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Euromoney Institutional Investor takes Agile to enterprise level in 6 months

Overview

EuromoneyWhat happens when you roll out Agile practices to products distributed across different offices and countries, with third party software development partners? With an early failed attempt behind them, Euromoney Institutional Investor (EII) wanted rapid success. In 6 months, with consultancy, coaching and bespoke Agile training from agil8, EII transformed their Development organisation to deliver significantly higher quality solutions in less time and transformed the relationship between business divisions and technology teams.

Agil8 was engaged to provide consultancy advice and coaching throughout the process, supporting a skills transfer to the internal Agile Champion and Scrum Masters, as well as bespoke training workshops, Agile Clinic facilitation, plus Certified ScrumMaster and Scaled Agile Certified SAFe Agilist training.

“Our previous methodologies were built around sign-off, accountability, responsibility and handover which naturally lead to finger pointing, blame and failure. However with the input and support from Agil8 we now have a culture in which stakeholders, Euromoney Technology teams and offshore development partners all have an equal voice, a common understanding, and a shared responsibility. No one can imagine returning to the old software development methods.

Ken Lehmann, Euromoney Institutional Investor Rollout Lead

EurosEuromoney Institutional Investor PLC is a one of Europe’s largest FTSE 250 online B2B business and financial publishing and events groups, with revenues over £400m. It encompasses close to 100 international specialist businesses, including its flagship titles Euromoney, Institutional Investor, and Metal Bulletin.

The company is a leading provider of electronic research data, and also runs an extensive portfolio of conferences, seminars and training courses. Over 2500 employees are mainly based in London, New York, and Hong Kong. It is 70% owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) Group.

Full Case Study

When the market pace of change accelerated, our development process needed transforming

 

Historically, Euromoney Institutional Investor (EII) companies competed in a content heavy print marketplace, with long technology lead times. Once that world moved digital, the pace of the business changed dramatically and development requirements often went stale even prior to the project onset.

EII’s old waterfall method of software development was simply no longer fit for purpose in these fast-moving marketplaces. The traditional ‘assembly line’ approach, often with lead times of over 12 months and Product Managers typically involved only at the beginning and the end, resulted in solutions that were late to market, unfit for purpose and error prone due to a squeezed testing phase. Internal customer satisfaction was low, and relations between technology and business teams were strained.

The company initially looked a long way from the recommended practice for Agile teams; the internal businesses saw digital as a necessary evil rather than a significant enabler, and Technology teams were divided with testers, QA, developers and designers in separate teams, geographically dispersed across multiple offices, countries, and time zones, including an offshore third-party development partner.

A previous attempt at Agile introduction in 2012 with another consulting company had failed, so agil8 were employed to accelerate Agile implementation. Agil8 were selected because they could supply consultancy, coaching, and training, and had a track record of facilitating change across a variety of business sectors.

“Coming from a traditional waterfall methodology background, the most noticeable impact of adopting an Agile approach has been the level of regular business engagement. Having the stakeholders involved in the process after every Sprint (rather than just providing requirements) means they feel part of the development and evolution of the product. This constant feedback allows adjustments to be made quickly – removing the “this isn’t what I asked for” problem often experienced towards the end of a project!” 

Dan Wilson, Development Delivery, Euromoney Institutional Investor

 

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Delivering Agile across multiple locations

 

Integrated teams supporting Agile processes

EII had initiated the change to a ring-fenced model within its Technology group, but the Agile rollout accelerated that transition to integrated teams including analysts, developers,, testers, and business stakeholders. These cross-functional teams had full responsibility for development, testing and delivery. Prior to that, development and support teams were not dedicated to any business area, whilst stakeholders were visible only at the start and end of a project, and were unused to the continuous involvement that Agile requires.

Despite initial resistance to the increased time commitment, Agile thinking and processes are now being adopted outside technology projects, e.g. within Finance and Marketing. The varied EII businesses all have very specific requirements and the Technology teams developed a much higher understanding of customer needs as a result of this structural change.

The Technology team also moved from a ‘Pay as you go’ approach to a dedicated resource cost basis in order to support the Agile demands of a flexible requirements backlog methodology, allied to continuous integration and testing.

