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Experiences from the Scaled Agile Journey of Vodafone Turkey

| by Ben Linders Follow 29 Followers on Oct 01, 2015. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

At the Agile Greece Summit 2015 Erhan Köseoğlu presented a case study of scaling agile from Vodafone Turkey. InfoQ did an interview with him about why Vodafone decided to implement agile, how they dealt with situations where people resisted against agile, how they established a culture that supports agile, how they involved their customers in the agile transition, and which advice that he want to give to C-level executives.

InfoQ: Can you elaborate why Vodafone Turkey decide to implement agile?

Erhan Köseoğlu: Vodafone Turkey is Turkey’s second largest mobile communication company, providing services to 20.4 million subscribers. The telecommunication industry in Turkey is highly competitive and it emphasizes Time to Market (T2M). As Vodafone TR, we need to be innovative to deliver the best experience to our subscribers, deliver the best service with high quality and move fast in the competition. Accordingly, inside the Vodafone TR IT, an Agile transformation has started to shorten T2M and enhance quality in order to be able to provide competitive advantage to the business. Our aim is to support our business while they are creating customer delight by setting our focus on our people, efficiency, operational excellence and being proactive. As a result, Vodafone TR continues to inspire and lead the digital transformation of Turkey.

InfoQ: Did you have situations where people resisted against Agile. How did you deal with them?

Erhan Köseoğlu: Resistance to change is inevitable in a big, structured, already well functioning corporation. However, it is not bad. We see resistance as an opportunity to challenge ourselves more. When we first started with the pilot stage of Agile transformation, we knew that we will face resistance and therefore we worked harder to create significant achievements faster. When working within our first pilot Agile team, we applied the Scrum framework very strictly and focused on creating transparency and teamwork. This focus helped us to end up three times more productive than before at the end of the first three months of the transformation. During this period the pilot team achieved a few millions of cost saving and created a really satisfying customer experience.

These very significant and quick wins then helped us to convince people to change. Actually, after these results, we did not work on convincing people but in stead the results created a natural interest and buy-in. However, just one success story is never enough to scale the transformation. Therefore, we continuously communicate about Agile and the change ahead with our people, internal customers, managers, etc. We talked to them and deal with their concerns, try to get as much as support from everyone possible.

So basically, resistance is not a big deal if you get a significant quick success and manage the communication well. Also, it is worth to mention the importance of the support of an executive sponsor inside the company. Without a high level support and the willingness of the first few visionary teams it is not even possible to take the first step.

InfoQ: What did you do to establish a culture that supports Agile?

Erhan Köseoğlu: Lots of things actually. First of all, we trained our people and got professional coaching and consulting support throughout the transformation. By doing so, we emphasized that Agile is not just a new process but instead a new way of doing work and more, it is a new culture. We invested in that so that our people also can see the big picture, understand where we are heading to and be part of it.

Also, after establishing eight well functioning Agile teams in six to seven months, we decided to create a new, autonomous organization unit in which these teams will operate. This autonomous unit, called Agile Solutions, is an organizational unit under IT in which only Agile teams exist and run in an Agile management mindset. This leads to a safe, protected area to grow the Agile culture inside the company, which after a while started to act as a change agent that spreads the word inside the whole company.

To name a few more, we can talk about a capability enhancement program that we started to grow our Scrum Masters, the Agile Studio unit which contains our internal coaches working as change agents inside the whole company, advanced level new Agile and soft skills training investments, co-operations with universities and Agile communities, and much more.

Finally, I also want to mention the significant support of high level executives and our HR department in many ways throughout this cultural transformation. Culture transformation is all about people, you can get very importance support from HR people as we did.

InfoQ: Can you give some examples of how you involved your customers in the Agile transition?

Erhan Köseoğlu: We are involving our customers in every Sprint actually, by making the plans together and delivering the results, thus working on the results together. Customer involvement is not a thing that you can plan to do sometimes. It must be continuously. You need to team up with them so that you don’t need to consider or work for their involvement.

Besides our close touch with our customers through the Sprints, we periodically gather together to understand their business needs and upcoming mid term business plans, to improve our way of working all together and to enhance our communication. This is some kind of stop and think besides daily routine, very high level retrospective and strategic alignment alike gathering is so powerful that both sides leave each meeting clearer and more committed than before.

On the other hand, we periodically organize face to face surveys with our customers via independent coaches to get their perception, thoughts and suggestions about the way we work together. We mainly explore their thoughts on our productivity level, time to market capabilities, responsiveness, quality, visibility level, communication level and business alignment. The outputs of these independent surveys also help us to enhance our relationship with our customers and improve the value we try to deliver.

InfoQ: Which advice do you want to give to C-level executives?

Erhan Köseoğlu: Do not make the mistake to see Agile as yet another process. It is more than that, it is about culture and people. Implementing the mechanics of the process is the easy part and the challenge comes later with the culture part. So, never underestimate it, get professional support, focus on your people and invest in their growth. Our job as executives is to create an environment in which people can co-operate and grow together, be happy and deliver incredible results. Then, the numbers will talk, no worries. To cut it short, I can say that: Be Agile, Stay Lean.

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