
are definitely changing. There’s no such thing as a job for life anymore. We’re talking about multiple trades, changing
your professions throughout your working life, perhaps even working in a gig-economy where
you’re working at a completely different level. I think these are all things which are challenging
traditional models, and we just need to be aware of it and see if we can actually adapt
to it. We have another interesting question from
Twitter, which is, “How does flow create value, and how do you recognize that value?” which,
I guess, gets right to the central point. Yeah. As I said before, if you’re doing the correct
work at the beginning of the flow, which is the customer innovation, customer segmentation,
getting all that information together, which is, is our strategy being driven by the interest
of the people that we’re serving? That kind of beginning is where you actually
cut out a lot of pet projects or maybe things that shouldn’t get into the stream. As you start to work across from programs
to projects to initiatives to deliverables, these are things that you can actually attribute
a value to. This is a value in terms of, if I build this
feature, it will give me this return. Or, if I deliver this product, I’m going to
get this return. You have to think like that. Sometimes there is a value associated with
even regulatory work because if we don’t do it, we’ll get a fine, for instance. There is a way of doing this and we, in our
organization, have kind of lent on some of the lean software development techniques and
some of the processes that you would get from value stream mapping and things like that,
which I wouldn’t want to go into all the detail right now, but that is a way of doing this. For everything single thing that you build,
you should attribute some value. Otherwise, why are you doing it? How do you measure that value? I think that’s another really complicated
point. Yeah, it is. Absolutely. Some of that is based upon, for instance,
it’s much easier in the digital world or in the product world where you can see whether
you’re actually getting more customers, acquiring more customers, or you’re delivering more
value, to then where they’re buying these products and services. You can measure those using traditional analytic
techniques that marketing folks that we were talking about earlier on will be very keen
to see that, yes, we have delivered this new thing, that there is a great uptake, and we’re
able to prove it. The other thing is that if you’re not achieving
it by looking at those benefits as it’s actually live, you could quickly kill it. You can say that, actually, we’ve put this
thing into life. It hasn’t made what we were looking for. Therefore, we should take it out and reduce
technical debt. It’s a thing that’s not necessarily widely
done is that we actually are looking to see, in a test and learn way, that we’re actually
achieving adoption for that particular service or product. It’s tricky but the teams are doing it, and
I’m not going to give away too many of the secrets in case our competition is watching. Fair enough. We have another question from Twitter. Again, this is from Arsalan Khan. He says, “Customer feedback is important. But, as Henry Ford said, if he asks the customer,
wouldn’t they just prefer having a faster horse? If he asked the customer, they would say,
‘Hey, I just want a faster horse.'” Yeah. How do you balance that? I think it’s a great question. It is. If you’re not taking the customer opinion
into the way that you’re actually forming your work, then the chances of it actually
landing and being successful is a bit hit and miss at times. I do take the point that you wouldn’t actually
do necessarily everything, but at least you have to take that on board at the beginning
of your assignments and your work. For us, there’s also that feedback in the
moment where it’s picking up information coming back from social media, coming back from contact
centers, and distilling that down into an aggregate of the feedback. It’s not an individual customer. It’s coming from a wide range of customers. If you’re analyzing things and using dynamic
segmentation, dynamic feedback, and dynamic analytics, you’re able to see, “Oh, we can
see that this thing is really popular, and this thing isn’t.” Therefore, you’d emphasize that more than
something else, so it’s not necessarily that I would talk to every individual customer
one-by-one. It would be looking at groups. Looking at the aggregate of the data that
you’re collecting and then applying judgments about what makes sense. Absolutely. Yeah. You have said that agile is dead. [Laughter] Yeah. Given that you’re talking a lot about agile,
what does that mean, “Agile is dead”? You have to be controversial sometimes to
get heard in this world. What’s happened is that, from a technology
perspective when we talk about agile, we often see it with a capital A, almost like a product
or a methodology that, in some circumstances, can be quite restrictive and prescriptive. The founding forefathers of agile that actually
wrote the manifesto are actually starting to say, “Hang on. This is not what we said. What we wanted was for individuals to be agile,
not to buy agile as a solution.” That means sometimes pivoting quickly, changing,
going down different paths, and not necessarily following something that somebody else has
put in place that you now need to do. There’s a big movement amongst the community
to say, “Let’s go back to the principles of being agile, working together, emphasizing
