The case study shows an “agile department”. A workshop with the responsible department head was held for the creation.

The IT department is characterized by very strong processes, which are defined according to ITIL. The rules and guidelines around the company’s data center must be adhered to by slain service level agreements.

The goal of the head of department is to find a harmony between these SLAs and agile methods. This is due to the large number of projects and requests for changes by the customer. He therefore wants to dissolve SLAs for a short time and to process projects with higher priority. In this way, it can achieve a high level of customer satisfaction, as the defined SLAs do not always meet the customer’s wishes.

The case study is divided into 5 sections, which have been examined with the head of the department. These can be found in the following figure. The focus was also on the study   of   buzzwords digital culture and agile corporate organization. While the word digital culture is not yet clearly defined, a first approximation is also to take place here. The sections represent in the abstract the sub-areas and influencing factors on the department.

agile department
An agile department and the influencing factors. In addition, the buzzword digital culture is investigated.

Recruiting employees

The cornerstone of a company is people and the cooperation between them. Finding and hiring “agile employees” is therefore a critical success factor. “Fundamentally, we communicate our vacancies on our company’s website and on the major portals,” says the head of the department. The company also uses a headhunter to search for specialists. However, the head of the department is not satisfied with the quality of the applications and established a new form of agile HR. Together with other managers, he has developed a backlog that is filled with HR tasks. Once a week there is a “weekly” meeting in which the tasks are taken from the backlog and are usually implemented within a week. The manager’s credo is: “One HR measure per week”. The head of the department rates this form of agile HR as an effective and lean approach to finding the right people for the company.

digital culture
This shows the agile corporate organization of the HR project, which the head of the department has established.

Digital Culture of the Department

At the beginning of the year, the manager defined a guiding principle for his department. “We are passionate about shaping the IT landscape of tomorrow.” This means that employees want to design with passion, are willing to learn and work with curiosity on your tasks. The establishment of a digital culture is an important factor, especially in IT. Furthermore, the guiding principle underpins, among other things, the values: respect, tolerance, curiosity freedom, sustainability and passion. These were clearly communicated to the team. The culture is supported by formats such as barcamps, hackathons and an in-house open space. In addition, team retrospectives and daily standups are being held to strengthen the digital culture. However, the manager sees the clear definition only as a first step, because the pre-existing life of these values by management is also crucial.

Management of the department and agile corporate organization

“I see my job as showing the employees the direction in which we are going. How the employee gets there is his decision. He can run, walk or run. He can also decide whether to take the easy, medium or difficult path,” the manager said when asked how he interprets his role as a manager.

Due to the numerous customers and projects in the company, he has developed an agile company organization together with team   leaders. For example, a backlog has been created per customer, which prioritizes and estimates the customer’s tasks according to storypoints. Due to the SLA’s, a maximum number of storypoints is defined for each customer. For example, the manager sets goals such as: “500 Story Points for Customer A and 300 Story Points for Customer B in May.” In the course of the agile company organization project, the head of the department has been successfully carrying out these “monthly sprints” for some time.

agile company organization
One backlog per customer and one team backlog per team. This is how Scrum scales.

Customers of the department

The agile IT department provides various services for the customer. To monitor these, the company has set up a special “Service Management” department. “For many services, this is necessary because the customer expects to talk to a manager of a service department,” says the head of the department. However, this form of feedback is not optimal, especially in large projects, and the head of the department conducts feedback discussions with the customer himself. To this end, he organizes regular “Jourfix meetings”.

However, he still sees service management as very important: “The service manager is the last line between customer and technician. Our technicians should be able to work on the systems undisturbed,” says the head of the department. According to the manager, a balanced balance between direct contact and service management is an important success factor for customer satisfaction.

Partner of the department

Customer projects are often complex and are worked by more than one department. For this reason, there is close cooperation between the individual units in the company. Here, the manager sees shared values and communication as a means against resource conflicts. He is committed to ensuring that employees leave the “comfort zone desk” and actively exchange ideas. Through job rotation, he actively promotes the understanding of “the other side”. He sets the credo: “It’s not you or the other department that has a problem, but we as a company have a problem.”

Summary

The case study shows an agile IT department, which is characterized by strong processes. Agility is intended to increase customer satisfaction and promote employee collaboration.

In order to find the right employees, the manager has defined an agile HR process, which controls measures via a backlog HR. In order to establish and describe a uniform culture, there is a mission statement that is clearly communicated. The management of the department defines itself as a supporter of the employees and a promotion of them. To do this, the manager uses the pull principle using backlogs that contain customer tasks. In order to receive feedback on these, the manager organizes regular meetings with the customers, but also attaches great importance to the established service department.

This results in the following theories about agile departments:

  1. The creation and pre-existence of guiding principles is an important criterion for agility
  2. Agile leadership is defined by pull principle and voluntary
  3. Agile HR requires close cooperation between department and HR
  4. Agile collaboration is defined by a high understanding of each other

A deeper evaluation of this case study is carried out in the 2nd Roundtable on Agility. Here, this is precisely evaluated with the participants and compared with further examples of agile departments and agile corporate   organization.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.