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InfoQ Homepage News Blending Agility and DevOps with Local Cultures at Barclays

Blending Agility and DevOps with Local Cultures at Barclays


At the first DevOps Enterprise Summit Europe in London, Jonathan Smart, head of development services at Barclays, described how the global reach of the bank's DevOps journey (more than 40 countries, over 130k employees) requires blending with local cultures (as in local to a given business area or to a geography) to succeed. Principles need to be shared, but practices need to emerge (with guidance where required) by applying these principles to the local context.

According to Smart, Barclays approach to scaling Agile and DevOps to the entire organization has worked well so far because it is non-prescriptive. Instead, it's based on having top-down and bottom-up support and avoiding a "one size fits all" mentality. Imposing prescriptive frameworks or practices across the board in a top-down fashion leads to lack of engagement and trust, instead of promoting good practices. At Barclays the principles are shared, and the agile change lifecycle, agile roles and control are consistent across all teams, said Smart.

Smart added that instead of trying to scale agile (indiscriminately applying the patterns and practices that worked for one team or culture across other teams and cultures) one needs to descale the organization (breaking down large groups of people, often in silos, into holistic feature or product teams that can get the same work done faster, with less handovers). One example of improving the flow of work is the creation of "control tribes" which get assigned to development epics at the beginning, allowing security and compliance to be baked in while minimizing elapsed time and formal controls.

Some other practical initiatives taken at Barclays to promote agility include a federated DevOps leadership forum, DevOps champions (with autonomy to promote and sustain changes that meet the principles while respecting the local culture), communities of practice (to share experiences within a given realm), and readily available training (on or off site) and coaching (especially for middle managers, often hard pressed for presenting business results). All the above contribute to establishing a culture of continuous experimentation because "lasting culture changes take years", Smart concluded.

As for the motivation for a well established organization like Barclays to embark in this evolutionary journey, Smart points out a near future with demands (and regulations) for more transparency (with Open Banking standards on the way - starting with open APIs for UK banking). Simultaneously, the growth of FinTech is cutting the profit to shorter than ever margins.

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