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Case Study

Plotting a Course to Agile Transformation

Faster Speed to Market - This was the stake in the ground put down by the new CIO, who had been an Agile advocate in his prior position.

By speed to market, he meant how fast it takes the Fortune 500 leader and one of America’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For to respond to customer requests, business drivers, regulatory issues, etc. with viable products ready to deliver value.

In an industry moving as fast as the speed of sound, the large volume of requests from business and customers was not being satisfied fast enough by the more than 4,000 IT contractors and permanent staff.

Project cycle times were averaging anywhere between six months and two years with lead times extending a year or more in some instances.

He felt they could do better and asked his staff to bring in the right company to help propel them into modern Agile practices. After an interesting turn of events that included Motion being recommended by both a current relationship with leadership and a newly staffed Agile coach at the client, Motion was brought in for an extended Agile Coaching and Training engagement.

Prior to Motion coming on the scene, the company had experienced “very small pockets of successes in Agile,” said Motion National Practice Director Joshua Jack. “Only about two percent of the organization did anything that looked, smelled or tasted like Agile,” he added.

“We engaged Motion to help us define and establish an Agile development practice when we had virtually no Agile development taking place. Motion has been instrumental in helping us establish an Agile culture and make the shift away from waterfall development so we can achieve true business agility."

Digital Managing Director, International Airline

Rerouting an 18-Month Roadmap

One of Motion’s first decisions was to talk the company out of an 18-month Agile Transformation roadmap, which had been suggested by another vendor as a first deliverable.

“No way we could have come in and [within two weeks] told them how to go from zero to some Agile milestone in 18 months,” said Jack. “Things change too rapidly. With Agile, you have to assume variability and give respect to the unknown. We’re here to help them on this journey, but the endpoints are unknown.”

The first thing Jack and his team did was determine the number of high-priority teams. Then they brought in the right number of coaches from the Motion bench to work with each of the teams to understand their maturity.

“Learn the people and teams before making the plans,” said Jack. “Then, we can talk about the next year.”

Motion coaches performed a two-week discovery across a large part of the organization, from mobile to applications to services teams, to discover where the teams were in their Agile journey and to uncover areas in need of the most improvement. They then provided a roadmap for the next three months. “We did enough to learn the initial value of each project, which is usually the springboard for subsequent transformation,” said Jack.

Using the Agile product development practice of minimum viable product (MVP), Motion coaches built “runways” for developing these high-priority projects. Practical Agile (Motion’s primary exercise and real-world training session) and Just-in-Time Agile trainings took them from zero to an Agile enabled state and laid out a path for both team and organizational levels.

Additional efforts toward self-sustainability resulted in the setup of an Agile Center of Excellence (CoE), including six internal coaches. “We wanted to set up empowerment and enablement, to give them the freedom to solve their own problems, remove impediments, and move in the same direction,” said Jack.

Jack noted that the CoE was not meant to be a replacement for the Project Delivery Office (PDO), but a point of contact for people in the organization who want to know more about what Agile is and disseminate information to help them out. “The CoE is mainly focused on bringing new teams into an Agile adoption, measuring value in the organization for agility, providing and tracking who has been trained in Agile, and supporting some of the tools. They are also there to help out when waterfall projects touch Agile,” he said.

A Look at the One-Year Results

  • 30+ Agile enabled teams set up, as well as two Agile release trains, and a team experimenting with the LeSS framework.
  • Four Motion coaches on the ground. Two of those coaches work with scaling to bring on the first SAFe scalability release trains.
  • Nearly half of the IT organization is trained in Agile principles and practices.
  • For certain pockets of the organization, Agile has reduced their average delivery by about 20%.
  • Business and IT decisions are now made collaboratively. Business owners are commanding more seats at the Agile table, and the business is starting to own more of the transformations.
  • Culturally, more people are engaged with promoting, learning, and applying agility.
  • The initial goal was for the organization to become 40% Agile in three years; a little over a year into the project the CIO has reset the organization’s goal to now become 80% Agile in three years.

“It’s all about learning and continuing to grow,” said Jack. “That’s the essence of an Agile transformation, and there is no shortcut on the journey.”

“I can’t thank Motion enough for not only launching us forward on our journey of agility but also for ensuring we have the right tools to sustain a culture of inspection and adaption.”

Agile CoE Manager, International Airline