SFPD: Governmental, highly regulated service going LeSS (2018-2020)

Agile Transformation
Belgian Federal Pension Service

The Belgian Federal Pension Service (SFPD) was applying Scrum for a couple of years and like many others, was struggling to get it working at scale, with over 16 teams. Early 2018 SFPD initiated some courses on SAFe and LeSS to find their own ways, at the same time discovering the importance of Technical Excellence, a cornerstone to make LeSS work for an organization. From that moment on they engaged with Co-Learning and have spend lots of effort on their technical excellence and subsequent LeSS Adoption.

The client

The Belgian Federal Pension Service (SFPD) is relying on a large R&D organisation that is providing software products to their business, Belgian government and the millions of Belgian residents in and abroad Belgium. The organisation provides the backbone to enable pension payments to residents; and provide insights to very complicated Belgian rules and how these affect the resident (potential) pension through the MyPension website.

The organisation has, at the time of this writing, about 16 development teams working on the main parts of the systems that serve the Belgian population. Moving to more modern architectures eliminating mainframe involvement along the way.

The challenge

The challenges for which SFPD engaged with Co-Learning are related to multi-team coördination chaos and the hard time to get a fully integrated product increment out of the door. Some very common issues organisation end up with when considering agility on team level instead of organisational level, it is a consequence of scaling Scrum teams instead of descaling the organisation into Scrum. They were familiar with team level Scrum and achieved tremendous benefits from this before and were looking for options to grow beyond and achieve a higher level of agility and effectiveness that would support their challenges to keep innovating, act upon changing needs (elections for example) and modernise their architectural structures.

Organisational agility and technical excellence are two of a kind and a perfect match to our Co-Learning capabilities and expertise.

What we did

Co-Learning engaged with SFPD to grow LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) within their R&D organisation, starting with a single Requirements Area of 4-8 teams that has to integrate their efforts with the 10+ other teams outside this LeSS bubble. One can not turn around the organisation and related processes without some thorough preparation, taking into account the context of the LeSS bubble. The first things to tackle was their 2 releases / year and the corresponding integration and deployment cost in order to be able to integrate the efforts from the LeSS buble with all others on a more frequent basis. The birth of the "No More Majors" Community (June 2018) that, together with Co-Learning Technical Excellence coaches, managed to go to 2-weekly releases in a +/- 4 month period.

Parallel to the technical improvements and preparations Co-Learning Organisational coaches worked with formal and informal leaders on the LeSS flip-forward where we would turn a first LeSS Requirements Area around from their existing structures and processes into a LeSS structure en way of working. We explored the mandages, boundaries, skills, team setup and existing collaborations while designing a 5-day flip-forward event (January 2019). Before the event people were working in old structures, after the event they had kickstarted their first LeSS Sprint. The first couple of sprints we used our tandem principle coaching and very rapidly moved to support of their internal Scrum Masters through our Co-Friend service.

Along the way and to speed up their LeSS adoption, SFPD decided to extend the Co-Friends with more hands-on mentoring for LeSS Events like Refinement and Sprint Planning as well as Technical Excellence practices. Today, at the day of writing, one year into their first LeSS flip-forward, Co-Learning coaches are mainly supporting SFPD from the back seat of the tandem and is SFPD looking into ways to grow their initial LeSS adoption into a LeSS Huge structure.

The results

With the strong support from the director (Stéphane Goffinet) the teams grew from driving solo into a true collaborative environment delivering results to the business, government and Belgian residents every sprint. With every consecutive Sprint the overall quality of their applications is increasing and underlying architecture improving. Their Scrum Master community (Tom Jans, Cyril Bouchat, Olivier Maitre) , extended with Co-Learning coaches, are taking up the entire spectrum of making Scrum work for the organisation. Supporting Technical Excellence, Cross Team Collaboration and Product Owner practices.

Even though the chosen Product Owner didn't had much experience, she (Aude Vandeputte) took up her role tremendously well and behaves towards the Scrum values: Transparency, Courage, Openness and Respect. Focus is today, at the time of writing, still a challenge due to the large amount of stakeholders and limited scope of the LeSS structure setup.

We are happy that SFPD was so proud on what they achieved to open up their doors for a LeSS visit on February 2020 and allow others to see, hear and feel what is possible with LeSS. Click here for some impression of that visit. We are pretty sure a lasting change is achieved and we'll hear more about SFPD their journey in the future.


Our services used

We brought insights through education and awareness workshops while using our tandem coaching practices to enable the people in the organisation get things done. Our inhouse programmes, collaborative coaching extended with Co-Friends are considered essential for the success achieved.

Start date: February 2018 - End date: ... (WIP)