Consultant Deloitte says forward-thinking CIOs are distributing Agile practices across global teams and creating flexible enterprise IT services that quickly deliver great results, while a recent report from digital transformation consulting firm Contino and Tech London Advocates suggests tech leaders are helping change mindsets, introduce new ones, and redefine their businesses’ digital capabilities.
Gary Delooze, CIO of Nationwide Company Construction, has spent the past 12 months helping his disparate IT organization around the world embrace what he calls a distributed agile way of working to help counter the difficult circumstances of the pandemic coronavirus.
Although he has always been a strong advocate of Agile, his team’s use of the work style – which involves applying the principles of Agile software development to business-related tasks – has increased in 2020.
SEE: What is agile leadership? How this flexible management style is changing the way teams work
Evidence suggests this is a growing trend over the past 12 months. Experts say Agile management produces benefits in two main ways: it gives workers the empowerment that research suggests they aspire to, and it allows leaders to focus on higher-level tasks, such as refinement of strategy and development of new business models. The challenge for Deeloze now is to maintain this momentum in his organization.
“So we challenge ourselves to say, ‘Well, we did it during the pandemic, what’s stopping us from doing it this way forever? “. It really challenges some fundamental thinking and we have changed some of our models and ways of working. ,” he says.
The company’s first distributed Agile teams were working from the company chief’s offices in Swindon. IT employees are now split into a series of Agile teams working not only in Swindon, but also in London, India, from home and even from the company’s branch network.
“They use collaborative technology and they now do daily standups through Microsoft Teams; they work entirely remotely, ”he says. “I thought doing Agile this way would be one of our biggest challenges. We seem to have – I’m not going to say we’ve completely solved it – the majority of ways to make it work really well. ”
One of the explanations for this successful change is necessity. Like other CIOs, Delooze recognizes that a big move towards a distributed working model before the pandemic would have required a long period of reflection, including analysis, debate and executive agreement.
This long-drawn-out process changed in 2020 as COVID-19 created a need for rapid change. Rather than considering how employees could potentially work in a distributed fashion, the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing requirements meant the organization simply had to work in an Agile manner. “And we worked really hard to make it work,” says Delooze.
The teams are working on a range of digital transformation initiatives. Project progress and best practice lessons are shared through virtual whiteboards and collaboration tool sets.
SEE: Guide to becoming a champion of digital transformation (TechRepublic Premium)
Delooze says Nationwide uses Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence tools to track work done by various project teams. The technology also helps team members take notes, record technical details, and share details across different parts of the organization.
“We use the tools to help us work remotely. We have a set of tools that covers all of our teams in these hubs. People can work anywhere; most of them are currently working from home, ”he says.
“So even in India we have developers who work from home and access the network and work for us in this environment, and who are part of our daily work as if they were in the office. So it is correctly distributed Agile.
Delooze and his colleagues have found new ways to divide labor and continue to serve members of the construction society. This process included using branch offices as mini contact centers, where staff responded to customer service requests from their desks.
“We had to change our operating model a bit,” explains Delooze, explaining how, once again, necessity has sponsored the adoption of new ways of working. “One of the things we took a really close look at was, if we can’t take the number of contact center calls we need, can we use our branch network?”
Nationwide branch staff were able to use web chat to handle customer service requests from across the UK. This sudden change in operating model was not just a short-term success. Delooze says the success of this transition has now initiated strategic work within the company to examine the role of branches in the future.
This is potentially important work, not only for the people who work in these branches, but also for the communities they serve. Research suggests that UK banks and building societies have closed (or scheduled to close) 4,188 branches since January 2015, at a rate of around 50 per month.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has called on banks to reconsider further branch closures, fearing vulnerable customers could be left without access to services. Delooze hopes his company’s new technology-based operating model could help keep the branch network alive.
“We are very determined to maintain our presence on the main street; it’s something that is at the heart of who we are and what we do, ”he says. “Therefore, if we can use the branches to also take calls, reduce the contact center footprint and make these branches versatile, it will give us more support to keep those branches alive and keep our front-line services running. contact with customers. in place. ”
So while the coronavirus pandemic has created a significant challenge for Nationwide, part of the key to overcoming these issues has been society’s foresight regarding digital transformation and embracing new ways of working. This is something that Delooze says will help the organization stay in good stead for the future.
“We’re now working in a way that’s a lot more Agile in that sense, but we’re really focused – what is the output we’re going to produce, how fast can we do it, and let’s take action there. . “