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How Quicken Loans built guardrails for speed and certainty

Preston Abadie ITSM Architect, Product Owner, Quicken Loans

Is ITIL still relevant in the age of digital transformation? Yes, but today's IT organizations must fit it in with agile, value stream mapping, and the whole DevOps movement. 

The good news is that you don’t have to do it all. You can pick what works for your organization—whatever allows the trains to move on time.

But the place to start—what's truly important—is your culture and values. Without having that foundation in place, you can't succeed, no matter what technical approaches you take.

Here's how we aligned those at Quicken Loans. 

Culture is key

At Quicken Loans, our culture is our magic dust. We live by the sayings we call "ISMs." The name isn't an acronym, but ISMs are the ideals we live by at Quicken Loans, and at every one of our family of companies. These have a lot more to do with who we are than what we do.

Our 19 ISMs act as a compass to help us navigate through our dynamic industry. For example, one is "Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses." Clients don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

A great company is built one client at a time. If you amaze every client every chance you get, then the clients are satisfied, and so are you. The ISMs help us identify the "why" behind many of the decisions we make.

Focus on the 'why'

Understanding the "why" helps us focus on how it affects the outcome. Why are you taking on this effort? Is it because you were told to do so, or because you truly want to affect the outcome?

If you're being forced to do something, then your flexibility will be very limited, and the outcome minimal. Only what the team or business driver said to do will be done. But even with a mandate you can still affect the outcome.

For example, Quicken Loans needed to prepare for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on January 1. This law entitles California residents with accounts at Quicken Loans to call and ask what data we have about them and what we are doing with that data. They have a right to know about, access, and delete data about themselves.

California is the only state that requires this by law, so we had to decide whether to make this change just for California clients or for all of our customers. We chose the latter because we wanted everyone to have access to their data.

Making the decision was easy because we have an ISMs that guide us to "do the right thing" and to serve "every client, every time, no exceptions, no excuses." 

Today, any client in any state can now find out what we do with their data. Since going live on January 1, we've processed more than 135,000 client consent requests. This was a big project: It involved over 200 team members from multiple teams across our company, and 28 technology release trains.

Enable your people for success

Your IT teams should walk out of meetings with ideas to try that might move the train forward. One philosophy we practice is mastering your craft and unleashing your inner scientist.

We encourage people to hypothesize: What if we tried this instead of what we've always done? The idea doesn’t have to be radically different. We need to be open to exploring new ways of doing things.

The Change Advisory Board (CAB) is a good example of this. We used to have a CAB at Quicken Loans. As our business changed, so did the processes that our technology team follows. Being obsessed with finding a better way, we took a different approach to change reviews, and decentralized. We enabled our teams to perform those reviews at a team (or train) level, resulting in accountability, growth, and more successful changes.

Make it fun and engaging 

You need to ensure that your teams have fun and participate in an engaging way. This would not have been possible at Quicken Loans without lots of collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork. Throughout the CCPA project, our teams were constantly engaged, pushing each other to think deeply and work smarter.

One great way to do this that we pursued: a brainstorming session, where one team takes the first idea, and another team takes the second one. As our teams participated in brainstorming sessions, we would run with an idea, exploring the notion of "yes before no," another one of our ISMs.

We also try to inspire competition by having hack weeks, when the teams come together to do something completely different from their normal work.

That's important because in the era of the digital enterprise, what we do may change often. We need to constantly adapt and evolve our services to stay ahead of the competition.

New products and markets emerge all the time, and we deal with those changes based on who we are as an organization. How we deal with those challenges will never change as long as we hold on to our principles—our ISMs—which help us identify the "why."

For more on building value with guard rails and certainty, come to my conference session, "Using ITSM, VSM, Agile, and DevOps to Build Guard Rails for Speed and Certainty" at the Pink20 conference, February 17-20, 2020, in Las Vegas. I'll be speaking on February 18 at 2:15 pm.

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