the culture a little bit more, less of the tools, and less of some of these techniques,
which they themselves are even 10, 15 years old as well, and they kind of got stuck in
the moment. Agile is not dead, but what we need to do
is reboot it, actually free it, and actually give it a different way of delivering, which
is to encompass the business. It’s to encompass wider customers, and it’s
to use some of the more modern techniques. We have another comment from Twitter, a really
good one, actually, again, from Donald. Donald makes the point that cultural change
requires leadership that develops a genuine version. I guess it raises the question, what did we
mean by the right type of cultural change? He also says that team diversity should be
encouraged at the same time. Yeah, I think diversity is extremely important. In fact, I’m in charge of inclusion and diversity
here in Ireland. That’s one of my side jobs, and I really enjoy
that. The cultural thing, it’s easy to say it and
it’s much harder to do. I find that when people embark on cultural
transformation, they get very transfixed on processes, methodologies, even values. They kind of miss this last bit, which is
more, as I said earlier, about mindset and mindset shifts. What I try to do is I have this method of
meeting everybody in the organization. Every month or more, I meet 10 to 12 of our
team at all levels. I just ask them, “What is it that we’re doing
that frustrates you, or what’s stupid that we’re doing?” The feedback is amazing. A lot of it is just giving people that ability
to talk. You quite often hear in feedback surveys,
“I don’t get the opportunity to give my feedback.” I think it’s important that leaders meet with
everybody in their organization at some point, plus involve yourself in all the hiring. One great way to change the culture is to
hire the right people with the right fit in the first place and not leave that completely
to other people that may not understand what you’re actually looking for. For me, that’s one of the most important things
is the front door. Yeah, and I think that gets also back to what
we were talking about earlier is, hire people that have a natural propensity and comfort
with communication and sort of wearing multiple hats to be sure that things are flowing, to
use the title of your book, which also is related to the whole compensation. Basically, talent, I guess, is the broader
umbrella, is a crucial, crucial part of this. I totally agree. To put a bit more clarity around that multiple
hats thing because it sounds a bit half-baked, but it’s not. There is, actually, a lot of studies around
what they’re calling T-shaped people that have broad skills as well as lighter skills
or pie-shaped, or even cone-shaped where you have a number of special skills that you’re
actually working towards. I think it’s fun to be able to do that within
an organization and not get stuck in one particular area all the time. It broadens your output. In fact, I think most people that become CIOs
have had to work in different parts of the organization. For instance, in networks, architecture, operations,
or security to get that rounded view. Why not everybody else do it and actually
have more enriching, meaningful jobs? Well, again, if we come back to the beginning
of the conversation and the initial reference point that you established, which is improving
customer experience, customer journeys, customer delight, you have to do that or it’s just
not going to be possible. Yeah, I mean, therefore, if you’re not wanting
to do it, what are you doing? What is it that you’re doing in your role? Maybe you’re in the wrong place? I think that it’s fun to actually interact
with people that you’re working for and you’re serving in terms of customers. I think we have ways of bringing them into
our organization, interacting with them, and even using techniques such as hack-a-thons
and hack days to involve them in that process as well. You’re right. It’s not for everybody. But, it’s quite surprising when you get technicians
who never get the chance to talk to customers who are involved in some ideation session,
design sprint, or design thinking that really see the cause and effect of what they do. That’s why I think it’s quite fun. Well, certainly, for any type of high performing
organization, they are going to be looking at and adopting these kinds of approaches
that we’re describing because I don’t think it’s possible to be a high performing organization
of any type today if you’re not doing that. Yeah. Yeah, I think what’s happening is the technique
of visualizations using camera and board switches as a way of grouping work together, having
teams from different disciplines working in the moment in the same location or via a video
link or whatever on common projects is a way that we’re seeing and driving more collaboration,
getting better outcomes much faster, failing quickly. We don’t fail in insurance; we pivot quickly. There’s a lot of that that goes on, which
I find fun in the way that we’re trying to work. Not only is this improving the business, but
it improves people that are working in the organization as well. On the topic of improving the business, we
have another question, which is, “How does flow address the needs of the changing insurance
industry?” That’s the industry in which you’re operating. Yeah. For us, what we see in flow is a mixture of
techniques which are, from a customer value segmentation, innovation point of view, an
adaptive portfolio of work, which is that kind of value management. There are team methods in terms of using lean
