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How the FCA went hybrid on a massive scale

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Martin Bellamy, chief information officer at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) takes a hybrid approach to project management. On a typical project, he uses a traditional linear life cycle approach, tailoring the delivery method to meet the needs of the business, but he uses an agile, iterative, delivery methodology for the technological elements of that project.

“To allow us to deliver in an agile manner, we have structured our technology organisation away from a conventional waterfall structure to product teams, each of which looks after a cluster of technologies using a DevOps approach on an ongoing basis. When the organisation wants to do a business change project, it would assign one of our project managers. Each would deliver their elements and then we would have one project to do the overall specification, design and end-to-end validation.”

Delivery through product teams

Technology delivery is done entirely through the product teams. “It is not separate, because the technology is an integral part of the business-led projects and is commissioned by them.”

When the FCA made the decision to restructure into product groups about 18 months ago, the old waterfall model was no longer working for the organisation.

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“We implemented the waterfall model about 15 years ago when we were doing a relatively small number of generally large projects that were often delivered over a two-year cycle,” Bellamy explains. “The world today is demanding a much faster rate of change from us, and that meant we had to change our technology delivery methodology – agile was the one that gave us the ability to handle more change and in shorter timescales.”

The project is always right

Bellamy uses Managing Successful Programmes as the framework to manage a single large business change initiative. Similarly, he uses the Management of Portfolios (MoP) technique to support strategic, cross-organisational, multi-year initiatives to maintain sight of the bigger picture.

“This gives us the ability to get the two-plus-two-equals-five effect,” Bellamy says, explaining that, within a portfolio of discrete programmes, MoP provides a mechanism that maintains sight of the bigger picture, coordinates across programmes and delivers better, because it gives benefits in a specific sequence. “It lowers costs by reducing governance overheads by having one governance body where previously we might have needed three or four.”

Is it his intention to run every project using agile? “It’s the aspirational goal for technology delivery, but we must also ask the question: is this right for the project that we are doing?”

This story originally appeared in the Summer 19 edition of Project journal. Project is free to all APM members.

Don't know which methodology is right for you? Learn more about choosing the right life cycle in APM Learning

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