Empowering Ownership of Agile Transformation at International Medical Device Manufacturer

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International Medical Device Manufacturer seeks course-correction of Agile transformation and implementation of their ERP systems

Situation and Business Challenge

An international medical devices company began an Agile transformation in 2019. However, a year later, leadership was unclear where individual teams or the enterprise more broadly were on their journey relative to industry norms. They lacked visibility into the teams’ practices. Teams were expected to self-manage, yet did not know how to effectively identify and communicate their needs. Additionally, there was a consistent pattern of reactivity and communication breakdowns across teams, signaling to leadership that progress was not where it needed to be.

The cost of not course-correcting the Agile transformation would be significant. An enterprise-wide ERP upgrade was set to kick-off, and if current patterns persisted, the upgrade would be off-track immediately. Because the company lacked Agile expertise, they knew addressing their concerns on their own would be unproductive. They needed a partner to drive the Agile transformation and collaborate with stakeholders who were leading the ERP upgrade.

The medical device manufacturer began the implementation of their ERP systems without agile support and quickly found that important milestones were already at risk. The company sought a partner with deep Agile and delivery expertise who understood organizational dynamics and how they impact the speed at which change is implemented.

AIM Consulting was chosen as a partner because of AIM’s proven Delivery Leadership experience and approach of meeting clients where they are on their journey and utilizing pragmatic methods to introduce agile to an in-flight initiative. While AIM knew what the company should be doing for their Agile transformation, they demonstrated that they would meet them where they are, working as a partner on implementation and ensuring a sustainable process. Rather than prescribe Agile practices, AIM would guide the organization through the journey and empower them with the tools and knowledge to own their Agile transformation.

Solution

Ownership required visibility. AIM first brought in a Scrum Master to give program leadership a lens into each team’s current maturity level. By standardizing reporting and metrics and the Scrum Master’s observations, an initial framework for transparency was established. Based on a common understanding of the current state, AIM provided training and coaching to enable continuous improvement towards maturity goals as defined. After the framework was in place, AIM and company stakeholders addressed scalability and sustainability. Obviously, one Scrum Master was not enough for an Agile transformation of more than 20 teams.

AIM’s Scrum Master transitioned to an Agile coach as a second coach and Agile lead were onboarded. With the lead positioned to partner with program leadership and stakeholders, the coaches implemented continuous improvement plans for each team. Based on bi-monthly Agile assessments, maturity goals and coaching plans were established and then adjusted. While AIM served as the Agile experts, the emphasis continued to be on enabling the company to decide their goals and own the path to accomplishing them. As the organization matured and evolved its understanding of Agile, AIM brought in a business lead to help the business adapt to the IT team’s new Agile delivery methods.  With IT’s backlog comprised of ERP upgrade stories and its dependency on the business for requirements and acceptance criteria, having a dedicated consultant to support the business proved critical to the upgrade.

While AIM did not own the ERP upgrade, the progress of the Agile transformation benefited the project greatly.

AIM’s solution included:

3-part Agile solution diagram

Results

Before AIM joined, leaders were caught in the common waterfall pattern of delaying a project start until they felt they were ready. AIM’s first significant contribution was to understand why the delays continued, and ultimately provided the knowledge, expertise, and support to feel confident in starting the first sprint before they felt they were ready. Breaking through this uncomfortable barrier empowered the organization to establish a regular sprint cadence, which got the ERP upgrade to a healthier status. Additionally, this set the tone for the organization to make their own prioritization decisions with AIM’s guidance. While this decision was aligned with basic Agile practices, others throughout the initiative were not. Decisions not aligned with industry best practices were mindfully made based on a common understanding of Agile principles and the current limitations of a more “Agile-friendly” approach. In the end, stakeholders had the visibility, data, and Agile expertise to own their transformation. 

Each team’s targeted key results varied given its different level of maturity. However, each team matured and impacted the ERP upgrade more positively than they had before. Additionally, communication channels across teams were established and the formerly common communication breakdowns ceased to exist.

Not only did the organization become less reactive due to improved communication, it also established a proactive framework for business readiness and change management. With AIM’s business lead guiding the business through this new methodology, context switching and emergencies within IT were reduced.

Each team matured and impacted the ERP upgrade more positively than they had before.

Lastly, when challenges or breakdowns did occur, they were able to identify if the issues were related to Agile maturity or the ERP upgrade and adapt accordingly. Once again, they became empowered to own their Agile transformation.


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