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Customer Success Story - United Services Automobile Association

Coaches driving Agile Transformation leveraging SAFe, Lean, XP and LeSS across the Portfolio, Program and Team levels.


The Challenge.


USAA has been the financial institution of choice for the US Military and their families since 1922.  USAA is a diversified financial institution offering banking, insurance and financial investment to military members, their families and small businesses owned by veterans. USAA employs more than 30,000 people across the globe. USAA is a leader in the financial services industry, however, to maintain their position as the financial services provider of choice by more than 8 million members, they needed to reduce their time to market with innovative products that meet their customers’ needs globally.

USAA’s Bank group began their agile transformation to grow their market share by reducing the time to market and deliver innovative products. As the transformation gained momentum, the President of the bank determined that they needed help in scaling agile as they relied on outsourced IT development. Agile Experts in SAFe, Lean, XP and LESS were brought into the Bank to provide coaching at the Portfolio, Program and Team levels.

USAA Property and Casualty Companies began their Agile Transformation journey, identifying the need to respond to the members needs faster in a more global economy. The challenges that they faced were unique in that members were everywhere disasters were likely and frequently did occur, they needed innovative products that made it to production when ready.

USAA needed to provide assurance that their Agile Process and their Risk Controls were documented and made visible in a single source of record by developing a common Taxonomy and Language across all lines of business and their enabling partners.  Genesis Transformation Coaches with Compliance, Regulatory and Governance knowledge guided the Enterprise through the work needed to deliver an Interaction Process Model with a Lean set of Risk Controls.

The Solution.


USAA leveraged the SAFe principles, and framework that had very clear guidelines and training with experts that would support USAA through their journey. Many other frameworks were looked at and experiments run with SAFe being eventually due to its offering of guidelines that incorporated DevOps, Infrastructure, and Compliance built into their processes. However, they recognized that with a global workforce with many very different lines of business with heavy regulatory governance, that it was possible that one framework could not be determined to be a one size fits all solution.

USAA determined that they must have a single process interaction model with a lean set of controls that every employee and line of business would be expected to follow, however, it should be a very minimal lightweight SAFe process. Every Portfolio and Program would determine if there needed to be additional processes developed for their individual service organizations regulatory needs and would engage Agile Coaches to help them define and document these for governance purposes. Agile Coaches were expected to not only coach SAFe but coach leaders to do what was best for the type of work and use the best practices to deliver the highest business value.

100% Training:  All team members completed role-based training, from Executives and Leaders to team members.  The goal was to have 25% of Scrum Masters trained and certified as a SAFe Scrum Master, another 25% trained and certified as RTE’s and 100% of all leaders who had teams that were going through Program Increments trained in Leading SAFe. 10% of RTE’s became SPCs and External Coaches mentored and grew internal Coaches.

Empowering Teams:  It was not enough to just train the teams. A mind shift needed to take place to fully embrace the new way of working. Teams needed the autonomy to deliver independently and often. 

Adaptive Planning:  USAA also took a major step and moved from funding projects to funding teams. Prior to this change team members would move from project to project as soon as their work was completed, taking their knowledge with them and becoming unavailable to have collaborative conversations on an as needed basis. Instead they found that as soon as they began funding teams and bring the work to the teams vs. the individuals to the work, they were able to eliminate waste that was a natural part of the project funded teams by cutting off unnecessary work that would be done in order to keep good people together and not lose them to other work.

The Results.

The leadership, training, mentoring, and hands on support of Genesis Consulting Agile Transformation Coaches has led to incredible results at USAA. Several of these accomplishments include:

Commitment to Continuous Improvement:  By keeping teams together, they were able to “inspect and adapt” after each Program Increment (PI), learn from the things that did not go well and do more of what worked well for them. The honest feedback that was exchanged was not just on the practices, but on the product and delivery, how could they do even better for the next PI.

Scaling the Enterprise to Deliver Product Faster: Today, the Agile Enterprise has grown to include the Bank with 8 Portfolios and 18 Trains, and Property and Casualty with 5 Portfolios and 14 trains. Investment Banking is now ramping up to take their agile journey to the next level. Employees are more engaged, creating innovative products through hack-a-thons and given the time to do so, they have begun delivering on demand and creating the opportunities for continuous learning.

Automating Processes to Decrease Time to Market: Taking an iterative approach to frequently deliver to production, automating testing harnesses and building a lean set of processes and controls that allow for release on demand have allowed a reduction in the time to market in many instances by 60%.

Autonomy and Employee Engagement:  USAA has found that by giving employees the autonomy and the training they need to be successful they have reduced their already low turnover rate by another 5%.
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