/ Von Stuart Fish

In this article I’d like to share the experiences of one of our customers who has been going through a journey of scaling agile to deliver consumer services that many readers probably use (or have at least seen emerging on our latest home appliances).

Home Connect is a digital service offering enabling consumers to connect to, and interact with, their household appliances – from the washing machine to the oven, to the coffee machine or the vacuum cleaner. It can not only switch appliances on and off, it can also select programs, adjust timers, set appliances to eco mode and much more. A range of supporting digital services around cooking, baking, washing, cleaning etc. create an enhanced experience around connected home appliances.

Home Connect is part of the BSH Hausgeräte GmbH which, with around 61,000 employees, is one of the world’s leading companies in the home appliance industry. BSH brand portfolio includes known brands such as Bosch and Gaggenau. With Home Connect, BSH offers a cross-brand, cross-category platform as the basis for a rapidly growing ecosystem of connected home appliances and consumer-oriented services that enable digital experiences in home. Home Connect is a core part of the BSH digital strategy. You can learn more about Home Connect by visiting: https://www.home-connect.com/

The Approach

To meet the increasing demand for innovative digital services to support and connect home appliances, BSH created it´s Home Connect offering to establish a globally leading platform in home appliance connectivity. A decision was made in 2018 to reorganise the Home Connect development program around Lean Agile principles, and to use SAFe as a basis. Improuv, who were already working with SAFe in another part of BSH, were brought in to support the transition to scaled agile, working closely with internal BSH stakeholders and coaches. The challenge in early 2018 was to support the transformation of a large number of teams and roles (both internal and external), spread across a number of countries, from a traditional organisation into a lean agile team-of-teams.

A Value Stream Workshop was held to define the scope of Home Connect and define the first Agile Release Train, key roles, challenges and opportunities. A coordinating steering group, Home Connect Core, was established to support the initial set-up, staffing and training of the train. This includes champions who help steer the change through the organisation. Key roles, such as the Release Train Engineer, were established and the people coached in their role. Team members went through SAFe for Teams training, and additional roles (such as product owners and product management) received role specific training.

While teams were previously working with Agile practices, they were component based. The decision was taken to shake-up the program and form the agile release train around self-designed feature teams. This was a fairly radical step at the time. A large team-forming event was organised where the participants formed teams (within certain pre-conditions) and took part in various team building activities. Home Connect now had teams, core roles and a backlog of features to form the basis of the first all hands “Program Increment (PI) Planning”.

The first PI Planning took place in April 2018 and was a major success. A great team-of-teams atmosphere was created and the program got off to a good start. During the initial program increments (each circa 10 weeks), the train continued to build out its testing strategy, communities of practices, integration approach etc. to build a more robust end-to-end delivery train and learning organisation.

The Change

During late summer/early Autumn 2018 BSH made a strategic decision to place more focus on the Home Connect app. and decided upon a major re-launch of the service and concept in 2019. This triggered two things: 1) it was decided to reappraise the offering and, 2) the release train was to be re-organised based upon learning gained so far. The innovation approach taken was to run a set of Google Design Sprints (design-thinking based) to help identify new customer centric opportunities. This was an intensive time and resulted in significant new customer and product insights that, in turn, were reflected in the program backlog.

A second Value Stream workshop was held to help redefine the program and to revisit the existing team structure. It was found that the initial decision to create pure feature teams was causing some challenges (and in some cases resulting in large teams) and therefore a decision was made to redefine smaller teams around product sub-parts/thematic areas – within which the teams would focus. At the start of the next PI in November 2018, a second team-forming event was held where, again, participants were empowered to form teams, but within a new set of pre-conditions. This resulted in eight agile teams.

The Train is on the tracks

The agile release train travelled through 2019 and delivered the strategic goal of relaunching the Home Connect offering with an exciting set of services. At the time of writing in Q1 2020, Home Connect is rolling out new customer value on a regular basis, and is improving with each Program Increment.

Key leanings include:

# Train everyone – help people understand what this might mean for them, and why the change is happening.

# Empower the teams and the program – include the future agile release train members in the set-up and development of the train.

# Invest in “the spirit” – help build an “identity” around the train – help people feel they belong to something unique and valuable, something they are creating.

# Inspect & Adapt, Inspect & Adapt, Inspect & Adapt – be excited and ready to change based upon learning. Nothing is set-in-stone.

# Understand it is a transformation – it is not a question of “rolling out agile”, it is a question of transformation, and that means people and mindset – something that takes time, is built upon experience, and affects each individual differently.

I hope this case study provides some insight into how larger enterprises are scaling agile to deliver better products. If you wish to learn more about our experiences in coaching organisations along their pragmatic agile transformation then please just get in contact. We like talking about this!

Lead coaches from Improuv GmbH: Stuart Fish & Dennis Wagner.

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