Tech Enablement - the agile mindset in traditional IT

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What’s in a name? Normally renaming an internal department is not a newsworthy event, but as our traditional IT department became anything but traditional, the transitioned from “IT Service Delivery” to “Technology Enablement” reflected more than just a name change.

The change reflects a different approach to providing foundational IT systems and support. Our Technology Enablement team is the ‘engine room,’ keeping the lights on and the systems powered so that team members can  make enormous leaps like implementing robotics process optimization, cloud deployments of the most advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, and microservices architecture for more flexible collaborative work environments.

While we are making huge changes as the entire organization moves towards agile methodology and the cloud, the tools and principles that we apply in Technology Enablement vary slightly.

For example, in Agile methodology, a Scrum team is very disciplined with a very focused goal. The ‘fires’ that can arise in traditional IT can cause a huge distraction to a Scrum team. That’s why we are taking care of all those fires so that IT teams in other departments can run disciplined Scrums without worrying about the underlying systems.

So rather than implementing full Scrum methodology, we use the agile mindset and apply the principles across our enterprise systems. We don’t have the luxury of carving off dedicated team members, or ignoring fires, but we do have the principles of agile development that we can apply in a more traditional IT environment:

Automation

One of the key principles we have adopted is the automation of repetitive testing and regular checks of our core systems, freeing up team resources that used to be dedicated to continual testing of core systems.

Discrete workflows

Another principle we have adopted from agile development is breaking work into discrete pieces rather than massive upgrades or changes. Compartmentalizing changes allows us to allocate resources more effectively, knowing the ‘steps’ means that we can pull team members off projects without disrupting entire processes.  

Ceremonies

Many agile methodologies have very specific ceremonies, like sprint planning meetings, retrospectives and standups. Many of these ceremonies are extremely effective for project communication, prioritization, and optimization workflow. Even without adopting the full agile methodology, many of the ceremonies of agile development prove effective for teams in traditional IT environments.

One of the big changes in our transformation at ATB has been moving to the cloud and to fully integrate systems. This transition is both a blessing and a curse for IT managers. Integration means things are connected, but the downside is that there can be dramatic ripple effects of changes especially as it relates to the taking advantage of the new techniques and features of cloud platforms. In the traditional IT space of running big, bulky systems, we have the added challenge of adopting the key principles of the agile mindset, while making sure that we are alleviating some of the curses of legacy large scale integration.

Since traditional IT success is measured against availability, reliability, and security, we take a different mindset to agile development to compensate for the added downside risk of service interruption or failure.

But we take pride in the fact that we are far ahead of many in the banking sector globally. Moving from mainframe systems years before many other large financial institutions. Our job in Technology Enablement is to make sure that the legacy and core systems are available, reliable, and secure, while providing ATB transformation team members advanced tools, technology, and power to live up to our mission of transforming the lives of Albertans through banking.

ATB is about making your time richer. Our customer obsession infiltrates the entire organization. Our front end staff want to make our customers time richer. Our transformation team wants our front end staff to have the tools to provide the best service to customers. And, whatever name they go by, our Tech Enablement team wants to ensure that Transformation team members can spend their time where it is most valuable, with stable and reliable technology behind them. Interested in joining the team? Check out our open positions here.