software development, camera techniques. There’s continuous delivery and there’s cloud. All these things link together. It means that we are deconstructing projects
into smaller parts, delivering them quickly, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and
then we can incorporate, into our work, new things that we need to address. For instance, let’s say there’s maybe some
form of disrupter and we want to address that and have our own product that’s going to be
challenging that. We will not have to sit in a big change process
waiting for resources to become available in two-year’s time. That’s just not the way it works anymore. We can pivot fast. We can reprioritize. We can change things quickly, and we can actually
insert, into the flow, new work that will address that issue if it’s required. You raise another very, very important point,
which we haven’t really discussed, which is this need for speed. Nowadays, the business partners simply demand
greater speed, which again cannot be accomplished with traditional projects and, therefore,
creating the necessity to run an organization as you’re describing. Yeah. No, as a colleague once said to me, “To scale,
you need to de-scale, so to do things on a smaller basis.” But, it all assembles back like a mosaic into
a picture that you can see. For us, that speed has to be coupled with
quality. Therefore, automation is key here. I’m used to, from the dot-com world, 50-plus
releases per day. Large organizations and enterprises may still
be working on monthly cycles or even slower than that in some cases. Using these techniques gets you to the point
where you can actually deliver smaller things faster but, at the same time, ensure that
quality is there by incorporating a lot of automation and testing in the pipeline and
delivery. Bringing that in does require some of the
newer technologies, but we are using it in some of our traditional legacy and mainframe
systems as well, so using a lot of the standup techniques, visualization techniques, and
some of the delivery techniques even with those core systems, which have got an awful
lot of value and history in them. It’s just how you bring that out in a faster
way. You’re right. There is a big expectation. But, if you’re working on the right things
in close collaboration with your business folks, you’ll see that you’ll actually end
up working in a way that is delivering exactly what they want. Fin, we’re just about out of time. As we close out, what advice do you have to
CIOs that are listening to this that says, “Yeah, this sounds great, but how do I start? What do I do? I can’t make it happen here. How do I make it happen here?” It’s always hard. We tend to recommend starting with a lighthouse
project, something that’s containable that you can actually see as an internal experiment
where you’ve put all the people together who need to deliver something without an inefficient
handoff somewhere else and see kind of the before and after of how this was working now;
how it’s actually delivering right now. A lot of it is around visualization and getting
used to visualizations and putting stuff on the walls. Sometimes facility departments don’t like
that, but we put on the walls simple things like thank you walls. We have a wall where people just write, “Thank
you for helping me today,” and we’ll change that once a month. We clear it down and create a new one. We have visualizations that show all the history
of things which were blockages in the past, so we can learn from them. All of our projects are visualized. Like I said, use your management meeting. Visualize your management meeting into that
kind of simple to-do, doing, done technique. You’ll start to see visualization pop up everywhere. Then, if you want to use the adaptive portfolio
and some of the segmentation that we’ve been talking about, a lot of that is in the book. Not that I’m trying to sell the book, by the
way. We have, actually, on our website, we’ve open
sourced some of the diagrams and some of the techniques, so you can actually see them. We’re really sort of saying to people, “Try
these things, but not one size fits all. You would have to tweak it for your own organization.” I, myself, people reach out to me on Twitter
and LinkedIn. I’m always happy to answer questions as much
as I can and give people advice because I kind of did this for the community, for the
CIO community, and for the betterment of the way that we work. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. We hear the terms “digital transformation,”
“agile,” “dev ops.” They’ve become this kind of waving a flag. But, when you got in touch, I was so thrilled
because I think, to drill down into the actual mechanics of how you do this, how you make
these kinds of changes, which is precisely what Flow describes, I thought that would
be very useful. That’s why I titled this show The CIO Playbook. Fin, thank you so much for taking your time
and speaking with us today. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me. We’ve been speaking on Episode #303 with Fin
Goulding, who is the CIO for international at the very large insurance company called
Aviva. Thanks, everybody, for watching. Right this second; now is the time; now is
the time to subscribe on YouTube. Check out all of our other amazing videos
and go to We have a lot of content similar to this. Thanks, everybody. We appreciate it, and I hope you have a great
day. Bye-bye.

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