Digital products and services simplify our everyday lives. Technological developments are transforming us into an increasingly fast, dynamic and agile society. To keep up with the competition, companies are responding to these market needs and digitizing products, services and processes. For these projects, it means saying goodbye to classic process methods such as the waterfall model. The mindset for digital projects must be agile in order to continuously and quickly evolve to meet needs.
Before a company starts a digital project, it needs to have a suitable setup of a team and tools for agile methods. The team is crucial for success, because digital products and platforms stand and fall with the team. Agile Mindset requires a well-coordinated team that is experienced and competent in the applied methodologies.
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The team must be able to control itself to a large extent and take joint responsibility for ambitious goals, as well as meet daily for status meetings (or video conferencing) in order to be able to continuously improve processes and solutions. In our experience, the simultaneous collaboration of team members is essential for success. This is the only way to ensure the focus of all parties involved and to resolve the classic conflict between different projects, regardless of whether someone is a team member at the service provider or sits on the customer side.
For the setup, every company has to ask itself whether it has the appropriate resources internally with the necessary agile mindset for digital projects. Most companies do not have fully specialized digital know-how and rely on experienced external resources to reduce risks and costs, but also to gain speed and flexibility.
“At NETFORMIC, we have worked in a wide variety of “setups” for clients over the past 15 years. Sometimes more and sometimes less successful. For companies that are currently facing the challenge of setting up the most promising, but also most feasible setup for their digital product, we have derived the following best practices:“
CEO NETFORMIC GmbH & Author
1. There is no longer “internal” and “external”
In concrete terms, this means that regardless of whether you augment your team with freelancers, bring a service provider on board with dedicated teams, or even both – the core component of an agile approach is open and transparent communication. If the mindset of “customer” vs. “service provider” emerges in a meeting, you don’t have an agile setup.
2. The team consists of people with different levels of experience
A typical scenario for your setup could look like this: If necessary, you have brought two colleagues from another department into the team, plus two freelancers and a team of 7 from a larger service provider – these team members have different levels, from junior to senior, with little to a lot of digitization experience. Even if you bring resources into the team at a supposedly large and experienced service provider, there will be junior team members among them, although their mindset is definitely agile (or needs to be).
3. 50% of the team members are doing this for the first time
A digitization project rarely if ever has more than 50% of the team members who have done the same thing before. This means that half of all resources are confronted with such an issue for the first time and therefore need to be educated, coached and taken along. This expectation applies to “internal” resources just as it does to “external” resources (even though we no longer have that attitude).
4. Work contract and budget debates
Agile procedures, or basically product and project plans, are difficult to calculate, because at best you have a rough goal in mind at the beginning, or more precisely a kind of “project vision”. It can be as simple as “we need an online shop”. Which features it has, where the product data comes from and much more will gradually become clear during the realization. From this it must be concluded that a major challenge for many project promoters (or their purchasing departments) is that contracts for work and fixed prices do not work.
We have spent a lot of time over the last few months looking at how we have achieved the most success for our clients. Based on this, these 4 guiding principles have been developed for the time being. At the same time, we have reorganized ourselves and defined three different types of cooperation that we will be able to offer our customers in the future:
We provide a shared team with all the necessary skills of our digital experts, especially for smaller projects and also somewhat lower project budgets. In concrete terms, this means that several team members are scheduled for the customer project, but our customer shares them with other customers who have similar requirements. The customer acts as the decision maker and we as the implementer. This way of working comes into question for projects where the client knows exactly what he needs and we primarily take over the realization.
If you want to go “full throttle”, we recommend dedicated teams that work exclusively on a product development or platform build for a longer period of time (at least 6, more likely 12 months). A dedicated team consists of at least three permanent team members. As a rule, these are software developers from our side, as well as other so-called “shared resources” who work on the project from time to time, such as technical consultants, product owners or scrum masters. With this team constellation, the client makes all the decisions and can rely on our digital experts for implementation.
Digitale Business Unit
With this form of cooperation we build up an exclusive team for you, which identifies itself 100% with your project. From product management, to project control, technical consulting and commercial issues, your project vision is to be advanced in a separate “Business Unit as a Service”. Within this cooperation we make decisions for our customers and work autonomously or integrated with the customers. Ultimately, customers decide how close they are to the Digital Business Unit. Often, the customer’s employees are integrated even more deeply into these structures, or the team moves into shared offices where they work together on a daily basis. In the expansion stage, such cooperation can also lead to the joint establishment of a separate “Digital GmbH” for the customer.