The Agile Swab


Testing for Health and Maturity



By Bill Sundermann

Texas, USA


Agile process maturity is a reflection of teams executing solid practices and maintaining good habits. Developing Agile methodology is an iterative process, but along the journey assessments are key to reaping the benefits. The “virus” of bad habits and shortcuts undermines the benefits and value stream.

Project Managers and Agile leaders should plan for, execute, and monitor health-check activities and build them into the project plan. Through a case study of Enterprise Architecture team leadership in new product development, we’ll review challenges encountered in successfully implementing these reviews.

The result was a delivered cloud-based banking platform, providing clients with the agility and flexibility needed to meet rising expectations of bank customers. A set of flexible, scalable core banking product processors were built on a common platform with open, modular components using mature Agile methodology. The new platform and product generated higher sales to existing clients wanting to go digital and to net new clients attracted to the configurable, extensible, and scalable technology.

A “swab” to detect unhealthy practices is key to promote faster development cadence and heightened self-awareness for a pandemic-induced remote work force transforming the workflow and project management process.


Until two years ago, the term “swab” was mostly confined to medical laboratories. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the word into everyday jargon as we were tested for a virus that changed the way we live, work, and socialize. Similarly, Agile “swabs” can be taken to provide test results for project health and maturity.

Unlike a one-time test to detect the presence of a virus, software testing occurs along the entire development and release process from unit test through final user acceptance. There are many places where an “illness” can be detected.

Agile processes have focused on the practice of shifting left to find and prevent defects early in the process. While a team can claim to “being agile” there are points where improvements may have stalled or where bad habits have led to a stagnant environment.

This paper reviews how, when “symptoms” of poor health are encountered, Agile teams can take a “swab” to isolate improvement opportunities and assess the overall level of adoption maturity.

Part I is a case study of the development and delivery of a modern banking platform and a CICD pipeline. This project is the foundation for detailing challenges faced, hurdles overcome, and specific areas where an Agile swab can test for issues and point to remedies. A focus on these improvements leads to positive outcomes that teams strive for and sustains the Agile transformation journey. Part II covers seven areas for Agile swabs.

Part I: A Digital Transformation Journey Case Study

FIS is a leader in banking and payments technology. Tracing its roots back to Systematics, the fifty year-old company has been at the forefront of financial services software through both internal development and strategic acquisitions. A primary line of business is core processing and the company offers a portfolio of solutions to large banks, community banks, and credit unions. During the last ten years, the company has faced increasing competition from fintech startups such as Chime, Varo, OnJuno, and many others offering either advanced mobile banking, related payment services, or both.


To read entire paper, click here

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 14th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2022.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Sundermann, B. (2022). The Agile Swab: Testing for Health and Maturity; presented at the 14th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2022; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue X, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/pmwj122-Oct2022-Sundermann-the-agile-swab.pdf

About the Author

Bill Sundermann

Texas, USA


Bill Sundermann, PMP is a team builder and Agile coach with 27 years of experience in the financial services technology industry. He holds an MBA from SMU and is a certified PMP and SAFe Release Train Engineer focusing on helping teams in their Agile journey. His self-care routine includes 5Ks, bike rallies, pickleball, and domestic botanical upkeep.