Retail platform owner, Arti Kumar, shares a mini-retro on how her team used agile principles to improve the experience for both advisers and customers.

What problem were you trying to solve?

Our retail life business is growing and our advisers had told us they sometimes find the life insurance application process too complicated.

What were the big wins?

  • 300 new features were delivered into production in approximately nine months! (It normally takes more than a year to deliver such changes under a traditional/waterfall-type project method.)
  • In just four weeks we improved a notoriously difficult step in the underwriting process: a form that asks customers to enter their GP and Medicare details. It sounds simple but advisers and customers were getting lost.

What were some of the challenges?

The logistics of working across:

  • Multiple integrated systems
  • 35+ team members
  • 5 geo-locations
  • 3 time zones

Also, continuous delivery via agile practices is a relatively new approach for MetLife. It was sometimes difficult to explain to people how the process works.

What worked well?

We formed the retail long-running team nine months ago with a purposeful 'one team' culture. The team has a strong identity of tech specialists and business subject matter experts working together to advance the goals of the retail life business.

This approach helps overcome an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality between business and technology teams, something that can be seen in traditional/waterfall projects.

What didn’t work and how would you improve it if you did it again?

  1. Not having Scrum Master roles in the team from inception. This would have improved the adoption of agile techniques and problem-solving. We had an agile coach but we needed someone embedded in the team.
  2. Focusing more on platform stability and tech debt items rather than just delivering new features.
  3. Championing test automation from the beginning, as the team was carrying a high debt of manual/UI-based testing.
  4. Given the complexity of the tech stack, filling some important roles in the team – we really needed a lead engineer/solutions architect, a product owner for all three teams (there's currently only one across all teams) and a test automation lead.

What did you learn?

  • In a platform owner role, some of the toughest parts of the job are stakeholder management and managing a long-list of demands from business teams.
  • Having facts and data on hand can create a tremendous shift in conversations – the scrum team helped gather evidence and facts so we were ready when tough priority calls needed to be made.

Also, technology is important but my most important lesson is that good delivery is mostly about motivated people coming together to get the job done. To elaborate, teams thrive when leaders act on things like:

  • Ensuring the right people for the job are on the team, with the right behaviours that make the team feel safe
  • Good delivery requires a mix of good skills and good attitude
  • Giving the team freedom to make decisions around final solutions, while at the same time being available to coach and help
  • Work is never-ending, so it’s important to remind people about the importance of fun, downtime and rest.


Find out more about MetLife Protect and how it can protect your clients