Seite wählen

Agile Transformation for Cloud Software Development: a fictional story

von | Aug 19, 2023 | Agile, Scrum

Three managers Monica, James and Tom from different companies meet each other during a community event for managers in Switzerland. Leadership in agile software development especially in Cloud environments has been the main topic. They just have worked together during a group reflection exercise and continue to chat during their break while getting some coffee.

Tom: ‘Great discussion, thanks for that. I really enjoy getting out of the rabbit hole after the pandemic lockdown to see people face-to-face again.’

Tom co-founded a cloud software company that has grown to a mid-sized company in the last years. He lives in Sacramento and wonders about exciting sights to visit for the weekend, asking for good hiking spots.

Monica is head of a department in a large company developing software products. In her free time, she enjoys sports in nature.

She suggests to Tom: ‘You might enjoy nature while hiking on the mountains here.’

James lives in London and shared earlier that he is a soccer fan. He smiles: ‘Oh yeah, great hikes here… by the way, did you follow the European soccer championship? Although I don’t know any individual player from that team of Switzerland, they really rocked in the final rounds, even defeating the world champions from France. Such an amazing team spirit and success…’

With some bitterness in his voice he continued: ‘I wish I could see this kind of energy and enthusiasm at work…’ His phone rings and he hurries to answer it: ‘Excuse me, I have to answer that call from my colleague.’

She nods thoughtfully and turns to Tom: ‘I enjoyed some of the matches, although I’m usually not following soccer matches, just the international ones. And I agree, I’m following those because of the great spirit and atmosphere.
The mission and main goal really seems very clear to soccer teams, not so easy in my department at my huge international software company. I feel, everyone follows individual goals, stuck somewhere between old KPIs and new OKRs that were introduced. Our management team is busy with a lot of different initiatives to follow up.
And there is high pressure for every release because senior management made commitments for features to important customers and stakeholders, or we just can’t get it delivered completely due to dependencies to other teams… planning just feels overly complex, annoying and energy-sapping.’

Her eyes seem to focus something far away. She frowns and continues: ‘I mean ‘cloud software’ implies some lightness that I miss. Also, I observe frustration and heaviness building up within the organization.
In the end, it always works somehow, but I feel that it could be improved.’

Tom embodied her situation and wants to try a technique that he just observed during the previous session of today’s event: ‘I can totally feel your situation, sounds familiar to me – we struggled a year ago with our agile transformation journey in a cloud software environment. Let’s try that method that we just learned, Monica. Are you in?’

Monica nods.

Tom: ‘Where should your department be in one year according to the situation you just shared?’

Monica seems not convinced and shoots back: ‘Good question, I’m not sure… can’t you just share what your organization did to improve?’

Tom shakes his head: ‘I think that’s not how it works. I don’t believe in one solution fits all or owning a silver-bullet solution, let’s just explore your situation a bit further if you like.’

Monica answers pondering: ‘Improvement areas that I can think of might be around quality time, due to the pandemic situation we missed opportunities to meet in person, afterwards returning to office happened scarcely… probably clarifying and focusing on a clear common mission and goals for our department… the way we do release our software in versions every three to six months… and how it creates pressure on our teams if senior management commits features to important customers or stakeholders… how we get and incorporate feedback from users’

Tom: ‘That’s a lot already, let’s pick one aspect and focus on that one for now.’

She smiles a bit sarcastically and states: ‘Ok, I’ll play along. Let’s say the goal is: We abandon the release-based delivery! How do we now move on from here?’

Tom calmly responds: ‘Great. Now please imagine your department one year later. You abandoned delivering in releases. How does that look like?’

Monica reflects a while and explains: ‘No more pressure every quarter. No long, energy-sapping meetings to plan the next release and trying to allocate scarce resources to make everyone happy… we are developing and delivering in a continuous and sustainable pace, features are delivered whenever they are done. Our customers will consume product features as an offer at their pace. No more blaming for failures due to pressure, we have space to learn from them.’

She stops and Tom asks after a while of silence: ‘Wow! Great achievement. How did you reach that? What were important insights and steps?’

Monica frowns: ‘That question is nasty… ok, let me think… first step: we arranged a return-to-office-face-to-face event with our management team. It had been a long time without spending time together.’

She continues: ‘We learned that we forgot to strengthen our relationship as management team during Covid time, so we agreed on regular events to meet in person. During one of the events, we realized that we lacked a commonly focused direction or mission that our goals are matching to. There were so many initiatives and individual goals to follow that we needed to focus as a team. This was a bit of a struggle.

But after finding our focus, we even managed to free space for management and teams to adapt to this new way of working. Due to more available space the teams figured out that using Design Thinking practices led to learning faster if they are building the right features.

Improvements impacted our whole Product Engineering Lifecycle. Our goal setting was starting with our longer termed visions and missions, linked to product goals, and matching to sprint goals for the Scrum teams to create a proper focus. OKR are reintroduced just for the most important strategic initiatives and connected to the goal setting of the products where applicable.’

Monica pauses a moment, smiles, and adds: ‘And finally, I referred to James’ soccer match example of Switzerland vs France – a bunch of great, high potential individuals in a group doesn’t necessarily form an outstanding champion team. Every team and manager in our department is a strong player and our products are champions in the market but if we don’t manage to get feedback from the market and deliver the needed things in time to our customers, there might be emerging stars kicking us out of the game – like Switzerland did to France.’

James joins the conversation: ‘Sorry, my teams had an issue with planning the next big release, some escalation in management and with important business stakeholders about a feature that needed to be squeezed in…’

Monica jokingly throws in: ‘What is a release?’

James looks confused while Tom and Monica chuckle. A signal indicates the end of the break and the three managers leave for the next session.