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LuxSE IT Series #7: Developing controlled agility to unleash innovation

While Agile grew out of software development, enterprise agility extends well beyond that. It is about changing the way companies work. All the efforts deployed by the Luxembourg Stock Exchange through its ambitious transformation programme are directed towards becoming an agile organisation on multiple levels. In this last instalment of LuxSE’s article series dedicated to the company’s transformative journey, Laurent Pulinckx, CIO & Member of the Executive Committee of LuxSE, outlines what has been achieved so far and what’s next on the agenda.

Technological and organisational changes

"In terms of technological infrastructure, it is clear that our move to the public cloud has enabled us to be much more responsive to variations in business needs and expectations," says Laurent Pulinckx (photo). "With previous on-premise systems, investments had to be carefully planned a long time in advance, whereas the cloud allows us to provision additional capacity almost instantly and without affecting operations. And the same is true when it comes to downsizing resources, which is not possible with in-house systems."

The changes made by LuxSE to its application framework also lead to increased agility. NoSQL databases allow data models to be modified more quickly while limiting the impact on existing applications, microservices lead to smaller work units, Headless CMS facilitates the distribution of information through different media, and Apache Kafka makes it possible to generate message flows that any microservice can subscribe to without a defined producer-consumer relationship.

"But we went further," says Laurent Pulinckx. "We revisited our internal governance and reconsidered the way we manage our project portfolio. An agile organisation needs faster decision-making processes and, for that, must put in place a much more transparent flow of information on the advancement of projects and products." This was implemented through a new project portfolio management concept where projects are presented to the management committee on a quarterly basis. Projects are supervised by steering committees, which meet monthly and are therefore able to quickly decide to undertake new developments or to abandon certain projects underway, depending on their success and relevance.

To prevent agility from turning into agitation, it is also important to automate certain processes, especially the continuous deployment process. "Automating the CI/CD chain forces us to observe a discipline in the way we develop our information systems," the CIO explains. "This requires rigor as well as a substantial documentation effort, but automation makes it possible to reinforce quality through tests and code analyses. This also allows formal validation points to be established at each stage of the chain."

Agility, a matter of competitiveness

"The stock exchange industry is a niche business," Laurent Pulinckx notes. "Moreover", he adds, "the Luxembourg Stock Exchange is a small player compared to European majors." The only feasible option for LuxSE to defend its market position is to be agile, innovative and to have the capacity to deliver innovations as quickly as possible.

There are two other advantages to being able to deploy smaller increments of value through technology. The first one is the capability to communicate rapidly with both the business lines and the end users. "Our centralised database for structured sustainability data, the LGX DataHub, is very successful," the CIO of LuxSE explains. "Part of this success comes from the fact that we were able to show potential users a set of features long before going into production. For this, we worked in close collaboration with customers to whom we submitted successive prototypes which gradually accumulated value."

"The second benefit is 'the right to make mistakes'. If we are moving in the wrong direction with the development of certain product features, we can change course faster than with monolithic developments. This drastically reduces the incidence and impact of such errors and builds confidence within the teams. Of course, all this can't happen without a significant cultural shift," underlines Laurent Pulinckx.

Understanding and managing change

"Our ambition is to re-deploy our entire application stack in the cloud for end 2022,” he continues. "Such a transformation requires the implementation of a change management programme. In 2019 and 2020, our efforts focused primarily on the technological teams. As from this year, our business lines were much more involved and they gradually use more applications based on the new standards."

Implementing such an agenda requires significant organisational involvement.

"To embrace change, people need to understand the choices made," he underlines. "We chose to move towards more inclusive decision-making processes to allow team members to express their vision on new technology implementation and better understand why and how decisions are made. To build engagement across the company, it is essential that decisions are well understood."

LuxSE's change management efforts are set to intensify in the coming months, as LuxSE continues on its journey to the cloud. "Our purpose is to make everyone understand where our company is heading, because this is not so much a technological matter as a shift in the way we operate and a profound change in the corporate culture on all levels," he concludes.

By Michael Renotte

LuxSE IT Series #1: The Luxembourg Stock Exchange heads to the clouds

LuxSE IT Series #2: LuxSE embraces NoSQL to boost efficiency

LuxSE IT Series #3: LuxSE accelerates software delivery with CI/CD

LuxSE IT Series #4: LuxSE turns to Headless CMS to improve digital experiences

LuxSE IT Series #5: LuxSE adopts Apache Kafka to translate data into valuable services

LuxSE IT Series #6: LuxSE boosts business agility with microservices