ABN AMRO, a Dutch bank that employs over 20,000 people, began using Jira Software in 2011 to manage their engineering team’s workflow. Adoption of the tool spread organically and quickly. The result: an emergence of multiple Jira instances that included 65 administrators, 70 issues types, 500 unique statuses, and over 800 workflows.
Almost a decade later, the bank consolidated their Jira instances into Data Center to reduce downtime and simplify their decision to undergo an agile transformation across the business in support of the evolving needs of their customers. But like for any enterprise of their size, growing pains abounded.
In the move to agile practices, there were core issues surrounding the organizational structure and complexity of ABN AMRO’s Jira Data Center instance. “Scaling agile across 400 teams presented a lack of flexibility between teams, while conflicting agile ideologies, tools, and processes were still present even with the bulk of workflow happening through Jira Software,” says Rik de Valk, Atlassian Product Owner at ABN AMRO.
Plus, the size and scope of the instance meant that there was no clear way to look at work across multiple teams or projects, or understand how it tied together to meet the company’s strategic goals. Poor flexibility and visibly resulted in conflicting information.
Rik and his business associate, Dennis Struis, took a step back to audit their processes. After a year of holding the company’s workflow against proven industry best practices for scaling agile, they landed on a path forward that required an organizational rework and the use of Portfolio for Jira.
Portfolio plans allow ABN AMRO to see the whole picture
While Dennis, Rik, and their stakeholder team had found a structure that would support agile work within teams, they needed to plan and track initiatives that would span across multiple blocks and grids. So they developed custom hierarchy levels in Portfolio for Jira above the classic epic and user stories of Jira that would reflect the shared business goals of multiple blocks or grids.
A small team gathered together to choose a naming convention that utilized the most encompassing “story-like” term possible to describe these new levels. ABN AMRO runs user stories and epics, along with what they now call “episodes” and “sagas.” An episode lives on a grid backlog and is owned by the grid owner. A saga is an initiative that requires multiple grids to cooperate to achieve its objectives. Sagas live on a business line backlog and are owned by the business line.
In this hierarchy, a grid translates its strategy into objectives and defines the episodes required to achieve them. On the grid backlog in Jira, product owners can create, refine, prioritize, plan and track their episodes. All of these backlogs – of the grid and all the blocks within a grid – come together in a Portfolio plan.
Portfolio plans visualize what the blocks within a grid are working on, what’s backlogged, and how each block’s work relates to each other, and ultimately creates transparency within blocks, grids, and business lines.
Portfolio for Jira has helped guide ABN AMRO's agile transformation
Since its adoption, Portfolio for Jira has aided ABN AMRO in creating a structure that allows product owners and managers to facilitate work across multiple teams and at multiple levels. This agile transformation has allowed ABN AMRO to prepare for its future, creating greater transparency across the company and allowing teams to excel in their quest to offer innovative banking services to customers.