Case Study: Delivery Leadership
SITUATION & BUSINESS NEEDS
A parent company of more than a dozen e-commerce retail brands had recently merged with a company that operated eleven retail brands, forming a powerful partnership in the e-commerce sector.
Following the merger, a newly instated CIO reviewed the company’s IT processes, which were a mix of waterfall and agile practices. Opinion of waterfall’s success at the company varied widely; PMO directors defended it while engineers and product managers saw projects falling behind schedule and not delivering to user needs. Agile, however, was succeeding strongly with the e-commerce team and highly regarded as delivering on time and on budget.
The CIO wanted to transform the whole IT organization to agile. However, the company had at least eighteen groups in need of training and only a few resources with enough agile experience to train and coach.
Lacking sufficient expertise, the CIO sought additional support to round out the company’s agile transformation efforts. Agile transformations at large companies can be complicated, requiring a breadth of knowledge about agile so that customized solutions can be implemented that will work for the company’s culture, structure, and processes. Finding a senior agile resource with the necessary experience, flexibility, and understanding of the challenge would be difficult, but the organization was able to find that expertise through AIM Consulting.
AIM delivered a highly skilled agile coach to work with the company’s IT leadership to transform the organization from waterfall to agile. Over a period of eight weeks, the coach worked alongside the company’s existing resources to implement and extend agile knowledge and practices for four of the eighteen IT development groups.
The AIM consultant used a hybrid training/coaching approach that began with leading two-day, in-depth classroom sessions followed by in-person coaching at all agile ceremonies such as sprint planning, backlog meetings, and standups. Additionally, the coach trained delivery managers, product owners, developers, and QA engineers on a day-to-day basis.
The trainer is part of AIM’s robust network of consultants. Well-versed in the many versions of agile, he quickly ramped up on the Spotify approach that the company had chosen to mimic due to its focus on scalability and Lean Startup principles. Spotify’s approach to agile organizes workers into squads that focus on a specific function, with related groups of squads grouped into tribes. Communication and collaboration are enabled through larger groupings of chapters and guilds. Because of the consultant’s broad background in agile, he was able to work with the organization to customize the training and coaching to fit the company’s needs from the start of the project.
The company was able to educate its teams and begin the transformation from waterfall to agile for all of its remaining groups in just eight weeks and the transformation produced immediate, positive benefits. The teams had formerly endured hour-long, unproductive status meetings, which were transformed to 15-minute standups that workers reported as being far more productive. Development teams also quickly increased their sprint velocity, due in part to productivity enhancements.
In addition, workers noted a massive increase in the level of clarity around delivery expectations, which helped to reduce anxiety levels on the new agile teams. The former “firefighting” mode of working, where teams demanded things from other teams unreasonably, has been eliminated.
As the new agile teams mature in their knowledge and delivery, the company is transforming from a project-based to product-based deliverables approach. Whereas a project-based approach is based on success criteria such as whether the project was delivered on time and within budget, a product-based approach focuses on areas such as user feedback and business value delivery. Over time, the company expects considerable improvement in customer satisfaction due to more focused deliverables made possible through a highly efficient and competent agile transformation effort.
Agile transformations can be tricky to get right. Our tailored approach helped get the client teams up and running in agile from the first day of the project. They’re already delivering well ahead of former schedules, and the company is seeing immediate impact from the training.
— K. Cao, Agile Coach / Trainer, AIM Consulting