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Favro Case Study: Auditing and Accounting Firm Going Agile

How one financial services firm went Agile

Background

One of the largest auditing and accounting organizations in the world is a current Favro customer.

In early 2018, the Finland based division of this firm began a localized agile transformation. They were looking for a better way to plan and optimize teams responsible for upwards of 120 client audits each year. Working with traditional project management tools and spreadsheets, they struggled to implement a more agile way of working.

Challenges

Due to a large number of clients and staggered interim and year-end audits, the teams required an app that did not dictate a predefined way of working. Not being a software developer, they realized they needed an app that fit their unique workflow and business. During the spring of 2018, looking for a more flexible tool, they discovered Favro and began using it to implement a hybrid of Scrum.

The teams took both their hybrid framework and its implementation as far as they could but began to run into other hurdles. Favro collections, which are an aggregation of both client backlogs (lists) and team workflow boards, had become overwhelming. It was no longer possible for Managers and Engagement Leads to see the big picture and for team members to focus on their Sprint commitments and daily priorities.

Even though they had improved their efficiency over their old traditional process, they knew they could be using Favro in a more effective way. In early 2019 they reached out to Favro requesting assistance. Through a combination of online and onsite meetings with Favro Agile Partner, Broad Cove Insights, the teams at the Finnish firm refined their Favro usage and process, allowing them to visualize high-level client progress, while at that same time executing on the myriad of day to day audit tasks, communications, and deliverables.

Solution and Results

The following is a before and after implementation of their unique Agile process in Favro, which has led to greatly improved team autonomy, program alignment, and overall client satisfaction.

Client Audit Backlogs

Handling 120 plus clients per team per year is a challenge in any tool. The auditing firm’s original thought was to have a backlog per client for each audit year. Having to navigate a multitude of backlogs in one Favro collection proved to be overwhelming and painful to see overall progress.

A separate backlog for every client was difficult to manage

Using the power of Favro Backlog’s Project Tree View, the firm’s teams were able to consolidate 120 backlogs into a single hierarchical backlog per team.

A client backlog per team made cross project prioritization and tracking simpler to manage

This change combined with ad-hoc backlog filtering and saved filters has made it much simpler for Engagement Leads to find what they’re looking for and view high-level status in a single backlog.

Client Audit Phases

The firm has seven audit phases for large to mid-size clients:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Pre-interim audit preparation
  4. Interim audit
  5. Pre year-end audit preparation
  6. Year-end audit
  7. Completion

For small clients there are five phases:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Interim audit
  4. Year-end audit
  5. Completion

Initially, these phases were represented with different sections in each client’s backlog. However, there was no way to see each client’s progress through the sequential phases, let alone an overview of all clients.

Project phases in the backlog

By implementing a Client Audit Kanban board with each phase represented by a board column and pulling the client parent card from phase to phase, they can now visualize annual audit progress for all 120+ clients at a glance.

Project phases moved to a Kanban board to visualize all client project status

Client Deliverables vs. Tasks

Originally, the hundreds of individual tasks necessary to complete a client audit were listed in each individual client backlog, creating far too many backlog items to effectively manage and prioritize and making it difficult to determine what should be done at each audit phase and committed to each Sprint.

All tasks in the backlog creates confusion and backlog bloat

The backlog should ideally be a container for deliverables (the what) and not for tasks (the how). By moving towards this way of thinking the firm vastly simplified their backlog, with only the seven phases of deliverables per client.

Moving from tasks to deliverables (value)

Delivering Value vs. Managing Tasks

Their previous process entailed working in two-week Sprints and committing tasks from each client backlog to Sprint boards. With relatively large teams, many clients continuously in progress, and because they were focused on completing tasks instead of delivering value, each Sprint board was overcrowded and challenging for the team to utilize. At the end of each Sprint, they weren’t sure what was and what wasn’t ready to deliver to the clients.

Task focused Sprint board

The continuous flow, repeatable nature of the firm’s audits lends itself better to a Scrumban way of working. They still want to inspect and adapt, but they also realized that they want to visualize progress and optimize flow. This coupled with a focus on deliverables instead of tasks made the boards much more functional and increased overall throughput.

Deliverable focused Sprint board

Instead of overloading both the backlog and boards with granular tasks the focus is now on client phase deliverables. The deliverable and task details are now located in the card pop-up via convenient, re-usable checklists.

Tasks moved to the card via checklists

Along with tasks and detailed deliverables, checklists are also used to ensure compliance at each phase. Checklists of all types are saved as templates to be re-used on demand for new clients and also for subsequent years.

Making use of checklist templates

For phases and deliverables that require a more detailed task breakdown and a more granular level of ownership, cards are broken down into their own boards. This creates a link between the parent phase deliverables card and the task breakdown board, enabling traceability.

Breaking down deliverables into their own task boards

Next Year’s Audits

As teams work on mostly the same client audits from year to year, Client Audit Backlogs are saved as templates to be used as a starting point for each subsequent year’s backlogs. The same is done for custom workflow boards and even entire collections, greatly reducing the initial setup time.

Templates to be used for subsequent years

Conclusion

Thanks to the inherent flexibility of Favro only a single day of onsite Agile coaching was required to make radical process improvements. With each team implementing a simplified Client Audit Backlog for prioritization and planning, a Client Audit Kanban board to visualize client audit phases, and a customized Team Scrumban board to focus on value delivery, each of the firm’s audit teams now effectively manages 120+ annual client audits with a single-screen Favro collection.

At a glance high-level and detailed project collaboration and tracking

As the Finnish firm scales their new agility, Favro will continue to support their transformation. Teams, Teams-of-teams, country-specific locations, and even the entire global organization will be able to achieve the holy grail of team autonomy and organizational alignment by using Favro’s program dashboards and executive portfolio collections. Agile teams are just the beginning. Organizational flow and business agility are the next steps towards a truly modern auditing and accounting global enterprise.

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