BASE Company: LeSS Huge adoption incl. Offshoring (2015-2017)

Agile Transformation
BASE Company
Belgium, India

BASE Company was the third largest Mobile Operator in Belgium and as many other TeleCom Operators world-wide under heavy cost pressure while trying to find ways to quickly deliver innovations into their markets (e.g. 5G networks). Together with Co-Learning they engaged into exploring an Agile way of working for their entire Technology Department with as goals shorter time to market, acquiring business agility while lowering the overall costs. Co-Learning, BASE Company and its strategic partners engaged in an exciting journey making 2 BOLD moves which ended up into a true LeSS Huge structure. To make things even more excited, all of this happened while BASE Company was put on the market and being sold from KPN to Telenet.

The client

BASE Company was the third Mobile Operator in Belgium and stayed within the top 3 market leaders, also today. Their IT was part of the technology department that was also responsible for the mobile network, from design to operations. Within the IT organization were a couple of hundred people, a mix of people on the payroll together with externals from several (strategic) partners. Their main integration partner was an Indian company, covered by a managed service contract, working in a strong phase-gate scenario. Fixed price contracts with heavy penalties.

Even though the odds were against huge change, the new CTO (Suzanne Kelder) took the lead in changing her Technology Department. Motivating and instructing her direct reports to do things differently and that's where Co-Learning came into the picture. During our engagement BASE Company was 100% owned by KPN Netherlands and put on the market for sale, being bought by Telenet.


The challenge

As you can imagine from the client description, blame and CYA (Cover Your Ass) were the main visible drivers for work. Less visible was the accumulated technical debt that triggered their New Generation and Green Field initiatives. Both organisational and technical debt were piling up to an extend that one could not ignore it anymore, affecting their time to market (>52 weeks) in ways that were not competitive anymore. BASE Company its former IT Director was asked to identify the optimisation goals for the required change and order them according priority:

  1. Lower time to market
  2. Enable business agility
  3. Lowering overall costs for implementation

With these sorted goals we started our mutual journey towards a brighter future. During the process of the Agile Adoption, Telenet (Liberty Global) showed interest in buying BASE Company! But for this to happen the EU government had to approve the acquisition to guarantee that there wouldn’t be an unfair competition. A tough period with lots of unknowns. Eventually the EU approved (after a second try) and BASE Company became part of Telenet (Liberty Global) totally not in the shape it was before or even in the shape Telenet thought it was. The adoption didn’t stand still. For which lots of respect to BASE Companies former CTO and all people involved in the LeSS Huge adoption.

What we did

In 2015, BASE Company her IT Director explored the option to do things more Agile. Due to lack of knowledge, lack of courage (remember the blame culture) he wanted to limit the risks and together with Co-Learning he designed 2 different experiments with limited risk.

  1. Agile Project Approach with high visibility and urgency.
  2. Agile Requirements Area/Domain Approach with the least hard dependencies to other domains.

The start of a journey with lots of learning to share.

  • Project oriented organization or product oriented organization?
  • Disruptive or evolutionary change?
  • Keep PMO or not? How many PO’s?
  • Engineering practices and C.I.? Devops?
  • What about our offshoring partner(s)?

Many choices, many experiments which lead to a conclusion to go for a LeSS Huge structure by means of 2 BOLD moves with top-down support and sufficient bottom-up people volunteering for it. The first BOLD move was a complete re-organisation of the IT department into a (bad) LeSS Huge structure, affecting its subsequent company and customer processes which resulted in a bit of chaos due to its massive impact and size of the change. Along the way people in the organization learned how to adapt the LeSS principles and practices into the their own context, adapt their LeSS Huge Requirements Areas and changing existing Offshoring & Sourcing contracts. Product thinking instead of Projects became the main focus and all of this led to their second BOLD movement removing a 25 headcount PMO, acknowledging the PO role as it should be and removing all middle management layers (only CTO + 3 direct reports were kept, others took up other roles in the organisation). Also the time we increased the attention to Technical Excellence, outside-in and XP practices.

The results

As there were clear optimisation goals set forward we could easily track the results of the BASE Company / Co-Learning collaboration and on top of that BASE Company was used to track "function points" which we kept alive for +/-8 months into the journey. That gave us some good insights and allowed us to align our efforts within the Agile Adoption. Let us share the results of an inquiry send to business stakeholders and all people within the LeSS Huge system put in place, this after 1,5 years in the adoption:

  • 73% of business stakeholders, 80% of LeSS Huge internals didn't want to go back to previous structures of working
  • 59% of business stakeholders, 55% of LeSS Huge internals said time to market improved
  • 55% of business stakeholders, 67% of LeSS Huge internals considered an improved quality within the products/services delivered
  • 77% of business stakeholders, 91%  of LeSS Huge internals were convinced they improved in handling change
  • 50% of business stakeholders, 83%  of LeSS Huge internals said visibility in the organisation improved
  • 55% of business stakeholders, 67%  of LeSS Huge internals felt an improved productivity
  • 80% of LeSS Huge internals felt more empowered in their job
  • 72% of LeSS Huge internals considered an increased team morale

Next to the inquiry we had the hard facts that time to market decreased with 34% on delivering large capabilities into the market. Then again, the function point analysis showed a decrease in output while all involved and TTM showed a more positive trend. Clearly indicated the difference between trends on outcomes/impact versus output/time and as such BASE Company stopped with output oriented measurements like function point analysis.

Our services used

We brought insights through highly interactive awareness sessions, educated formal and informal leaders into LeSS while using our tandem coaching practices to enable the people in the organisation get things done. Our awareness sessions, inhouse programmes, inhouse retreats and collaborative coaching are considered essential for the success achieved.

Start date: November 2015 - End date: June 2017