John Jonclaes

Agile methodology fits today’s environment

Modern project management approach enables CUs to be nimble, says Partners FCU CEO John Janclaes.

October 4, 2018

Maintaining an edge in today’s competitive environment depends on an organization’s ability to be nimble, moving from one task to the next with purpose yet without rigid coherence to a defined process.

The agile methodology, most often applied in software development, is based on adaptive planning, early delivery, and continuous improvement with the mindset of responding to change quickly and naturally.

John Janclaes, president/CEO of $1.7 billion asset Partners Federal Credit Union in Burbank, Calif, described how his organization has implemented the agile methodology of project management during a breakout session at the CUNA CEO Council Conference.

“The agile methodology just fits with today’s environment,” Janclaes says. “It fits hand and glove with the speed and complexity that defines competition today.”

Traditional project management, often referred to as the “waterfall methodology,” is linear and sequential. After you complete one step, you go on to the next with little room for error or back tracking. The process doesn’t account for the recipient’s evolving needs.

The agile methodology is an incremental approach in which developers start with a simple project design and work on small modules, which are completed in small bursts or sprints. These sprints unearth bugs and incorporates customer feedback into the design.

Four advantages of the agile methodology:

  1. It allows changes to be made after the initial planning.
  2. It’s easier to add new features.
  3. More frequent evaluation.
  4. Flexibility in launch dates.

Along with internal processes, Partners developed a new way of selecting and working with business partners, Janclaes says.

He says the agile approach is particularly relevant for credit unions that are developing an omnichannel member experience.

“At Partners, we took a hard look at ourselves,” he said. “We wanted to get faster. The competitive environment demanded it.”

Partners started with one agile team to learn the process and has built up to four teams. It also works with vendors based on the process.

“It’s a multi-year process,” Janclaes says. “We’re learning what works and what doesn’t work. “It’s a journey, but it’s been very rewarding.”

Janclaes estimates the agile method doubles the speed of implementation while it “de-risks” the process.

“There’s always a lot of risk when you commit money to a project,” he says. “Everybody understands how that works. The way to de-risk that is to make small moves, learn, then move again. Then your instinct becomes clearer and you’re moving incrementally, always moving forward.”

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