The latest blog post from Mike Kavis on Valpak’s Agile transformation story.
Okay, so I’ve been slacking for a few weeks on my blogging. I encountered a wonderful impediment (just to keep this Agile) … I got engaged! Now, I’ve got visions of sugar plums dancing in my head or rather bridal gowns and flowers and wedding cakes … you get the picture. So, now to catch you up with more Agile related topics.
This month, three of my cohorts (including my boss and CIO, Chris Cate) and I attended the first-ever gathering of Cox companies on the topic of Agile. You see, we are all part of the Cox Enterprises family of businesses. Valpak and Savings.com are part of Cox Target Media. Cox Target Media is part of Cox Media Group. Cox Media Group is part of Cox Enterprises. You keeping up … Cox Media Group happens to include some very experienced Agile companies like Kelley Blue Book and Manheim Auctions as well as some just getting started like AutoTrader and VinSolutions. 70+ people from these various business units came together to connect, learn, and share on the topic of Agile. It was totally awesome!
The event was sponsored by Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, CA over a 2 day period applying the Open Space Technology (OST) meeting format, in keeping with the Agile spirit. The meeting followed the Four Principles of OST …
- Whoever comes are the right people.
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could.
- It starts when it starts.
- It’s over when it’s over.
… and encouraged The Law of Mobility (also known as the “Law of Two Feet”) … “If you are not learning or contributing where you are, find a place where you can learn or contribute.”
My Valpak cohorts and I did a whole lot of sharing of our Agile transformation story, now two years in. As it turns out, we were probably the quickest full-scale transformation across the companies and that got some good attention. At many points, we found ourselves the center of attention fielding questions left and right and encouraging others along in their Agile journey. It was definitely a feel-good moment for us.
If you are part of a large enterprise (like I am) and you’ve done something like this, please do share. Leon Sabarsky of Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC comes to mind. I know that he is working with the other Blue Cross Blue Shield companies on Agile. Or, if you are part of a large enterprise and looking to supercharge Agile across business units, give this Agile Open concept a try and let me know how it goes.
Two years ago this month Valpak went full bore, head first into Agile with our software development teams, applying mostly the Scrum methodology with some instances of Kanban. Now, two years later, Valpak continues to embrace and uphold the Agile values and principles.
We’ve made it all the way to Sprint 46, but who’s counting? In the past two years, Valpak has delivered thousands of valuable stories to our stakeholders including franchises, merchants, consumers, and corporate. We continue to scale Agile up and across our enterprise. Our infrastructure teams now apply Kanban to manage their work. We’ve got business departments like Marketing and the Franchise Financial Consultants applying Kanban as well. We’ve got our executive team applying Kanban at the portfolio level to manage epics as part of our Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Not to mention the use of personal Kanbans popping up here and there to stay organized. Some other notable accomplishments and contributions over the past two years include:
- An Agile transformation case study contributed to the book “Managed Agile Development: Making Agile Work For Your Business” by Charles G. Cobb.
- An Agile transformation video produced and published to YouTube.
- Tours of the Agile framework, as it is applied at Valpak, provided to the likes of Catalina Marketing, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, New York Life, and AutoTrader to further inspire their Agile transformation efforts.
- Open sharing of experiences by blogging on anything and everything Agile right here at iamagile.com .
- Sponsoring and organizing the Tampa Bay Agile Meetups providing top quality topics/speakers, food, and facilities consistently month after month. In fact, this meetup group has grown by 300% in just 18 months under Valpak’s leadership.
Throughout this time we have made an example of ourselves. Valpak is now a benchmark for Agile transformations within the Tampa Bay community and well beyond. As we begin to roll (or shall we say sprint) into year 3 of our Agile journey, we continue to work towards being an Agile enterprise. The cultural change to be an Agile enterprise is constantly a work in progress and the journey never really ends. Each day, we just try to be a little more agile than we were the day before.
Valpak is thrilled to be sponsoring BarCamp / CodeCamp Tampa Bay again this year.
For those of you that have been living in a cave, BarCamp / CodeCamp is probably the largest FREE (yes, I said FREE) technology event in the area, bringing out almost 1,000 people to the USF College of Business. BarCamp is a one-day unconference with topics and presenters for just about any technology and internet interest. CodeCamp is a one-day meeting forum that allows software developers to share their knowledge and experience with Microsoft products and services.
Valpak is sponsoring a room and the best meal of the day … breakfast! When you grab a donut, be sure to look for some of us Valpak-ers lingering about and say “hi” and take a flyer. We created a flyer (pictured below) that tells you a little more about us. And yes, that is a robot with an overbite.
Come out and join us to learn, network, or even share your experiences by presenting on a topic that interests you. I would love to see more Agile-focused topics this year! Also, our CIO, Chris Cate, will be giving his talk “I Bought A Startup! The Story of Cox Target Media’s Acquisition of Savings.com” as well.
