Progrexion, a leading provider in credit education, credit care, and credit repair headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, helps hundreds of thousands of consumers through its trusted brands: Lexington Law, CreditRepair.com, and Credit.com. The company’s mission is to “improve the lives of our customers through credit education and awareness, and by ensuring credit profiles are accurate, fair and substantiated, thus providing them the best opportunity to achieve their personal financial goals.”
Transformation to Agile
Progrexion had largely relied on traditional waterfall development methodologies to expand new features and applications to its customers. With the coronavirus pandemic, however, Progrexion’s shift to Agile was accelerated by a confluence of new business requirements, economic factors, and the prospect of establishing of a new business unit in the United Kingdom. This all happened during the company’s massive effort to re-platform from a set of custom applications to a modernized microservice and the organization’s infrastructure, which was delayed by timeline slippage and resource issues being driven as a traditional waterfall project.
“Our leaders recognized that we needed to work differently,” said James Valentine, director of product owners and principal Agile trainer at Progrexion. The realization opened the door to evaluate all aspects of their current process. The assessment was further magnified after the successful, but difficult, delivery of Credit.com’s first paid product for its customers.
“The Credit.com group was a dedicated team and the first one that was completely integrated and focused on an end-to-end product experience but still functioned as a waterfall,” Valentine said. Pushing the project in a waterfall context created more problems and struggles. “They got the product out, but it was difficult. Integration comes late in waterfall so it created a lot of stress and by the time it launched, it might not have felt like the win it could have been; we lost some really good people and led to some soul searching. It was another example to our business leaders that there had to be a better way.”
Scaled Agile Framework
The challenges faced by the Credit.com team prompted the project managers to come together with product managers, business analysts, and Scrum masters to lead the way in outlining the company’s approach to implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
Valentine and his team worked to define the “data we needed, how we would interact with the data, what our responsibilities would be, and how we would work together.”
With training sessions on SAFe and process refinements underway, the team recognized the need for a platform to enable their new method of operating. Valentine quickly remembered that, “We already had an incredibly robust tool. We just hadn’t really used it.”
Enabling Agile transformation with Targetprocess
Apptio’s Targetprocess had already been adopted by Progrexion business and development teams for its flexible suite of team-level Agile tools. “We’ve had Targetprocess in our environment for 11 years, but we only used it at the team level for user stories and bugs,” Valentine said. “We didn’t have a vision of what we needed or where we wanted to go for scaling Agile. But once we had the SAFe framework [and] knew what we needed from an enterprise Agile management tool, I saw TargetProcess in a new light.”
Valentine added, “That’s when we realized that we had more capability at our disposal, and we were underutilizing the tool. Targetprocess was made for enterprise Agile management and was capable of supporting our broader transformation.”
The team began by leveraging custom detailed views, defining their benefit hypothesis fields, prioritization (Weighted Short-Job First, WSJF) for each feature along with the description and acceptance criteria, and then customizing the feature layout page to make it accessible for the product management team.
“It might seem like a small, tactical thing, but laying that data out on the front page of a feature made it easier for product managers to interact with the tool and not have it be just a development tool,” Valentine said.
By leveraging the broader capabilities of Targetprocess, Progrexion increased the visibility of DevOps activities, giving everyone in the organization a greater view of the owner, status, and priority, as well as better communication of each initiative through the platform — increasing collaboration and reducing the need for meetings immensely.
“Before we started really using the full toolset Targetprocess had to offer, the number-one way we made work visible was through meetings,” Valentine said. “The SMEs were always locked up in meetings, and the only way to get time with them was to make enough noise that you could get them pulled out of that meeting so they could join yours.” By leaning into the cadence of the tool, they became less dependent on spreadsheets and presentations (and the time that goes into preparing them). In turn, fewer meetings became necessary, which freed up time and enabled Progrexion to complete work more efficiently. “It’s a work in progress, but we had large steering committees, and project syncs, among many other meetings that had to be scheduled and rescheduled around individual contributors and leaders. We’ve peeled those back and more and more. We can take those topics and flow them through our agile ceremonies and have the conversation centered around what is in Targetprocess—request, epic, feature, story, risk, task, dependency, package, build—it’s all there.”
Targetprocess also helped the company improve spending management of capital and operating expenses. “We call it feature accounting,” Valentine said. “As part of analyzing a feature to get it into the program backlog, we work with Finance to determine if it is Run, Grow, or Transform, which helps us track forecasted and actual capitalized wages with greater precision.”
Early success kicks off a future Agile roadmap
The resounding success of the Credit.com team built confidence and buy-in for a company-wide transformation, which put the organization as a whole on a better path to unlock greater business agility. “The business support for our transformation can’t be understated. Getting buy-in from the business created a guiding coalition that was pivotal to starting our Agile transformation,” Valentine said.
Progrexion has made great strides in its shift to Enterprise Agile, but there is much more to accomplish in their roadmap. This includes improving the company’s pipeline and release management processes, implementing automation rules, and leveraging Targetprocess for Lean portfolio management.
For more information about Apptio Targetprocess, visit apptio.com/targetprocess.