Case studies

Sprint Planning across the Program

ZXM's agile coaching improves the ATO's productivity by +200%

Introducing Scrum and SAFe to mainframe teams can be a hard transformation. ATO, a government agency, engages ZXM's agile coaches to lead the charge

ZXM's agile coaching delivers 200% productivity improvement to the ATO

Our challenge

Zen Ex Machina was engaged to assist over 120 people across an Agile Release Train of 10 teams to improve their agile practices in both Scrum and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Key to a successful outcome, was a sustainable, scaled approach to agile coaching, while ensuring minimal disruption to key business activities such mainframe suport for Australia's tax submissions in 2015 and 2016.

Our solution

Develop a Coaching Roadmap

ZXM developed a living coaching roadmap to assist the teams on the Release Train. This consisted of outlining the behavioural aspects of the transformation from Waterfall methods to Scrum and Lean in sustainable steps. This promoted transparency of what was expected of teams, their Product Owners and Scrum Masters, and a means to continuously assess:

  • What agile behaviours teams were exhibiting day-to-day without coaching support.
  • What teams' next learnings were
  • What an agile mindset and behaviour really meant in terms of transformation – i.e. more than just "doing Scrum".

Training the teams

ZXM first trained the team on the essentials of Scrum. This was a one day session combining core agile and Scrum processes with game-based play and simulation to enable rapid assimilation of concepts. Overall, ZXM agile coaches trained over 150 people over 12 months, including internal business owners, SAFe Feature Owners and managers. A team planning for their 'ball game' exercise in an agile essentials workshop

Coaching Product Owners

One of ZXM's agile coaches focussed primarily on supporting Product Owners. This included training and coaching them through the use of tools such as:

  • Personas – identifying the archtetypal users of the system, their needs and wants.
  • Story Mapping – taking ideas and working through the context of use with the aid of Personas with their teams and stakeholders.
  • Product Owner Council (PO Sync) – Facilitating a daily stand-up between the Agile Release Train's Product Manager and his Product Owners to discuss the delivery of Features within the Program Increment (PI), changes in scope coming from stakeholders and users, as well as upcoming Features for future PIs.
  • Product Owner Retrospective – providing the opportunity for Product Owners to discuss their team's Sprints, ideas, new Patterns, and failures, for the benefit of other Product Owners.

Product Owners engage in a story mapping workshop

Coaching Scrum Masters

Coaching Scrum Masters was the second target for another of ZXM's agile coaches. This included training and coaching them through the use of tools such as:

  • Scrum of Scrums – facilitating discussions on impediments with each other and their Release Train Engineer to help them help each other.
  • Scrum Masters' Retrospective – providing the opportunity for them to discuss their team's Sprints, what worked, what didn't, new Patterns, and failures, for the benefit of other Scrum Masters.
  • Agile Master Sessions – introducing new agile concepts and broadenning their perspectives on existing ones to support continuous improvement.

Promoting Lean Metrics to improve estimation and planning

Helping teams understand the cycle time of their Stories was a key part of improving their estimation. While many teams employed t-shirt sizing, cycle time for each "size" was visualised on their Kanban Boards through simply placing a dot for each day it was in progress. Cycle time graph

Metrics were collected at the end of each Sprint by the Scrum Master to help the team understand whether their estimations were accurate, e.g. whether all the "small" Stories were of equivalent cycle time.

The results

The transparency our coaching provided enabled managers to understand the impact of "hero work" amongst some teams so that a sustainable pace could be persued to improve the overall forecasting of the Release Train's capacity PI to PI.

Within 12 months, the Priority Digital Services (PDS) Release Train improved its productivity across numerous mainframe teams by 200%, and in some cases, even more.

Case studies