SFPD: Governmental, highly regulated service going LeSS (2018-…) – Work in progress

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)

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

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

Sparefoot: LeSS Adoption Support (2016)

Mid 2016 Sparefoot engaged with Co-Learning to get familiar with LeSS as Agile Scaling option for their business, most of the initial assessment was done through online tooling and video calls ending up with a customised LeSS Practitioner course that was at the same time their kickstart towards a LeSS organisation to support their highly demanding business domain.

The client

SpareFoot is the largest marketplace for storage, making it simpler to move and store your stuff. Our website lets you compare the most storage options nationwide and pick the best solution for your needs, whether it's traditional self-storage or full-service storage.

With the most up-to-date information on storage available, SpareFoot makes finding and reserving storage the easiest thing to cross off your to-do list.

The challenge

Sparefoot was looking for options to scale their Agile way of working over a multitude of development teams to support their growth. The challenges to tackle are, to us, very common for an organisation in the stage of fast growth and come back to the following questions:

  • How can we enable hyper growth without having too much fat on the muscle?
  • How can we keep our employees engaged, motivated & innovative?

Keeping the startup culture and spirit as much as possible during high growth is a major challenge for fast growing startup organisations. Sparefoot was no exception to this, the drive for growth and its balance with process, structures & technical health is not an easy challenge and one we loved to participate in.

What we did

We initially engaged in a thorough assessment of their current situation and organisational setup as well as their technical excellence practices. The conclusion wasn't bad at all, unlike many other organisations Sparefoot was applying skillful technical practices resulting in clean code and having a good infrastructure for the build and deployment pipelines. The troubles were more related to their multi-team setup, the coordination across teams and having a shared focus to work on. A perfect match to continue with a LeSS adoption, achieving greater alignment and an amazing transparency on their work, leaving the coordination to the teams supported by well known LeSS events.

Once we had clarity on the goals to move forward we agreed to design a highly customised Certified LeSS Practitioner course for the teams and their leaders. This course and LeSS adoption preparation was provided in the Sparefoot offices in Austin, Texas in June 2016 and from there on the formal and informal leaders at Sparefoot took the adoption forward. Having a LeSS flip-forward and team self-design session in August 2016, the fastest lead time from initial preparation workshops to having the LeSS flip-forward executed.

The results

We have little information on the hard results for Sparefoot and can only share that by January 2017 it was reported that the biggest change for Sparefoot was that they were delivering obvious value at every 2-week Multi-Team Sprint. For us good enough to conclude and celebrate their success.

Shortly after we received information that the teams are usage data statistics during their Sprint Review sessions and within their Sprints to evaluate their activities and adjust their strategy accordingly. An amazing achievement!

Our services used

Before our highly customised LeSS Practitioner course we performed several remote assessment activities, after the course we provided remote support to them.

Start date: March 2016 - End date: November 2016