Agile Transformation at a Web and Mobile Applications Company

The Web and Mobile Applications Company (WMAC) faced several systemic challenges which prevented them from executing the product vision set forth by their executive leadership team.

In the year prior to engaging Natoma Consulting personnel, they had released two iterations of the WMAC software product to customers. These releases were 6 months apart, and each contained hundreds of defects.

While WMAC maintained a relatively steady client base, the lack of churn was mostly attributed to the lack of a ready competitor in the market, rather than the stability and merits of the core WMAC product. Due to its instability and the unpredictable schedule for new features and bug fixes, WMAC’s leadership realized that a change was required.

Once engaged, we quickly diagnosed the extent of WMAC’s challenges. Primarily:

  1. WMAC lacked measurable, accountable, and enforceable quality standards to govern the release of the software product. 
  2. WMAC’s Business, Services, and Technology organizations were not aligned regarding the appropriate product vision to serve the needs and requirements of its customers. 
  3. WMAC lacked a transparent and manageable product pipeline. 
  4. WMAC lacked a central organization focused on processes and procedures, and the continuous improvement thereof, to govern development and delivery of the software product. 
  5. WMAC’s core supporting tools, including ticketing management, help desk, and build software, were configured in such a way as to be a hindrance rather than to accelerate the development and delivery process.

Faced with these challenges, we worked quickly to establish a customized, comprehensive set of solutions leveraging multiple frameworks and technological approaches to reorient WMAC’s business and product focus toward the long-term stability, performance, and scalability of the software product; its quality. Respectively:

  1. Leveraged several agile frameworks and techniques in tandem (Scrum, FDD, Kanban, lean, XP, continuous integration and delivery, ultimately morphing into a LeSS implementation) along with minimally viable KPIs to drive the product organization toward self-reinforcing reporting and action. As there is no “one size fits all” approach to any agile transformation, bits and pieces of these frameworks and techniques were required to meet WMAC’s very particular use case.
  2. Established an agile governance board aligning Business, Services, and Technology organizations to achieve buy-in, execute, and control the process initiatives for all of the Product teams.
  3. Established an agile process leveraging continuous backlog refinement and product roadmap alignment with customers and internal engineering teams to methodically build and manage a 6-month deep product pipeline, understanding that the further into the future a roadmap item was, the less certain WMAC could be that it would be released.
  4. Established and managed an agile “PMO” via market hires and in-house talent development that defined and continuously improved upon the processes and procedures deemed a quality fit for the WMAC organization.
  5. Created highly automated custom workflows to support and enhance the newly established processes for multiple departments and verticals, customized JIRA and Confluence extensively to support daily development, advocated for automated testing and the full integration therein to the SDLC, and defined a triage process to incorporate customer help desk support requests into product development.

The WMAC organization was a medium-sized organization of roughly 150 people, and the fruit of these efforts were born out after only 6 months. Maintaining a focus on shortening the product delivery cycle while increasing quality, we were able to achieve the following major results:

Before After
Number of defects per release 100+, ranging from minor to critical <10, none higher than medium severity
Medium or lower defects fixed in the very next release N/A 100%
Product release cycle to customers Once every 6 to 12 months Once per month
Release notes N/A Every release
Continuous integration N/A Nightly builds
Early preview builds for customers N/A One month in advance of stable release

By leveraging multiple agile practices, techniques, and frameworks, we were able to help WMAC transform from an unpredictable organization into one that focused on high-quality deliverables that met the needs of their customers and the marketplace. During this time, there was a significant decline in the number of calls to Customer Support regarding broken software and outages, and instead their customers engaged in feature development and roadmap expectations conversations.

WMAC continues today as a successful application development company and have continued their journey toward increased agility, including further development of their DevOps tools to allow them to safely and confidently deploy as soon as code is checked in, thus reducing time to market for features and services.