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How does a multi-billion dollar company adopt agile? CBRE SVP of IT explains
In today’s digital world, technology continues to rapidly evolve, and business needs are changing at a pace not seen before. Commercial real estate is no exception. As such, taking an agile approach to delivering technology tools that support our business professionals will enable us to be more responsive and ensure rapid time-to-market. To meet these demands, CBRE Digital & Technology is undergoing an agile transformation – something that I consider critical for delivering the right solutions, to the right people, at the right time.
To start our transition, we formed a scrum team, assigned a scrum master and identified various workstreams that will facilitate our transformation. These workstreams include Execution, Team Formation, Tools and Technologies, Financial Reporting Methods, Capital Funding, Recruiting, and Communications. As an example, Team Formation includes identifying all scrum teams within Digital & Tech, along with the team members who need training and their locations and key business partners we want included in training.
We recognized early on that support from the top down and bottom up was critical to our success. The Digital & Tech organization alone cannot successfully drive the transformation. We needed to ensure we had buy-in throughout the organization. Transforming to agile in our digital environment will lead us towards delivering business value sooner in the development lifecycle.
Organizational transformation for a digital and technology group requires support from leadership, delivery teams, and business partners. To ensure success, we educated our leaders and business partners, as well as the teams directly impacted, on the benefits of moving to agile.
Our executives know better than anyone that our customers are challenging us to deliver faster. They are also focused on improving our ability to respond to changing business requirements and market conditions. Agile principles will help us meet these challenges by providing rapid delivery of business capabilities, improving customer satisfaction, and enhancing cross-functional collaboration.
Organizations can’t take this journey in siloed departments; the entire enterprise needs to be in support of this shift. For example, someone from within the business typically assumes the product manager role. The product manager defines features, functions, and frequently prioritizes and iterates on requirements with the scrum team. This continuous iteration allows the teams to react appropriately to changing business needs. If business partners weren’t part of the transformation, someone who may not be fully aware of the product vision would typically fill the product manager role. This could result in undesired client outcomes delivered at the wrong time.
Training in waves
To that end, we are delivering agile training at all levels of our organization, including executive-level training to the CEO and his direct reports, and training for all Digital & Tech employees and business partners. Training at various levels will ensure the value and benefits of agile are consistent through all layers of the organization.
Our approach was to identify 10 teams as our pilot group. We purposely selected teams that were operating at various maturity levels of agile. These teams were selected from each line of business and region at CBRE. Every accountable executive for each line of business was included early on in the transformation process.
Our near-term goal is to have all product teams currently engaged in custom development trained and moving toward an agile operating mode by the end of Q1. We call the pilot group “wave one.” Following wave one, we plan to conduct further agile training waves to ramp up our Digital & Tech teams. So far, we have trained more than 400 employees in the United States, the United Kingdom, and our Asia Pacific region.
To measure our success, we created multiple dashboards, including one that tracks team status and shows how our teams are adopting agile principles, and another that tracks throughput and velocity for each team. Having defined metrics allows us to identify and react quickly to teams or areas that may need additional support.
The role of agile coaches
As each team finished their training, they were assigned an agile coach. The role of an agile coach is to support our teams and help them move from their current methodologies to agile. Working with the coaches, the teams participated in a discovery workshop, and identified more areas for improvement. One area that was identified was turning requirements into user stories and prioritizing those stories into sprints.
We are continuing to refine the process. We are performing employee surveys, proactively requesting feedback and making adjustments in our training, to make it better for everyone. We send out agile video links through our social collaboration tool, so our people can get updates throughout the transformation process. We also hold a weekly “Coaches' Corner” in each region that is open to everyone. It is a forum where people can hear from the experts or ask questions. So far, indicators show that our teams are moving toward full agile adoption.
CBRE Digital & Tech is early in the transformation process, but has already made significant headway in adopting agile principles. Once we have all our teams across the globe working in agile mode, we can further improve our delivery with test-driven and continuous development throughout the organization.