Building Strong Foundations…. Underwriting Fannie Mae’s Agile Transformation

Over the course of the last two and one-half years, Fannie Mae has worked aggressively to transform itself from a heavily silo’d and firmly entrenched command and control culture, following a gated workflow, with long release cycles, to an Agile organization.  Today, Fannie Mae is a more dynamic value oriented organization that is responsive to stakeholders, focused on achieving greater efficiency by enabling fast-feedback loops, as well as using empirical data to optimize mature and persistent agile values and practices.  


Within the larger context of the transformation to enterprise agility, this Experience Report will focus on the case for change, Fannie Mae’s journey and the corresponding challenges, benefits and key learnings realized.  Our conclusion, while it is important to build bridges with business stakeholders, mature agile teams, leverage automation and embrace the values and principles of the agile manifesto… a successful and longstanding transformation is dependent upon the unrelenting focus on changing the ecosystem supporting the organization’s change at the outset.

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Outline/structure of the Session


Fannie Mae, a leading source of residential mortgage credit in the U.S. secondary market, provides reliable, large­scale access to affordable mortgage credit across the country so people can buy, refinance, or rent homes. In January 2015, Fannie Mae undertook a brownfield initiative, which started with two Scrum teams, to transform Fannie Mae’s Enterprise Data Warehouse, responsible for sourcing, vending and provisioning data attributes, which informed numerous interfaces, as part of a larger Federal compliance mandate.  Over the course of the next three months the initiative progressed to include six-teams implementing SCRUM­OF­SCRUMS, and shortly thereafter, a more formal enterprise framework was adopted encompassing twelve­teams (130+ team members).  Over the course of the next two years, the scope of the transformation has encompassed all of the portfolios across Fannie Mae’s entire Operations and Technology organization. Today, there are almost two-hundred qualified agile teams focused both on implementing new strategic initiatives, augmenting existing applications, as well as providing corresponding production support.  Additionally, considerable investment has been made in developing core competencies around business agility as well as CICD engineering capabilities within the teams. Lastly, outside of technical solution delivery, LEAN Management practices are being embraced by Corporate Functions supporting the transformation in areas such as Legal, Human Resources, Finance and EPMO.  The transformation to Agile has revolutionized how the firm delivers large scale ($100 million plus investment/year) programs, has significantly mitigated risk inherent in complex integrations between legacy and new architectures/applications, as well as between internal and external systems.

The outline for this presentation follows:

  • State of Agile at Fannie Mae through 2014
    • Agile Leadership in title only
    • “Islands” of Agile capability
    • Entrenched legacy organizational ecosystem
  • The Pivot to Agile Transformation
    • Hired a “True” Agile Transformational Leader
    • Established a transformation goal
    • Identified-off Large Scale Pilot... responsibility handed over to Directs
      • Bring the business closer to the delivery organization
      • Build and mature Team’s agile capabilities
      • Adopt supporting agile engineering practice
    • State of Agile at Fannie Mae in 2015
      • Unrelenting focus on building the environment to support the transformation by changing governance; funding precedents; facilities; release frequency; reporting
    • State of Agile at Fannie Mae in 2017
      • In hindsight… looking back, what we would do differently

This Experience Report is a joint undertaking between David McMunn, the Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE, who is directly responsible for supporting the adoption of Agile across Operations and Technology as well as Phillip Manketo, a Senior Agile Consultant, representing Eliassen Group’s Agile Practice, which worked as a day-to-day strategic partner facilitating the implementation. 


Learning Outcome



  • An agile transformation at the team level optimizes locally and is fragile.
  • An agile transformation at the program level optimizes locally and is also fragile.
  • Rather, the momentum supporting an agile transformation comes from the ecosystem supporting the organization and should be leadership’s focus for change at the outset… focus to late on changing the ecosystem and the transformation will collapse.
  • Leadership and Management are pivotal change agents required at the outset to change traditional ways of thinking, embedded legacy culture as well as organizational challenges to sustainable transformation.

Target Audience

Agile Change Agents; Agile Coaches; Agile Delivery Leaders; Scrum Masters; Management; Leadership

schedule Submitted 1 week ago

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