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Arthur Purnama on Integrated IT and Organizational Transformation

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Arthur Purnama will talk at the upcoming Agile Impact conference in Indonesia about his experiences helping organisations move towards integrated IT and how the importance of understanding how people think, comprehend, and receive the message of change is crucial to the success of any transformation program.

Purnama has lived, studied and worked in Germany for almost two decades. In 2016 he decided it was time to go back to his home country and help Doku, one of the leading payment gateways, transform to Agile. He spoke to InfoQ about his background and experience and the topic of his talk.

InfoQ: Arthur, tell us a bit more about yourself, your history, what drives you, etc?

Arthur Purnama: I am a software engineer at heart. Since my early years, I have developed a passion for writing code and developing application, which has driven me to study software engineering. Studying in Germany was my choice at that time, because it was affordable and there are many universities with a good reputation.

At first, studying abroad was not easy for me, mostly because of the language barrier and culture differences. Taking part time and summer job as a software developer surely helped me in getting better to communicate in German, understanding their culture and preparing myself for a professional career.

While working as a software engineer, I have learned that Information Technology is not only about creating a product or solving a problem, but it is also about improving life and business value. Soon software development began to be a daily routine for me and I started to look for bigger challenges, where I can help companies in different industries improving their business through IT and took an opportunity to work as a consultant. Improving businesses through IT is what drives me until now.

InfoQ: In your profile you make an interesting statement: "exploring more about firm's organizational behavior and creating business value from integrated IT". Could you explain what this means? What is integrated IT in your view?

Purnama: While working as an IT consultant, I mostly assisted multinational companies in integrating their IT systems as part of their process improvement or digital transformation. Most of these companies have divisions or regions that maintain their own IT solutions. As a result, it creates difficulties for management or the board of directors to gain business insight and make proper corporate actions or decisions. With integrated IT, they are able to have a better end-to-end understanding of their business value stream, which helps them in responding to market needs better.

At that time, I have learned another whole dimension of improving and sustaining a business. I realized that improving business in integrating their IT would impact its processes, organizational design, corporate function and even corporate culture. This particular challenge had encouraged me to pursue an Executive MBA program in order to gain more knowledge about organizational behaviors.

InfoQ: What of this research have you applied to your work at DOKU?

Purnama: There are three key findings that I applied at DOKU.

First is the organizational structure in product development, which follows the SCRUM model. It consists of Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team roles.

Second is the implementation of "Community of Practice". This concept helps the teams, not only to understand the new process and structure, but also to encourage continuous learning.

Third is the implementation of engineering discipline and engineering culture, which guides the engineering teams to collaborate and scale better in organizational and technological point of view.

InfoQ: As you have experience with Agile in Germany as well as Indonesia, what would you say are some of the biggest differences between 'adopting Agile' in both countries? What would you say are some of the behavioral or cultural challenges in Indonesia in becoming Agile?

Purnama: I have one answer for both questions.

In my observation, the biggest difference is in the "Power Distance" cultural dimensions, according to Geert Hofstede, six dimensions model of national culture. Expressing own mind or conducting a constructive argument to other colleague, especially older or senior level colleague, is crucial in adopting agility.

Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour is not so accepted in Indonesian culture. Thus, implementing Agile practices such as self organization or cross functional teams in Indonesia can be more challenging than in Germany or other countries.

On the other hand, we can leverage this situation by educating the organization about agility and its values through top down approach.

InfoQ: Looking at Doku, when you joined them, Agile was absent or just started being adopted. What were some of the major initiatives you started in Doku to move them towards Agile?

Purnama: After some analysis period, I created a transformation plan containing strategic vision and initiatives, which I presented to my peers of senior level management and to the board of director to get their support and understanding of the situation.

The first initiative was remapping the product portfolio and restructuring the product development organization to model the SCRUM framework followed by coaching the teams about Agile principles, values and practices.

InfoQ: If there is any "beginning and end" to an Agile Journey? How far on the *journey towards Agile" are you now?

Purnama: I think the agile mindset gives us a chance to continuously improve and stay relevant in a highly competitive business. As we always challenge our ideal, it is very difficult for me to say how far we are in this journey. We might already be beyond doing mechanical agile practices, and we keep on creating a positive environment and culture of continuous learning and innovation that supports sustainable business growth.

InfoQ: Your talk at Agile Impact will be about the combination of IT, neuroscience and Agile. What are the patterns you will discuss; how does neuroscience come together with Agile and IT?

Purnama: In my point of view, companies undergoing significant process and cultural transformation need to understand how people in their company will react to these changes. For example, as I mentioned before, just expecting employees to express their own mind or conducting a constructive argument to his senior or supervisor in a country with a very strong power distance culture like Indonesia, might create diverse feeling from both sides, such as fear of losing control and rudeness, which in the end create significant resistance from both sides. Very often corporate initiatives have to face this kind of resistance from the employees or divisions. So, understanding how people think, comprehend, and receive the message of change is crucial to the success of the transformation program. In my talk, I want to share some of this concept through my experiences in doing Agile Transformation.

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