One customer, one service, eight weeks

At the last meeting in Oslo Lean Meetup Geoff Watts talked about BTs transition to agility. The most memorable part to me was when BT transformed a huge, waterfall type project with a delivery schedule measured in years into an agile project. The project set out to convert all BT customers to a new network with a brand new set of services. The new objective was simpler: Deliver one service to one customer in eight weeks.

Geoff Joins The Dots

The common approach when organizations undertake a huge project is to try and deliver everything in one big bang. That trick never works, and BT was exceptional for realizing it. The eight weeks goal was indeed reached, not with one, but with four customers. This might not sound like a lot, but after several years with nothing to show for it, this is a huge win for any project.

How did BT facilitate the transition to agile? The order from up high was “everyone needs to deliver something every 90 days.” In order to achieve this, all projects start a ninety day delivery cycle with a three day off site meeting with all stakeholders to find out how the project can deliver something of value within the required time. Surprisingly, according to Watts, it almost always works.

An interesting lesson is that a shorter delivery time means that the projects have to focus on doing less at a time. Yet projects report a greater sense of progress. In essence, they slow down to speed up.

BT is a huge organization with lots of cultural legacy. If they can deliver huge infrastructure projects in increments of no more than ninety days, why can’t you?

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One customer, one service, eight weeks by Johannes Brodwall, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is the director of software development for the MRM product company BrandMaster. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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  • http://blog.f12.no Anders

    A great and inspiring talk. I think part of their success was also the fact that after saying “deliver something every 90 days”, they had a really good support crew for the projects to turn to. This support crew would move between projects offering their advice, coaching, holding talks or workshops on how to overcome some of the problems that naturally arises when an organisation suddenly must adapt to shorter delivery cycles.

    The projects first experienced the problems, then found solutions on their own or through the support team. They focused on the goal which is rapid delivery and shorter feedback cycles, instead of telling everyone how to do it. This gives commitment and motivation to the team members instead of having someone just force agile on them.

  • http://blog.f12.no Anders

    A great and inspiring talk. I think part of their success was also the fact that after saying “deliver something every 90 days”, they had a really good support crew for the projects to turn to. This support crew would move between projects offering their advice, coaching, holding talks or workshops on how to overcome some of the problems that naturally arises when an organisation suddenly must adapt to shorter delivery cycles.

    The projects first experienced the problems, then found solutions on their own or through the support team. They focused on the goal which is rapid delivery and shorter feedback cycles, instead of telling everyone how to do it. This gives commitment and motivation to the team members instead of having someone just force agile on them.

  • http://www.pmhut.com PM Hut

    BT is one of the largest telecom companies in the world. It's impressive that they were able to adopt agile, at least for part of their operations. Historically, Agile is not the easiest thing to implement in traditional/waterfall organizations. I'm wondering how big are the teams involved (and I agree with the previous comment that the team's work was impressive). One of the limitations of agile is that it doesn't work well with larger teams.

  • http://www.pmhut.com PM Hut

    BT is one of the largest telecom companies in the world. It's impressive that they were able to adopt agile, at least for part of their operations. Historically, Agile is not the easiest thing to implement in traditional/waterfall organizations. I'm wondering how big are the teams involved (and I agree with the previous comment that the team's work was impressive). One of the limitations of agile is that it doesn't work well with larger teams.