When Agile Meets Banking: The story of Libra Bank Romania transitioning to Jira Software

LIBRA INTERNET BANK is a Romanian innovative bank that reached a market share of 1,21%. With 52 agencies and 3 IT development centers in the country, the bank has a strong focus on innovation and digital services and has an average age of its employees of 28 years old. LIBRA has as part of their portfolio specialized products and services for self-employed, agribusiness or real-estate developers

How did you start using Jira in Libra Bank?

Before 2018, Jira was only known to technical people in Libra Bank or those who had previously worked with it in other companies.

The need to have Jira arose when we started with two Scrum teams in the organization to faster implement the requirements that were increasing exponentially in the backlog. Moreover, from documentation to testing, the requirements were subject to changes that generated delays. Thus, a first step towards Jira was when the two teams in the bank began to work Agile.

In the period preceding the Jira implementation, the teams tried to stick to the Agile methodology and implement, largely in Excel, all that meant sprint planning, burndown chart, velocity report, backlog and resource planning.

What made you need a Jira expert? Did you have to chose between Jira and other similar tools?

In the aforementioned period where we knew how to use Agile methodology and practiced it in Excel, there was a need to have a specialized tool to manage these teams and better use the time required to make these. Based on the Pareto principle, we wanted the team management effort to be reduced and the results to be considerably higher (20 effort / 80 effect).

Therefore, we tried finding an answer to the question “Is this what we need now?”

After this investigation, we considered Jira to be best solution for us and we chose Cloud because, as the Atlassian presentation page says, “it’s the best option for teams that want to start fast and easy and who do not want to manage the technical complexity of having their own hosting.”

We contacted a Jira expert when we realized that, although Jira met our initial needs, we wanted additional customizations, personalized flows, different notifications for the team members and for management at certain moments of the sprint, as well as a better understanding of the operating principles and algorithms.

Although at a first glance the application seems simple and user-friendly, the admin area is a bit tricky at the beginning. And once we understood this part, we had new requirements that could no longer be met by the core functionalities of the application. Using add-ons requires time to understand but also programming knowledge, for example for Script Runner. Therefore, without an expert in this area, we wouldn’t have succeeded to properly and timely implement Jira.

Why did we go for Jira and not for other similar applications? We knew about similar applications, but we chose Jira for its user-friendly interface and the price/quality ratio. We also based ourselves on the recommendations of colleagues that had worked with Jira in the past.

What requirements did you have for this project?

After implementing Jira for the two Scrum teams, we went further with the methodology to other teams. We sought to use the applications to their maximum potential and we noticed another time-consuming element: project portfolio management, previously held in an open source application.

After several discussions with the expert, we decided to move the project portfolio to Jira. However, Jira was an application for project management and not for portfolio management, so the complicated part was to find a way to make Jira work the way we wanted it: have a clear visualization of all the projects in the bank that we could granulate, send in the backlog to be resolved and quickly report their status to the entire bank.

Implementing this project required add-ons and setting a hierarchy with one level higher than Jira normally allows.

What was delivered by Life in Codes?

I think the most important thing that I appreciated at Life in Codes was that everything we asked for was delivered in time. There were times in which we were delaying the project and not the partner because the pace of implementation was much faster than documenting requirements for streams, notifications, permissions, roles.

How was the collaboration with Life in Codes?

The collaboration with Life in Codes was very healthy and professional. I felt not only a desire to complete the project, but also to bring new ideas and an ‘out of the box’ thinking.

The most important thing from our point of view was the knowledge, since for any question we asked, we not only got a streamlined solution but also an explanation of why that was chosen. Therefore, we could understand much better how Jira works and what we can ask from it.

For a situation that a consultant can solve within a few hours, you can spend days trying to find the solution. Therefore, balance the time investment and even more, the knowledge and vision that an external expert can bring to your organization. “

What advice would you give to an organization going through a similar situation?

More often than not, a good and innovative idea will not come from inside, because people are anchored in current processes. Thus, an external overview can bring efficiency and simplicity.

Do not forget that the time spent researching solutions yourself also costs, as this could be used for other more productive purposes. For a situation that a consultant can solve within a few hours, you can spend days trying to find the solution. Therefore, balance the time investment and even more, the knowledge and vision that an external expert can bring to your organization.

“We saw an increase in productivity just after we introduced Jira in the organization: the stories delivered by the two teams increased by 103%, while the velocity increased with 99%. “

Where are we now?

Here is a before and after of our way of working:

Sprint planning and burndown chart in excel
Sprint planning in Jira

Before implementing Jira, our two Scrum teams already had nine Sprints in Excel. After the implementation, the number of Scrum teams increased and we now have seven fully functional teams.

Moreover, for the two Scrum teams that were there before the implementation, we saw an increase in productivity just after we introduced Jira in the organization: the stories delivered by the two teams increased by 103%, while the velocity increased with 99%.

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