You can register for BarCamp / CodeCamp at https://barcamptampa.launchtrack.com/register/camp-2013 . Be sure to register in advance, so you’ll get your meals, snacks, and a free T-shirt!
When I joined the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup in March of 2012, there were just about 70-ish members. Today, there are over 270 members. That’s about 300% growth in 18 months! To me, this is a great indicator of the interest and adoption of Agile across the Tampa Bay community. Just over a year ago, we used to see less than 10 people attend a meetup and now we see almost 50 people at each meetup. I call that reason enough to celebrate or rather … blog about it.
So, if you haven’t figured it out already, this blog post is indeed a shameless plug for our meetup group, of which I am co-organizer. The Salesforce guys founded the meetup group and got it off the ground and now Valpak and AgileThought are partnering to carry the baton, finding speakers and sponsoring food and facility for the meetups.
A few weeks ago I posted a blog about two surveys conducted here at Valpak, one for team members and one for stakeholders. The intent of the surveys was to assess where we are at in our Agile journey and to seek out improvement opportunities. I am pleased to share the results with you today.
Of 44 team members of Scrum and Kanban teams (all IT employees or contractors; no manager titles), 100% responded to this survey: Valpak Agile Survey for Team Members
- Among team members, Agile was the preferred software methodology by a landslide over waterfall
- Nearly all team members found their agile training/coaching to be average or above and more than half believed their business knowledge had increased since transitioning from waterfall
- Aside from mixed reviews on work/life balance, which you’d probably find in every company across the country, team members expressed a largely positive personal Agile experience (proud of their work, happy teammate, voice was heard)
- Teamwork received positive marks on (1) business impact, (2) collaboration, (3) deployment, and (4) equal contribution while room for improvement topics were (1) continuous process improvement, (2) sustainable pace, and (3) learning new skills
- Among 16 possible pain points, only a handful were applicable to team members with cross-team dependencies as the most noted issue; secondary pain points included lack of resources, time management, and story point estimation
- ScrumMaster and Product Owner positions received very high satisfaction marks while other manager/supervisor roles were more neutral
- While all agile process elements were perceived to have some value, Sprint Review/Science Fair, Retrospectives, and Sound Bites had low value scores (not surprising, since 3 out of 4 are intended for Business Stakeholders)
Of 56 stakeholders of our Agile framework (not including IT team members or their POs), 63% responded to this survey: Valpak Agile Survey for Stakeholders
- Stakeholders were largely neutral towards Agile as an improvement over waterfall and did not share the same enthusiasm as the team members (very pro-Agile); many of the comparison questions garnered “no difference” or ambiguous responses
- The ambiguity of stakeholder responses may be due in large part to the fact that their relationship with Agile is closely tied to their relationship with their Product Owner; different Product Owners (we have the stakeholders of 8 different Product Owners included in this survey) may manage their stakeholders quite differently
- The Sound Bites email was considered valuable by many business stakeholders and several used the email’s content to determine whether or not they would attend the Sprint Review
- Low science fair attendance was primarily due to the Sprint Review immediately beforehand, with (1) lack of time to attend both and (2) everything was covered in the demo as the top two reasons for not going to the science fair
- Sprint Review preferences included:
- When presenting, focus on the practical application (what problem does it solve) instead of how it works
- Keep the fluid schedule so when one team finishes the next one immediately begins
- Stream the Sprint Reviews to multiple rooms throughout the building
- Not have them on Friday (too many scheduling and travel conflicts)
Again, special thanks to Mark Smith and Jody Wagman (who also happens to be a Product Owner too) of our Marketing Research department for conducting this survey for us.
It’s been almost 2 years since we, here at Valpak, set out on our Agile journey. While we’ve had literally hundreds and hundreds of retrospectives for everything from sprints to releases to projects, we decided it was time for a more global approach. With that in mind, we worked with our very own Marketing Research department to come up with two surveys, one for team members and one for stakeholders. The intent of surveying these two groups was to see (from a global perspective) where we are at in our Agile journey and to seek out improvement opportunities. I am pleased to share both surveys with you today.
- 44 team members of Scrum and Kanban teams (all IT employees or contractors; no manager titles) were surveyed: Valpak Agile Survey for Team Members
- 56 stakeholders of our Agile framework (not including IT team members or their POs) were surveyed: Valpak Agile Survey for Stakeholders
Feel free to use or abuse as you see fit within your organization. Be sure to follow my blog and I’ll post the results of these surveys in a couple weeks.
Special thanks go out to Mark Smith and Jody Wagman (who also happens to be a Product Owner too) of our Marketing Research department for teaching us all about non-biased questions and making this survey possible.