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Single Development Agenda: the solution to aligning strategy and execution

How does the BBVA Group select its strategic projects? The key lies in the Single Development Agenda, one of the fundamental pieces of BBVA’s agile transformation. The goal is to make the most of existing capacities in the organization and ensure that strategy and execution are correctly aligned.

Without a doubt, one of the challenges for any organization is knowing how to prioritize projects. Paradigms and work methodologies have evolved, and companies also have to modify how they decide what efforts they are able to undertake. Given that execution capacities and financial resources are finite, it is fundamental to ensure that actions are not duplicated and that these actions help to achieve the corporate strategy.

In order to attain this objective, as part of its agile transformation process, BBVA has developed a project prioritization model called “Single Development Agenda” (SDA) that applies to all projects that have been proposed for the group’s central services.

Integrating this model in the new agile organization is crucial as it entails first identifying and becoming familiar with all the needs of each project. Once these needs have been identified, they are compared to the actual execution capacity of the bank’s different solutions development teams in order to ensure that resources are prioritized efficiently.

Following this process, the projects with the greatest potential impact are assigned to different teams. However, since the projects can exceed the teams’ management capacity, they must be prioritized based on their criticality, added-value, and of course, alignment to the strategy. This means that some of these projects could be deprioritized or simply canceled in order to attend to the more relevant initiatives at each moment.

Therefore, the process can be summarized in three basic steps:

1. Conceptualization

A project must answer the following questions:

  • Purpose: It’s important for the project to have a well-defined objective.
  • With whom: Choosing the team with the best capacities to carry out the project is critical to its success. This function falls on staffers.
  • Why: Those in charge or the project (the project owners) must make the value and rationale of the initiative visible
  • How: Organize the deliverables in a way that the added-value is tangible in short periods (quarters).
  • How much: It is necessary to have a clear estimate of the cost of developing and rolling out the initiative for the given time period.
  • When: Although each project is subjected to quarterly approval, establishing an estimated deadline for the final version is fundamental.

2. Prioritization

As resources are limited, projects must be prioritized on a quarterly basis, taking the following criteria into account:

  • Deliverables: They represent one of the projects’ added values – the main reason it is carried out and ultimately, justify the cost and effort. A key element to understand the criticality of the initiative, its alignment to the strategy, and therefore, its priority compared to others.
  • Duplication: By having access to all proposed projects, possible duplications are analyzed, or opportunities for synergies with other initiatives that are already underway, or which are being launched at the same time. If this were the case, the SDA could determine that certain projects should merge or be redefined.
  • And if it doesn’t?: It is vital to know what impact it will have if the project is carried out or not in order to be able to objectively consider their added value compared to others.

3. Monitoring

Continuous evaluation is the best way to ensure the initiatives’ effectiveness. These short deadlines (quarters) are essential to decision-making that affects their development:

  • Periodic evaluation: Every quarter, the projects underway and new projects are subjected to the same prioritization process to ensure that resources are used for the most relevant activities at each time.
  • Verification of deliverables: The deliverables to which each project committed during the previous cycle must be verified, and new deliverables established for the following cycle, redefining resource allocation and the scope for the new period if necessary.

Based on this information, the SDA is able to establish a ranking of all the priority projects, with the following guarantees:

  • Avoids duplications: Different teams are not working on similar initiatives.
  • Puts the focus on strategy: Ensures that the group’s strategy and efforts are aligned.
  • Clarity on added-value: Clearly identifies the deliverables, ensuring their effectiveness.
  • Constant monitoring: By prioritizing projects that are new and underway in quarterly periods, it ensures proper resource allocation.

Ultimately, the SDA is one of the key components of the agile organization, whose end goal is to ensure there are no gaps between efforts and strategy by making the most of existing capacities at every moment.

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