New Case Study: Fannie Mae mitigates risk, delivers faster in the face of a changing business model

New Case Study: Fannie Mae mitigates risk, delivers faster in the face of a changing business model

Case Studies

SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
David McMunn, Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE


For those of you watching SAFe in the government space, there’s good reason to get excited about our latest case study from Fannie Mae. While we know of several SAFe deployments in government and the military, this is the first fully documented case study we’ve published from that sector in the U.S. And though Fannie Mae isn’t what we might think of as a ‘traditional’ government agency—it’s actually a hybrid of government agencies and private corporations—it is a government-sponsored enterprise and faces many of the same economic, operational, and regulatory challenges as stand-alone agencies.

Coming out of the housing crisis in 2013, Fannie Mae knew it had to make sweeping changes to be able to respond to changing customer needs. For the leading provider of mortgage financing in the United States, agility across the organization would be critical.

Adding to the urgency, under a joint venture of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Congress, named Common Securitization Solutions (CSS), the organization would need to break ground on an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines. Getting there would require Fannie Mae to overcome deeply ingrained internal practices.

Leadership believed that achieving their objectives would demand an Agile methodology. Fortunately, individuals within the company had prior success with large-scale Agile deployments using SAFe®.

To begin their SAFe journey, the organization required every new team to attend SAFe role-based training led by external coaches. Then, in June of 2015, Fannie Mae launched its first Agile Release Train (ART) encompassing six programs across 12 teams with more than 130 people.

While the first Program Increment (PI) began chaotically, by the end of the second day, teams had mapped out their dependencies on the program board, resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated (ROAM) all of the known risks and achieved a Fist of Five confidence score of 3. In subsequent PIs, those confidence scores began going up. When challenges arose, they resisted the urge to resort to old tactics, such as adding more people.

Today, Fannie Mae runs three ARTs. Additionally, there are more than 200 Lean-Agile teams across Enterprise IT, encompassing over 3,000 people. The organization has seen improvements on multiple fronts:

  • Reduced risk – Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks through the relentless focus on innovation and automation to ship ‘production ready’ code with higher and higher frequency
  • Improved predictability – Teams, within the program and across the enterprise, integrate reliably every two weeks
  • Faster feedback cycles – Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year, for the largest application across the enterprise, with millions of lines of code
  • Boosted quality – The organization reduced the defect rate substantially
  • Increased business value – Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 attributes when Agile was first adopted within Enterprise Data
  • Better team progress – Teams undergo regular AHR (Agility Health Reviews) cycles and have matured to higher Agile Maturity Model levels
  • Greater efficiency – Fannie Mae realizes significant efficiency through a reduction in technical debt

Most notably, the Enterprise Data division delivered an integrated solution on time and with much higher quality than was expected for an effort of this size. From a broader perspective, the transformation to SAFe revolutionized how the organization plans for the delivery of large-scale programs.

For more insights on how a large government-sponsored organization deployed SAFe, take a look at the full case study.

Many thanks to David McMunn, Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE; Atif Salam, Director of Enterprise Data at Fannie Mae; Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer at Fannie Mae; and Vikas Kapila, Senior Agile Consultant, Eliassen Group, for sharing their story.

Stay SAFe,
—Dean

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

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