Early success breeds confidence and belief, and garners visible support at the highest level

The plan was to transition one product a month to Agile, and identifying the first candidate was vital in order to ‘prove’ the approach internally. AMM Events was identified; the Events division had hit a low point with the performance of their websites and so welcomed the opportunity to be the first to go Agile. There was a strong team spirit, high levels of face-to-face communication, and a focused effort, which produced a very positive impact on delivery quality.

A 2-day workshop encompassing the full Agile team including the offshore third-party developer initiated the project, followed by 2-week Sprints to deliver the solution incrementally. The offshore development team had Product Owner and stakeholder involvement throughout, making extensive use of Google Hangouts.

Agile reviews and retrospectives provided vital early feedback and introduced the concept of continuous and cyclical improvement of the product and the process, and solutions became increasingly fit for purpose through the resulting improved understanding. Word of the approach spread rapidly, and there was no doubt that the success of the first two teams played a significant role in the subsequent rollout to other divisions.

agil8 facilitated monthly bespoke in-house Agile Clinics in order to increase levels of knowledge sharing, as well as introducing ‘Scrum of Scrums’ to manage the dependencies between projects. They also recommended a just-in-time training approach, training a team only at the point a project was ready to kick off. 3-4 months later those individuals would attend one of agil8’s full Certified ScrumMaster Training or Scrum Product Owner training courses, which proved powerful, as people had already experienced the benefits in a real live working example.

“Ensuring there were strong individuals in the key Product Owner and ScrumMaster roles was fundamental. Euromoney took a flexible approach about which part of the business the Product Owners came from; to ensure a clear voice of the customer from the business side. The ScrumMaster was equally critical to ensure that the core principles of Agile Scrum weren’t compromised, whilst being more pragmatic about some of the less important aspects of implementation”.

David Hicks of agil8 on the factors enabling EII’s successful implementation

Euromoney Institutional Investor’s CTO Ben Jones was keen to realise the benefits of Agile transformation from the outset, and his high-profile support was a further significant factor underpinning the success of the project, acting as ambassador at Board level and ensuring a smooth path through the organization.

 

Technology tools helped to overcome multiple locations, but culture change was the game changer

Where possible individuals moved to be co-located within their team. In addition, a more Agile environment was created with big screens in meeting rooms, virtual Agile boards, and the introduction of a variety of technology tools to work around the issue of multiple locations. Jira, Greenhopper and Google Hangouts proved the most successful tools.

However, it was attitude and culture change that was the real game changer in overcoming the geographic challenges. Putting the offshore third party developers centre stage with a high-profile voice was widely judged to be the most positive influence. The offshore team was fully integrated, attending UK team meetings, and receiving the same training. As a result, the engagement and productivity of that team soared and the supplier-client relationship was transformed.

“The teams at Euromoney took a positive and creative approach to overcoming their location and environmental constraints. Teams were re-organised and aligned to reflect Agile practices, physical seating arrangements were changed, and a variety of tools such as Jira, Greenhopper, and Google Hangouts were used, but above all they took the attitude that multiple locations would not be an obstacle to success!”

David Hicks, CEO and Founder, agil8

Hands on involvement from agil8 throughout supported successful implementation, as did the constant encouragement and reinforcement from the internal Agile Champion, Ken Lehmann:

“Agile is empowering for development teams, and was especially so for our third party supplier, but it did require fundamental shifts in behaviour from all involved, plus some serious time commitment from stakeholders. I needed to be highly visible in support throughout the project, helping resolve organisational blocks to progress, ensuring that teams stuck to the simple core Scrum methodology we had agreed, and demonstrating belief!” 

 

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Everyone has greater focus on customer delivery

Euromoney Institutional Investor saw major improvements in a short time in all the core areas one would anticipate with a successful Agile implementation:

  • Faster delivery of solutions, with much higher quality
  • Far greater accuracy through strong engagement with the business and regular collaboration
  • Increased ability to respond to changing customer needs, as requirements could evolve
  • A commensurate reduction in the cost of delivery

However, it was the cultural and attitudinal changes that were perhaps the most satisfying for all concerned, as well as the renewed focus on the external customer.

