“Our ambition is to become the best financial services provider for Baltic businesses and people with an entrepreneurial mind-set. The most suitable way to take into account the changing business environment is through the Agile approach, which focuses on organizational change and understanding the complexities that come with it,” said Luminor Chief Transformation Officer Indrek Heinloo.
“Jon White has successfully implemented and led agile model in different companies and various places in the world for nearly ten years. I’m really happy that he has decided to bring his rich and relevant background to Luminor so that we can achieve our goals,” added Heinloo.
“I decided to join Luminor because it presents a fascinating challenge and the opportunity to make a real difference. In today’s fast-paced world, where competition is strong and customers are becoming increasingly demanding, Luminor will need to react faster to changing market conditions and at the same time learn quickly and adapt to ‘delight’ our customers. Agile constantly concentrates on gathering feedback in order to learn and deliver regular, incremental value to our customers,” explained White.
“I can’t wait to get started and help Luminor achieve its goals!” added White.
In his career Jon has successfully led the Skype for Windows Agile transformation in Estonia and London, and more recently at the Canada-based loyalty management company, Aimia.
His career has spanned multiple countries, including the UK, Estonia, Bulgaria and Malaysia and companies such as AT&T, Software AG, Skype and Microsoft.
Jon White, a former Skype and Microsoft head of IT development, joined Luminor on 25 June to lead the Agile Delivery Unit. But what does the word Agile mean and what we can we expect from Jon?
Agile – spelled with a capital A – dates back decades and refers to a core philosophy and set of principles for focusing on organizational change and understanding the complexities that come with it. It also establishes core principles for developing and building better software and connecting it to business agility. Digital transformation is driving change across companies large and small, realizing that their best bet for achieving business agility is to take the best of Agile and apply it across the entire organization. Moreover, the first step in Agile transformation is moving away from traditional hierarchical organizational models to small, self-organizing teams. In short – there is no place in Agile for bureaucracy.
Q: Jon, you have quite extensive experience and you have lead well-known organizations’ transformation to Agile. Why is change so important for adopting Agile?
Jon: In today’s fast-paced world, where competition is strong and customers are becoming increasingly demanding, we need to be able to react faster to changing market conditions, but at the same time learn quickly and adapt to “delight” our customers. The change is much more about mindset and understanding that at the heart of what we call Agile is simply the recognition that we must constantly gather feedback in order to learn and deliver regular, incremental value to our customers.
Q: What are the major change issues that organizations are dealing with when they adopt Agile?
Jon: When we are used to a particular way of working it’s not easy to give up the comfort of the familiar. So a key issue is an openness or willingness to accept change, and perhaps to adopt a healthy curiosity about it. For anyone in any doubt about the consequences of not being able to adapt to change, I highly recommend Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson. One major change issue is also adjusting one’s mindset to deliver value in smaller chunks, more regularly, especially when used to a more “waterfall” way of working.
Q: It is said that Agile sees re-organization and moving away from traditional hierarchical organizational models to small, self-organizing teams. Given how firmly fixed the hierarchical thinking has become, it will be hard for people to get their heads around transformation. Is re-organization necessary for adopting Agile?
Jon: I believe the need for re-organisation has more to do with Agile’s emphasis on collaboration and the benefits of cross-functional teams – where business and IT come together. The true success of Agile delivery is when both business and IT can work as one team. The more we can do to break down “silos” and work together on delivering regular, predictable, customer value – the more we can gain the respect and trust of our customers. This stronger focus on collaboration also helps to promote the benefits of diversity when you have folks from engineering, product, design, etc. all working together, each bringing a different but important perspective to value delivery.
Q: Can big corporations truly be Agile?
Jon: Simply put, yes, I believe they can. Is it easy? Can it be achieved overnight? Certainly not, but everyone is capable of grasping the key concepts behind Agile and putting them into practise every day. It’s important to understand that Agile is not simply meant for engineering. It doesn’t just apply to the software and services you deliver. Agility can span the whole organisation. It’s really about living a mindset often referred to as “inspect and adapt,” gathering and acting on feedback regularly, and delivering value incrementally – and then applying that philosophy in everything you do.
Q: IT and software development transformation will be part of Agile transformation at Luminor. What does the Agile transformation mean for IT?
Jon: It is about how change affects the delivery of the software and services IT provides. When you are used to longer projects that perhaps take months (or even years), with Agile delivery you look towards delivering value more frequently (in smaller chunks) – this can be weeks or days – or even deployments of new features multiple times a day! What I’d like to see is an environment where we can experiment more, even with customers directly, employing proven techniques such as A/B testing, which allows different customers to receive different experiences, for example, when you are trying to determine the best way of implementing a new product feature. Some receive the A variant, others the B. You gather the feedback and use this data to make a decision on which approach will serve the customer the best. That’s what customer focus is all about.
Luminor, whose aim is to become a fully digital financial services provider in the next couple of years, has created the Agile Delivery Unit, to focus on quick and effective, agile modernisation and upscale of IT developments and delivery capabilities. This unit will be led by Jon White, whose 30 years of experience include successful agile leadership at Skype.