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Sharliza Mohd Haris, Head of Agile, Telekom Malaysia
We are operating in a highly dynamic environment, where technological developments have increased customer’s sophistication, needs and demands. These changes have also led to emergence of new business models and hence, past solutions may no longer be valid. Realising these changes, more companies have embarked on the agile way of working, with the aim to increase tempo, deliver faster outcomes, improve business as well as customer experience. Realising the benefits that agile can bring to the organisation, Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) has also pursued the agile way of working to further upskill its workforce, as we believe with the right expertise and experience, we are well positioned to power Digital Malaysia.
Many organisations started their agile journey in the IT department, especially in accelerating software delivery. However, within TM, we started our journey by focusing on improvements in sales, customer experience and digital enablers. The pilot is aimed at inculcating:
A new way of organising: Establishment of cross-functional teams aligned to business priorities, with each team accountable for their outcomes
A new way of working: Using scrum approach and focusing on iterative continuous improvements to drive better outcomes
A new way of decision making: Decisions are made with customers’ interest in mind. Empowerment is given to accelerate decision making and leadership roles are shifted from purely making decisions to helping in overcoming obstacles and providing clarity in vision and aspiration
The outcomes of the pilot were encouraging. We saw cross-functional teams yielding 20% improvement in service subscription within 2 sprints, 200% improvement in app release time and 500% improvement in voice of customers with an increase in Net Easy Score (NES). All these positive outcomes perfectly support TM’s role of delivering innovative and comprehensive products and solutions, to serve a more digital society and lifestyle, digital businesses and industry verticals, as well as digital Government.
In addition, there were some positive verbatim from the agile teams, especially in the following areas:
Ownership: Cross-functional team members felt that there was a better sense of ownership and recognition of contribution
Faster delivery and productivity: Issues were resolved faster, hence, better delivery of outcomes. There was an increase in flexibility, yet tasks were executed in a timely manner
Teamwork: The team felt a sense of togetherness and support beyond job scope, improvement in team chemistry, which helps to produce better team effort.
Openness: Agile team members expressed that they could talk, throw ideas and brainstorm, leading to feeling more appreciated.
The agile transformation can be an arduous journey. Several key levers need to be seriously considered in ensuring a positive outcome in the agile transformation, including:
a. Leadership support: Leaders play a pivotal role in ensuring that the agile transformation is successful. There is a strong need for leaders to provide clear insights to drive high value outcomes, participate in agile rituals, embrace uncertainties, debottleneck obstacles and empower the team. Leadership facilitation has shown positive outcomes in the agile teams, as it motivates the team to do more and creates better buy-in. In a recent survey done on the agile cross-functional teams, among positive feedback received include “My agile leader is very supportive and willing to communicate directly with everyone in the team without any gap”. In addition, 94% of the respondents indicated that there is a strong management support in the agile transformation.
b. Clarity of purpose and exhaustiveness in the cross-functional team design: A clear mission, combined with the right team members having the right skillsets are crucial in ensuring the agile cross-functional teams are able to deliver iterative outcomes effectively. In the cross-functional teams, missions need to be clearly displayed, at best on the scrum board, so that there is alignment on the expected outcomes.
c. Better governance: An agile cross-functional team is as good as the composition of its team members, leadership support, clear purpose and governance. A simplified governance is important to ensure faster decision-making. As such, it is important for the agile transformation team to baseline any governance that impedes faster delivery and redesign a simplified process that can help improve speed of delivery.
d. Enablement and enrolment of the entire organisation: To some, agile can be daunting and this can impact buy-in, leading to lack of presence during key agile activities such as sprint planning and daily scrum. This, in the long run, may lead to delay in delivery. As such, an organisation wide enrolment programme is important. In designing the enrolment programme, organisations can start by building the climate for agile, conducting constant communication programmes for buy-ins and planning for small successes to sustain momentum. Among the change management efforts done included floor-to-floor awareness on agile, conference, showcases, sharing of successes and agile e-learning. A recent survey conducted by the agile team has shown that buy-in is improving, with more understanding on the reasoning behind the agile principles. In addition, some of the agile team members have expressed positively that they are able to learn directly from the squads through conferences and showcases.
In a nutshell, agile transformation, while can yield positive outcomes, can be an arduous journey. It is essential that this transformation be coupled with strong leadership support, clear mandate, simplified governance and strong change management programmes to ensure a sustainable improvement.