Development teams, especially the offshore third-party, are much more highly motivated, empowered, and engaged, with increases in both individual and team productivity as a result. Teamwork within Technology teams and between Technology and business colleagues has been transformed into a positive collaborative working relationship, and there has been a corresponding drop in the direct outsourcing to external suppliers by the business divisions.

“Agile has empowered the technical team and the business to collaborate and take tactical and strategic decisions about product development. The Agile frame of mind has brought clarity and intention to our delivery.“   

Surajit Kar  – Development Delivery Manager, Euromoney Institutional Investor

Internal and external customers are receiving important new products much sooner and more regularly via more frequent releases. As a consequence, internal customer satisfaction dramatically improved – real development work is visible earlier in the process, with much greater business involvement and the ability to change things throughout the development phase.

Integrated teams plus Agile processes focus everyone on the external customer. Developers have better insight into customer needs and greater business understanding as a result of being dedicated to a specific business and then working alongside stakeholders. As a result solutions are fit for purpose and businesses are better able to response to changes in customer and market needs.

“Improvements in the quality of solutions delivered were dramatic. Agile creates a heartbeat that drives higher quality; continuous integration and testing; continuous stakeholder involvement with early feedback so requirements can evolve; and continuous improvement through the retrospectives approach. “

David Hicks, CEO at agil8

 

It’s here to stay…Future performance management and SAFe

A year later, and Agile is a proven at Euromoney Institutional Investor (EII). With nearly 40 Certified Scrum Masters working in ring-fenced teams across all business divisions, there will be 15-20 Agile projects running at any one time.

The internal priority at EII is now to introduce some light governance. Ken Lehmann is now an agil8 trained Certified SAFe Agilist and believes that a framework to support Agile at scale is vital in order to manage dependencies and performance, share knowledge, and to globally measure and report progress. The challenge that EII is embracing is to ensure that teams retain their autonomy and the ability to be Agile, within that scaled agile framework

Agile is for everyone

The Euromoney Institutional Investor case demonstrates how Agile drives culture change as well as process. Whilst the decision to adopt Agile was taken in the Technology area, the consequent new pace of delivery coupled with the increased engagement in the process impact the rest of the company. Success often comes from having the courage and preparedness to simply ‘do things differently’.

The continued expansion of Agile at EII has support at the highest level, and the UK businesses have shared their experience with the wider DMGT group. Agile is beginning to spread beyond Technology into Marketing and Finance, and across the Atlantic to the US.

Ken Lehmann sums up: “The Agile rollout is regarded as a huge success at Euromoney, in the face of significant challenges around organizational structure, location, and culture. The step change, pragmatic, just in time and collaborative model that we used is now being used for further change projects as we continue to drive the shift from print to digital and consolidate business processes across our divisions”

The team at agil8 continues to provide Euromoney Institutional Investor with consulting, training and coaching services in support of the current priorities.

Q&A with Euromoney Instituional Investor's Ken Lehmann
KenKen Lehmann was EII’s evangelistic Agile Rollout Lead, supported by agil8. Ken was a swift convert to Agile.“Ken’s commitment was outstanding”, applauds agil8’s David Hicks. “He was a constant positive throughout the process, guiding and encouraging the waverers, ensuring a pure, clear, and simple Core Scrum approach, always a believer, irrepressible! Having an internal Rollout Lead of his dedication was a significant factor in the success of the project”.

How would you describe the IT environment at Euromoney Institutional Investor prior to Agile rollout?

We were starting from a low point, with a history of delivery delay, overspend, and quality issues, and therefore strained relationships. People were very ready to try a different approach.

There was a team of 150 Technology personnel spread across international locations, with a large number of contractors, plus offshore third party development partners. We had nine Heads of Technology, one for each business, but no central prioritisation of projects, and an organisational structure that encourages internal competition, so there was little history of the sort of collaboration that Agile demands.

There were the expected cultural differences between countries, and differing technologies following a series of acquisitions. Historically, investment in technology had been constrained in a highly cost-sensitive environment.

 

What were the Critical Success Factors enabling such a successful Agile rollout?

