Xapo is a dual-licensed banking and Virtual Asset Service Provider who offer a global, 100% mobile, banking and asset management service that enables customers to seamlessly transact in both fiat and Bitcoin currencies.
Xapo uses its dual licences to give customers the means to protect their savings against market, geopolitical and economic instability, wherever they are. With fully remote teams, operating in more than 50 countries around the world, the bank is working to increase the accessibility of highly stable and reliable banking services — especially for customers in emerging markets.
Having been initially founded as a Bitcoin Custodian in 2014, the company decided to relaunch in 2021 as a fully licensed bank to help it achieve both its social and financial goals.
Laying a foundation for global success and scalability
The launch of Xapo’s dual banking service brought a huge amount of change for the company. It was the beginning of a new era for Xapo, one which took it into a completely new market, with new capabilities and opportunities.
Leading up to the launch, CTO, Anouska Streets, wanted to ensure that the organization, its technology, processes and people (or Xapiens, as they’re known) were ready for the new era of rapid growth and change that Xapo’s newly enhanced services would usher in.
Anouska and her team searched across Xapo’s AWS-based infrastructure, workflows and teams, to identify any potential areas of post-launch friction, and any clear opportunities for optimization and improvement. In doing so, they identified seven key focus areas for change:
Alignment to outcomes: Xapo’s teams were incredibly busy, but low alignment with outcomes and strategic goals resulted in some difficulty delivering significant value
Customer validation and managing product risk: There were a number of unvalidated assumptions being made about products and customer needs
Alignment of people, product and technology: The boundaries between Xapo’s teams, products and systems were blurred; which led to slowing delivery and increasing technical debt
Building quality into products: Xapo’s QA teams were working incredibly hard to get product features and fixes out the door, but feedback cycles were still too long
Effective, scalable delivery infrastructure: Staging, the only shared test environment, was terribly congested, making it difficult to test and release new features
Visibility and lightweight governance: Across Xapo, decision-making was opaque and slow
Continuous improvement and learning: Learning was taking place, but the benefits weren’t visible across teams
A three-stream approach to deliver organization-wide impact
To move the needle on all of those priorities simultaneously, Anouska engaged Thoughtworks. Together, we planned a three-stream solution approach, where diverse teams of Thoughtworkers and Xapiens worked alongside one another to simultaneously drive critical technology, process and people-level change.
The Thoughtworks teams included:
Platform Engineering who teamed up with Xapo’s infrastructure team to build a set of reusable platform product offerings for other teams to consume as their needs increased and changed
Banking Operations who worked alongside their Xapien counterparts in stream-aligned delivery teams to drive product, service and process-level change
Executive advisors who collaborated with Xapo’s senior leadership to lead changes in technology, product and delivery governance that would ensure the entire company was ready to scale up
Together, we collaboratively drove a huge number of far-reaching changes designed to drive progress against the seven focus criteria laid out by the Xapo team. Some of the highlights include:
Applying a ‘thin slice’ approach to identify specific, high-value use cases for technology changes, and using them to realize measurable value at speed
Adopting and tracking the four key metrics to help better understand development and delivery performance, and continuously improve it
Embedding EDGE-driven product thinking to help the entire organization become more value-focused, and responsive to shifting customer and organizational demands
Improving UX-developer alignment to help shorten feedback loops and continuously improve product and software quality
Defining Objectives and Key Results for Xapo overall, and individual teams and functions, and creating the means to both track and align operations around them
Refactoring systems to a decoupled, value-stream aligned architecture supported by a low-friction, decentralized architecture governance mechanism
Putting the post-transformation organization to the test
By making strategic, well-aligned improvements to Xapo’s architecture, thinking and workflows, our teams quickly saw impressive results, including:
Reduction in time to market for new features
Improvement in mean time to restore service
Improvement in support ticket resolution rates
Reduction in new change failure rate
Estimated monthly savings in AWS costs
But, the greatest impact lay in how those benefits come together for Xapo. Because of this program, Xapo’s infrastructure is future-ready. Its architecture can scale faster and more cost effectively. Its developers can bring new features to market faster. And the entire organization is better aligned to the company’s strategic goals — and empowered to help achieve them.
This robust, new, future-ready state was put to the test towards the end of our collaboration, when Xapo wanted to implement a new product feature to support the payment of interest, or yield. The Platform Engineering team was able to provide the infrastructure for that feature incredibly quickly, and new testing and delivery practices helped bring it to market at speed.
It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come together — and all while working asynchronously. We’ve gone from written updates to complete visibility of what’s happening at Xapo. It’s awesome.
From complex operations to continuous improvement
Throughout our engagement, Thoughtworkers and Xapiens worked collaboratively by sharing knowledge and implementing solutions together. So, when the time came for the Thoughtworks teams to depart, we ensured the team had everything they needed to make the most of their newly optimized technology, processes and operating model.
Collaborating with Thoughtworks has helped us rapidly adopt new ways of working which have had a material impact on how we deliver quality software at speed.