How to organize agile teams for your Digital transformation journey

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Delivering services to our clients, be it local or global is not something new. We have mastered how to deliver successfully within committed time, effort and quality, but there has been a shift in focus over past few years towards measurable business outcomes and value driven delivery. Our ability to deliver business value to our clients and their customers has become very critical than ever before.

As Capgemini’s “3R” approach emphasizes organizations going through three phases that allows a structured response to challenges thrown up by COVID-19 – Response, Restore and Relaunch. When the Pandemic hit, customers realized the importance of having digital presence for their business, responded by accelerating movement to digital and transformed their business. While currently going through the third phase Relaunch, businesses have started resuming to their old normal which brings in additional challenges to digital initiatives to be more relevant. Enhanced customer experience and continuous value delivery have become utmost important to sustain one’s digital transformation initiatives and being a Digital-first company.

Customer challenge: During one of our recent meetings with a CTO, he mentioned about their digital platform initiative and the corresponding product team being stood up. Agile PODs for a product oriented delivery team, diverse multi-vendor scrum team scenario that focus on creating next gizmos. Agile PODs formed using group of 4-8 people with skills and experience complementing each other based on project needs. CTOs concern – Still the team struggle in realizing the vision of the product for which they are doing things in first place, not able to respond fast to emergency situation apart from struggling with integration. CTO is challenged to continue with the digital initiatives.

Analysing the customer scenario: It’s interesting to deep dive into such challenges that lie ahead of many organizations to transform their current delivery and scale their agile teams, industrialize things and develop next set of digital services and features for their customers.

Let’s look at how the PODs are organized:  PODs set up with multi-vendor roles using staff augmentation on short notice to start initiatives quickly, not much importance given for forming POD teams with a common agile way of working. Being from different vendors their ideology, thinking and practices differ. PODs are not long-lived as they are organized around need for list of project development, most of them get dismantled after successful project development. Adding to these complexities could be their geographical distribution, remote working, domain knowledge, data loss prevention policies, compliances, integration complexities and so on.

Organizing Teams: Though in the above scenario client has setup PODs, it depends on individual contributions and not team. They assign project to teams instead of assigning existing team with projects. Short-lived teams that are organized taking time to shift their mindset to a digital culture and shared goals. Not defined standard agile ways of working and practices, desired competencies, common tools and accelerators to realize the anticipated outcome and right coaches. Limited partnering with business and teams not able to communicate the value of technology to business.

How to organize teams: I have tried elaborating some of the key factors below that one need to take care of while organising teams:

Ways of Working

  • Evolving digital transformation initiatives being taken up for addressing the “3R” strategic approach of an organization’s business, need to show velocity in business outcomes and continuous value delivery.
  • Once organized, the teams should continue to work together to grow into a strong team and be efficient.
  • Need to have a solid foundation on agile model that focuses on short release cycles, immediate action, transparency through demo and mechanism for a continuous digital feedback loop, thus delivering solution at lightning speed unlike other models.
  • Also teams need to plan early stage features that unlock business value quickly.
  • Organizing the workplace to bring in consistent approach towards automation and speed is critical. Core team should get trained on identified accelerators, and best practices

Critical aspect of being Customer centric

While we agree employees are one of the key stakeholders in any transformation, it’s important to understand customers are even more crucial for the success. To enable this technology teams cannot work in silos rather they should be integrated with business, governance aligned to strategic business spend and target business outcomes. Hence the agile team / organization must be Customer centric – putting their customer experience and business value at centre stage.

Agile teams should have deeper insights into their customer, an innovative culture in their DNA with a mindset to curate solutions solving business problems and thus improving customer experience management. Focus on gaining knowledge in customers domain can be more beneficial in this journey. Organizational alignment and understanding one’s customer are critical for successful product launch.

Right talent mix – master at least two skills

Do the teams have necessary skills to enable continuous value delivery?

I have been part of projects where each solution creator focuses on one layer – develop UI, or business layer, or database layer… where the focus for a developer is on one skill. I also have done projects where I do have experienced development for all layers – this has made me cross skill myself in database skill, front-end skill, business layer and middleware. We have people with specialized or focused skills in software development.

In this digital world, it’s about being multi-disciplinary, full stack development skills as the way forward; but this could also end up in a situation where we are ‘Jack of All but master of None” – is this what was expected out of this multi-disciplinary? To achieve engineering excellence, one should have top talents and right mix of competencies.

Agile team member has to be jack-of-all-trades but also master of at least one – two skills. Mantra for this digital world would be Multi-disciplinary but master minimum two skills.

Modern business need for a composable enterprise

If we don’t think about the future composable enterprise, we will not be able to address the modern business need. We should transform our technology functions to support the creation of composable enterprise.  

Long-lived agile teams need to be set that can own end-to-end features, are cross functional and understand all the ways of working defined along with the ability to use different reusable artifacts, libraries, frameworks created as necessary. Core team should participate in delivery reviews to make sure the InnerSource best practices and accelerators are used to its best capability

Summary

We need to organize our teams based on client demand and expectations. Most of these expectations are focused around continuous value, whole product solutions, accountable partners for ensuring their customer success. Have a self-contained development team that progress from project to project building end-to-end features instead of forming teams frequently. This will help build better experience with efficient development and minimal training.

Approach using agile feature team and component team is key enabler for digital business transformation, helping enterprise realize business values through faster feature development and balancing risks and benefits.

Vijayalakshmi Venkataraman

About

Practice Head with a unique blend of Business Transformation capability, redefining Customer Experience Journey and Global Technology Delivery Management. Extensive experience leading Digital strategy, Agile Transformations, Client Relationship Building, creating innovative Solutions, Rapid prototyping, Business Development, and Product Eng. capabilities. Leading globally distributed team and proficient in building a culture of innovation, motivating and leading high-performing Management team.

More on Vijayalakshmi Venkataraman.

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