Read any business strategy or management article and you’ll undoubtedly see references to how organizations can embrace agility. But while there is no doubt that agile has been trending, what does it actually mean in a financial services context?

Agile, traditionally used in software development, is perceived to be more efficient—cheaper and faster—for product development. As a result, wealth management firms have been eager to adopt agile in their product development environments and, more broadly, within their company cultures. I am finding many clients are interested in the move to agile and looking for ways to make it a success.

Greater efficiency is not the only reason why agility is an attractive proposition. An agile approach promotes adaptive planning, collaboration, evolutionary development and delivery, is time-boxed, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change. In a digitally-disrupted market, as clients demand more and better services, faster, it is no surprise that agile is rapidly increasing in popularity.

Of course, as with any change agent, there is resistance toward adopting agile. For some, it may seem to be the latest buzzword in a sea of transient jargon that is unlikely to contribute to the bottom line. In truth, it can be challenging to implement this style of working, particularly in what is traditionally considered to be a risk-averse wealth management culture. But we believe agile is an obvious choice to fuel progress, and here are a few reasons why:

  • Agile introduces greater transparency across cross-functional teams: Agile encourages swift decision making by identified decision makers. It requires wealth managers to step outside their comfort zone to run projects that are more transparent with decisions being made in meetings rather than through lengthy approval processes.
  • Agile inspires bite-sized results and incremental value: Agile requires a new way of approaching the scope of a release. Instead of preparing for one “all singing, all dancing” version of a new product, it breaks delivery requirements into manageable chunks for a series of swift and iterative releases.

For all wealth management firms, embracing agile involves a cultural shift. While many wealth management firms are keen to adopt the agile approach, in reality, projects are often a “hybrid” of waterfall release schedules with some agile elements. Adopting a new way of working takes time, but agile is flexible enough to be introduced in stages and can work well alongside traditional operations in the interim.

From my experience, collaboration is key for a successful adoption of the agile approach.  This is not only true among product design and development teams, but also with the end users – in this case, the advisors and clients whom the product is being designed for.  Advisors and clients both provide a unique and valuable perspective on their product needs. So, having them involved in the sprints and getting their input on the product as it is developed, versus at the end when it is released, ensures the product meets their needs. Our team has a keen understanding of the true building blocks of agile, which allows us to help others scale their agile teams.

Come and talk to us at Accenture where our experienced advice has helped organizations to make agility live up to its dictionary definition: “the power of moving quickly and easily; the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly.”

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