VodafoneZiggo is a leading telecommunications provider in the Netherlands specializing in video, broadband internet, digital cable television, voice calling, mobile, and other services for residential and business customers. Formed in 2017 as a joint venture between Vodafone and Ziggo, the organization’s mission is to provide “enjoyment and progress with every connection” and make society stronger through the use of technology.
Bringing together two separate companies with different systems, processes, people, and cultures is filled with challenges. Each organization has its own way of operating within the guidelines of long-held industry practices, and people are often resistant to change.
This is certainly true in the telecommunications industry. “Telco companies are organized in silos and want to be very efficient in each of them,” said Joost Wijermars, director of B2B products and special sales at VodafoneZiggo.
But Vodafone and Ziggo did not merge simply to form a larger communications company; the organizations joined together to pursue a new mission that was focused on delivering more value to the customer. To deliver better value, however, meant VodafoneZiggo’s leaders needed to change the way they prioritized projects and assigned resources, adapting the company’s team structure, workflow, and processes so that the work they did was aligned with customer needs.
“We wanted to have end-to-end, multidisciplinary teams focused on delivering our promise in the marketplace,” said Wijermars. “To do that, we needed a structure that allowed our people to focus on efficiency around the customer instead of efficiency within their silo.”
After evaluating several methods for project management and software development, VodafoneZiggo’s leaders decided to adopt Agile and began implementing it in 2020.
As VodafoneZiggo’s IT leaders started the process of transitioning to Agile, they encountered several challenges. The first one involved agreeing on goals. “People worked on teams with a manager,” Wijermars said. “Each manager had goals, and those goals were not always aligned with business objectives.”
The second challenge was tracking team activities. Department leaders would develop projects for their individual team goals, but not all of those projects were funded and aligned with the company’s goals. This led to wasting resources and time.
A third challenge involved a change in mindset. “A product manager was considered the CEO of his product,” Wijermars said. “The good thing is that this promoted ownership. But it also created a sense of hierarchy.” As a result, leaders often were conflicted over the best way to manage their people: should they focus their teams on doing what is best for their product results or should they concentrate on helping the company deliver better customer results?
Overcoming these challenges required a culture change enabled by an effective Agile planning tool. As a result, VodafoneZiggo implemented Apptio Targetprocess. Targetprocess enabled VodafoneZiggo to connect teams, products, and portfolios to business objectives and scale Agile across the organization. This allowed them to track all team activities and make sure the right people were working on the most important projects.
“By getting everything visible, we could see what people were working on and where we needed to assign them based on their competencies to make sure we were pursuing the outcomes we wanted,” Wijermars said.
For VodafoneZiggo’s leaders, one of the primary drivers for Agile was organizing their teams around projects that produced customer value. That meant they needed to structure activities into value streams and commit resources to them. “Visibility from Targetprocess allowed us to see our alignment with customer value and our bottlenecks,” Wijermars said.
According to Wijermars, these bottlenecks often involved skill shortages. “Some resources like network designers and process engineers are scarce,” he said. “And in terms of knowledge, you cannot just pick a process person from an external vendor because they need to understand how you do business.”
This insight from Targetprocess helped VodafoneZiggo’s leaders prioritize their product portfolio, features, and enhancements. They could see all of their portfolio investments across the entire company, identify resource dependencies across portfolios, make investments in skills, and change resource assignments as needed to align work efforts with high-value outcomes.
“Without this level of visibility, we would prioritize everything the same, and the outcome would be long lead times and a very long go-to-market. That’s what we experienced before Agile, and we didn’t want that problem again,” Wijermars said.
Prioritization can be tense and emotional. It requires negotiation and tact, with a focus on customer value and the organization’s broader goals. Agile methodologies and Targetprocess soften these discussions through idea boards that encourage everyone to contribute. Ideas including suggestions for new features can all be reviewed, accepted, and later prioritized in alignment with the business and product plan. “Everybody wants everything, and they put it on the roadmap,” Wijermars said. “And that’s a good thing.”
With all work requests on the roadmap, the management team is able to have frank business-value conversations and make trade-offs. This results in a clearer picture of what the company actually needs and what can be realistically delivered within the given constraints. “This enables us to be much more predictable in what we deliver, because we can have those hard conversations upfront instead of at the end,” Wijermars said.
Change takes time, especially when it involves merging two large organizations into one. In the short time since VodafoneZiggo began its transition to Agile, the company has made tremendous progress in delivering customer value. But like most big initiatives, there is more to do.
According to Wijermars, moving the full commercial organization, including the IT model, to full end-to-end Agile based on the SAFe framework is at the top of the list. “We need to do this to increase agility as a company,” he said.
Second on the list is to simplify the organization. As with any merger, there are often old layers and department structures that remain in place after companies join, and these must be consolidated over time. “This will help simplify the organization, eliminate confusion, and make it clear who is setting the targets for our teams,” Wijermars said.
The third goal is to foster a continuous learning culture. As Wijermars explained, the company chose to migrate to Agile gradually to give people time to learn, bring stakeholders on board, and manage the performance of the company at the same time. “Our results so far have been through the roof,” he said. “Now we need to keep learning and move more and more to the Agile model.”
For more information about Apptio Targetprocess, visit apptio.com.