Vantiv Sees Measurable Gains in Productivity, Quality and Employee Engagement with SAFe
“Since beginning our Lean-Agile journey with SAFe, Vantiv has focused its strategic efforts and its execution. We have improved the predictability of product delivery while maintaining high quality, and have become even more responsive to customers—resulting in higher customer satisfaction. And just as important, employee engagement went up over the past year.”
—Dave Kent, Enterprise Agile Coach, Vantiv
Payment processing leader Vantiv Inc. powers more than $25 billion financial transactions every year, from the largest retailers in the U.S. to your local coffee shop. The company makes payments smarter, faster, and easier by partnering with software companies and technology service firms to embed payments processing in front and back office applications. Its commerce technology integrates into a broad set of point of sale systems, reaching merchants through an extensive partner network of thousands of point-of-sale software developers and value-added resellers.
The company also offers a comprehensive suite of traditional and innovative payment processing and technology solutions to merchants and financial institutions of all sizes, enabling them to address their payment processing needs through a single provider.
Exceptionally responsive to customers, Vantiv creates many of its solutions specifically for individual organizations. While retaining its renowned enterprise service, the company sought to take a longer-term view by developing solutions to meet the needs of a broader range of its customer base. The goal is to deliver solutions with more sustainable, long-term impact, and do so quickly to stay ahead in a competitive industry.
SAFe: For Consistency and Continuous Improvement
In 2015, Vantiv embarked on several business transformation initiatives under a common umbrella called True North. True North seeks to create a culture of clarity, direction, and continuous improvement; and rewire the company for excellence in product, IT, marketing, and strategy.
For an objective view, Vantiv brought in a well-respected thought leader in product management and product development. The consultant made two key recommendations: take a more holistic view with a product-led strategy, and pursue a Lean-Agile approach for product development across the enterprise. At that time, there were pockets of Scrum within IT.
To address both those goals, the company started an Agile transformation of its entire enterprise, however, momentum was hindered by a lack of focus on people and teams, and little understanding of Agile. For help, Vantiv turned to Scaled Agile Gold Partners, CA Technologies and Icon Technology Consulting, along with the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) for the structure and methodology needed to deploy Lean-Agile practices.
“To be successful with Agile, we realized that we needed a more concerted effort at the team level and more consistency in how we deliver,” says Henry Noble, Program Director, Transformation. “We found SAFe the ideal framework for achieving that.”
1000+ SAFe Users
With the help of their partners, Vantiv held a series of “Agile Awareness” roadshows around the company’s various locations. They answered questions and encouraged employees to talk about past Agile efforts.
Next, Vantiv employees attended a 2-week formation program with an introduction to Lean-Agile practices and tools. Dedicated coaches worked daily with the group that ultimately formed into seven teams. They began working in two-week sprints, but held off on forming their first Agile Release Train (ART) until they were ready to fully embrace the new way of working.
Though initially hesitant, teams soon embraced with the new approach. “The biggest misunderstanding that developers had was that if you’re Agile you’re fluid,” Noble says. “But they soon learned there is quite of bit of structure required to be successful.”
Teams soon became more engaged, and after 6-8 weeks teams had matured enough to be ready to assemble an ART. For the first Program Increment (PI) planning meeting, in June of 2015, the event brought together 150 people.
“We see a common pattern where the first PI event for each newly formed train feels like they’re not ready, but post PI event every participant says it’s one of the best planning meetings they have ever attended,” Noble says.
From there, Vantiv’s Agile maturity accelerated with multiple Agile Release Trains containing multiple teams and all of the enterprise leveraging the SAFe framework.
Collaborative Quarterly Reviews
Part of the transformation required improved alignment between business goals and product development.
“Our quarterly business reviews were a great opportunity to provide greater transparency and feedback, and demonstrate how the whole organization adjusts and collaborates to help address customer needs,” says Dave Kent, Enterprise Agile Coach at Vantiv. “Participation in this strategic planning by all stakeholders not only helps with product leadership, but also shows how powerful it is when product and IT strategy are aligned.”
Gains in Every Area
Eighteen months after deploying SAFe, the company has measured improvements:
In 2015, Vantiv delivered seven percent more features and capabilities with nine percent less manpower. “We can comfortably say we’re delivering more capabilities with less staff while going through a transformation at the same time,” Noble says. “We do more with less by eliminating waste and focusing on core functionality.”
Time to Market
Vantiv has met its goal of becoming more focused on product delivery—creating innovative solutions ahead of market demand.
At the ART level, teams delivered on commitments 80 to 100 percent of the time by focusing on incremental delivery and listening to the stakeholders’ feedback.
“To continue to stay ahead of the market, we focused on our responsiveness and predictability, resulting in firm commitments to our customers and providing transparency to the organization,” says Henry Noble, Program Director, Transformation at Vantiv.
Year over year, the number of changes to its solutions has doubled, yet the number of quality incidents reported by customers has not increased. “Our quality continues to improve, with quality now being built in from the smallest pieces,” Kent says.
Employee Engagement and Retention
With greater transparency comes more trust and employee engagement, making for a real culture change. That led to a decrease in attrition over the past two years, and Vantiv has been voted Best Place to Work in Cincinnati.
“SAFe provides alignment and transparency,” Kent says. “Individuals feel like they truly understand their part in the whole, and how their work aligns with the goals of the company.”