A Shift in Approach that Actually Results in... Well, Results
Posted by Steve Stovall, Product & Experiential Marketing Manager, Credit Union Resources, Inc on 5/21/2019
By Tammie Harvey, CUNA Mutual Group, Director, Continuous Improvement & Agile Execution
 
In an era of rapid change and marketplace disruption, we’re all challenged to help our customers/members identify and address a host of evolving needs. Realizing traditional methods – known as a waterfall approach – were not helping us reach our goals at a necessary pace, we shifted our thinking to an agile approach.
 
Now, a waterfall approach consists of building requirements, designing solutions, releasing to the marketing and then getting feedback from customers. In a nutshell, you focus on figuring out exactly what you want in the beginning and you don’t tell anyone about it or use the solution until it’s done and ready for implementation. By that time, you might be headed in the wrong direction, and because it’s a waterfall, there’s no way to go back up to one of the previous steps in the process, without adding time, cost or risk.
 
Agile on the other hand is about gathering customer insights, building solutions and verifying with customers along the way. Then, releasing the minimum amount necessary to serve your customers’ needs. You build upon the minimum viable solution over time to get to your end state – consistently co-creating with your customers along the way. Through continuous learning, you mitigate your risk of building something your customers don’t want or need.
 
To illustrate, think about someone who opens a coffee shop. On day one, they sell coffee. When customers go through the drive-thru, the owner asks them what else they want. The next day the owner adds muffins to the menu. Over time, the coffeeshop becomes a restaurant that serves a variety of beverages, food items and gifts – all that the customers said they wanted while giving you feedback along the way.  
 
Agile can be intimidating at first. It requires change. Change in how you think, behave and execute your work. Let’s face it, that can be hard. Agile also comes with a whole set of its own terms. There are several methods that can be adopted, depending upon the business problem you are trying to solve. And, because it is a relatively new concept to the financial services industry, education is key – for employees and customers. The learning never stops.
 
The results; however, speak for themselves. An iterative, co-creation process leads to efficient development, aligned work teams, positive customer experience, quality solutions, and a better ability to manage and change priorities.
 
Our results have been both transformational and incremental. For example, product development now takes months instead of years, and when we determine through testing that something isn’t adding value for our customers, we stop working on it. In addition, employees feel empowered to identify improvements and adopt new ways of working so they can deliver value faster for our customers.

Not only are credit unions excited about the products and services we’re building, and how they’re part of it, they’re excited about how they can start embracing this thing called “agile” and reap its benefits.

This blog originally published at CUNA Mutual Insights on Friday, April 12, 2019.

Categories: Business Partners, Education & Training, Marketing & Printing, Sales & Service, Strategic Planning & Consulting
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