Making the transition to a ring-fenced model within the Technology team was fundamental in order to dedicate development and support resource to specific products. We had initiated this change, but going Agile meant we could move to this model faster, align structures to Agile processes, and include business stakeholders in those teams. In the past, development managers had typically driven projects, whereas we now moved to having strong Product Owners, ideally a business stakeholder.

Other key factors were:

  • Support from our CTO Ben Jones throughout
  • My ongoing allocation to the Agile rollout, which played an important part in overcoming the inevitable initial internal resistance.
  • The early success of the first couple of teams, which gave others confidence
  • Engagement of our offshore third-party developers and giving them a high-profile voice within each Agile project.

The tools we introduced to help us work around our location challenges were a significant factor. We employed Jira Greenhopper, and Google Hangouts in particular, as well as making the environment more ‘Agile’ and altering office seating arrangements.

Underpinning it all was agil8’s coaching and involvement, as well as their recommended just-in-time training approach. We would only train a team when a project was ready for kick off. 3-4 months later those people would attend one of agil8’s full Certified Scrum Training courses, which was very powerful as they already had real-world experience of it in action.

 

What was your experience of agil8?

With a failed first attempt behind us, agil8 were critical in helping people believe we could succeed. I had no previous Agile experience before we engaged agil8, so Dave started by training me and then coached me throughout the project, including support for Board level presentations

Above all, agil8 gave us good practical advice in order to implement Agile in a tricky environment. Dave Hicks was a superb coach – hands-on, very visible, pragmatic, and he could explain the benefits in simple terms. His enormous experience in a variety of sectors gives him an intuitive understanding of where we could be flexible about aspects of implementation without undermining the underlying Agile principles. He encouraged us to keep the core Scrum approach very clean and simple, and to take a just-in-time approach to team Agile Scrum training.

 

Where are you now? What’s the next phase?

We’re a year on now, and there’s no turning back! Euromoney has nearly 40 agil8 trained fully Certified Scrum Masters coaching our Agile teams, we’ve created over 100 Agile boards, 6,000 User stories in Jira, and 15-20 Agile projects will be running across the business at any one time.

Agile is reaching beyond Technology into Finance & Marketing. The continued expansion of Agile at Euromoney has support at the highest level in the organisation, and Euromoney Agile leads have presented and provided thought leadership and support to other companies in the wider DMGT Group.

There is a level of excitement in the business around technology now that was absent before, and the level of engagement of our internal and third-party development teams and their business colleagues is much higher. Production issues have been almost eliminated on teams that have not compromised on the Agile manifesto, which is highly visible to stakeholders. Closer collaboration is delivering tremendous benefits and altering the perception of Technology within Euromoney, internal satisfaction continues to rise, and direct outsourcing by our business to external suppliers has reduced dramatically.

We still have work to do to adapt our environment to ensure we look and feel Agile visually as well as demonstrate Agile behavior, and further organisational change is required in order to move to the next level. We have identified some specific areas where we need to achieve consistency across Agile teams, such as removing the blocks to sufficiently frequent releases across all teams, and taking a more rigorous approach to driving out initial requirements. However, of highest importance is the need to maintain the same high level of training and development support to new Agile teams with continued focus on inspection and adaption. We are fully aware that in such a large organisation any reduction in commitment to the Agile manifesto can have a very damaging impact very quickly .

The principal requirement for the next phase is to introduce some light governance in order to manage Agile at scale across the organisation. I attended agil8’s SAFe course and am now a Certified SAFe Agilist . There are some key learnings from this framework that we can now take on board in order to manage dependencies, share knowledge, manage performance, and ensure we can globally measure and report progress more effectively.

Overall the Agile rollout is regarded as a huge success at Euromoney Institutional Investor, in the face of significant challenges around organizational structure and culture. The step-change, pragmatic and coaching model is now being used for further change projects within Euromoney Institutional Investor.

Euromoney Institutional Investor presentation at agil8 Community Event

Community Event – 17/09/13

 

This presentation, made by Ken Lehmann, Project Manager, EuroMoney Institutional Investor, provides an overview of the agile journey taken by EuroMoney, with support from David Hicks of agil8 Ltd. The presentation was made at the agil8 Community Event on 17/09/13.