Project “Agile methods in software development”
A map for R&D agilisation
The energy market is data-driven, smart solutions determine the business model. In order to stay one decisive step ahead of the competition, one thing above all is required: Mobility of thought and action. Under this premise, an energy supply company "agilised" its R&D departments, which are distributed in over 30 countries around the globe. The product and service portfolio is correspondingly internationally diversified and extensive: from intelligent electricity meters to sensor and automation technology for distribution networks to IT tools for data analysis and management, all kinds of "Smart Energy" solutions are available.
The project team gradually evaluated the work processes by means of a detailed comparison with best practice models and transferred the results with a strengths / weaknesses matrix into a best practice process model map.MORE
Agile change must be evaluated from the perspective of the entire R&D organization. A clear picture of the procedures and structures in the various R&D units is a necessary prerequisite for involving all players actively and result-oriented in improvement measures.MORE
With such a wide variety of products, it is particularly difficult to find the ideal form of organization for R&D. After all, there are new impulses, ideas and requests from customers, suppliers and employees every day. In order to be able to react to this quickly, the company had already made some changes in its global R&D organization in recent years. But these often took place with a regional focus, without comparison with a uniform R&D strategy. Cross-location corrective measures and improvement steps were therefore rarely taken into account. In order to obtain a valid starting point for a better setup of its R&D organization, the company "scanned" the "status quo" of all its R&D units and processes together with ROI at the start of the project. In a second step, the appropriate agile transformation methods for the organization were selected and implemented. The targets: Synchronize product developments and product processes worldwide, shorten product launch times and thus optimize the entire value chain.
What do the various locations do particularly well, what are their strengths and weaknesses? Which processes are running well, where is the development, which models and methods are already in use? To better understand and assess the challenges, the ROI project team visited the company's various R&D departments and innovation laboratories in Europe, USA and Asia and conducted interviews with those responsible and teams. It also gained valuable insights into the working methods at the sites by observing the most important processes. The results were transferred to a special development and process map for each site. At the end of this "country tour", a very precise best-practice map emerged, which showed and visualized the various process models of the development areas. In the next step, the project team was then able to derive the most suitable improvement measures.
Variance of values & speeds
Already in this project phase it became clear that it was not only the obvious, different character of the R&D units through the country's own value cultures and leadership principles that would strongly influence the course of the intended changes. The development intervals for software, electronics and mechatronic products also proved to be very different. In order to achieve harmonization, all areas should be synchronized according to agile methods.
The problem here is that transformation programs and methods are not always directly transferable. What works for the R&D organization in Denver, for example, does not necessarily have to lead to success in Stuttgart or Hong Kong. However, the required scaling effects across the entire organization can only be achieved if all teams accept and actively support this transformation process. The basis for the new methodology was Scrum. Due to the size of the organization and the variety of products, however, the methodology was supplemented by corresponding scaling elements (e.g. Scrum of Scrums). Governance mechanisms such as "Communities of Practice with Design Authority" were also added.
The agile approach of all development areas also proved to be advantageous for interaction with the customer. Even beyond the project, the company regularly involves its customers, who evaluate drafts or technical specifications and can thus submit change requests in good time. With this iterative process, development teams can coordinate internally more quickly and gradually contribute their ideas and improvements to the development process. In addition, the teams work together more efficiently in a smaller constellation of developers, testers, software experts, engineers or electronics engineers.
Customer feedback refines development process
However, the decisive improvement step was to involve the customers in all process stages so that they could inform themselves about the development status of their product. Whether it is a technical description, a specification, a software release or an electronic component, customer feedback is taken into account. This enables the R&D teams to continuously refine the entire development process and reduce their planning and control costs to a minimum.
Following the successful repositioning of its global R&D teams, the company adapted the entire structure of its R&D organization accordingly: It transferred more individual responsibility to its software and electronic device development teams and gradually synchronized the working methods of all teams across all locations. Synchronization took place on several levels. Not only has the new methodology been rolled out throughout the organization. The company also developed a corresponding organisational blueprint. This ensured that, for example, the size of teams remained within reasonable limits and clear guidelines for the composition of teams were given. Communities of Practice ensured methodical synchronisation across groups. At the same time, they have a design authority, so that a corresponding governance structure was created.