Nice Work - niceshops – totally scrumed

In our blog post “NICE WORK – SCRUM 0.0 – I WAS THERE”, we shared how Scrum in the Valley got its start. Our team committed to the agile project, we onboarded our Product Owners and Scrum Masters and familiarised ourselves with the Agile Manifesto step by step. We didn’t make Scrum an internal IT project, but initiated the change throughout the entire company. Today we interviewed Christian, our Organisational Development Team Lead, about what Scrum means for the company, how our priorities have become more transparent and what side effects we observed after changing over to the Scrum process.

Christian, what do you think has been the biggest change in the company as a whole? What functions differently now than it did a year ago?

Scrum defines specific tasks for each team member’s role in the company. The Scrum Master helps the team adhere to the Scrum process, the Development Team organises itself independently to maximise customer satisfaction, and the Product Owner manages their backlog and maximises the product’s benefits. What tasks do our (internal) customers have? They need to know exactly what they’re asking for in a ticket. As a result, internal customers are responsible for deciding what they actually want from IT, asking themselves questions like: which features are most important to getting us closer to achieving the niceVision, (the company’s overall goals)?

How did prioritising features work in the past? 

Up until now, a lot was decided by the developers themselves, based on what was most important to the best of their knowledge. For the Scrum teams, the value the customer receives from the products is more important than deciding what the software should look like. That’s why the customer is required to formulate their needs more precisely than they used to. 

How did you succeed in creating clarity in people’s roles? 

Last year, we involved all our stakeholders in an “Introduction to Scrum”, defining how the Scrum process works. Thankfully, our team was committed to working together from the start, and the Scrum framework offers us a lot of support. With everyone doing their part, we can maximise our efficiency.

And what does this efficiency look like in concrete terms? 

The Scrum teams organise “Epic Backlog Refinement Meetings” for our internal stakeholders. Here, all the stakeholders meet quarterly and prioritise the epics according to our overall company strategy. The Product Owners prepare the epics, but prioritising the features is up to the stakeholders. This means that stakeholders have to take off their “departmental hats” and put on their “niceshops hats”, choosing which feature makes the greatest contribution to the overall company strategy. Stakeholders realise they may need to put their own needs aside and focus on the greater good.

Sounds like a tough battle for coveted IT resources… 

Yes, one might think so 😀 but it works perfectly for us. Apparently, stakeholders enjoy wearing their “niceshops hats” *laughs*. The Scrum process gives visibility to the idea that we shouldn’t compare success by comparing teams but should keep the company’s overall success in mind. If I have to prove that my team is more successful than other teams, I’ll fight like a lion to push the software features I need through, even if my features are not as important as features that everyone will benefit from. We seem to have succeeded in anchoring the niceVision in people’s minds, which has helped us strategise based on “the big picture”. This certainly takes some maturity – from both the company as a whole and the individual stakeholders. 

In other words, Scrum helps the company achieve better transparency and focus on achieving big picture goals. Have you seen any other benefits?

Yes, indeed! The Scrum teams are gathering a lot of good experience and knowledge about new methods of team organisation. Other teams benefit from their “real” best practice experiences when they want to try out new organisational methods in their own teams. This saves a lot of consultancy costs – and is also more fun!

So Scrum has already spilled over into other departments? 

Not yet, but some teams have already started to introduce retrospectives or reviews. In reviews, the team gets feedback on their work. In retrospectives, they reflect on the cooperation within the team meeting both our goals: Get better & have fun doing it!

So both the organisation and the company culture have changed a bit? 

Yes, I think they have. A lot of things that have intuitively been done really well in the past are now embedded in a framework and suddenly have a name. 

For example? 

It’s part of niceshops’ DNA that we work together as equals, and that leadership work is naturally taken on by different colleagues as needed. The idea of the Scrum Master as a “service leader” is a good example of how team development can also be seen as a service. Scrum teams essentially organise themselves. The Scrum Master moderates the Scrum processes to help people concentrate on their strengths, and also helps the team to regularly review how they are cooperating together, systematically improving their teamwork. This is a service that many teams no longer want to do without!

Very exciting! Thank you for this cool insight into the Scrum experience. Where do we go from here? Please share your closing words 🙂 

I am sure that some new ways of working will prove their worth and remain permanent, while others will be discarded. In any case, one thing is clear: niceshops works a lot differently than most other companies, and soon everyone will know someone who only wants to work here with us! 🙂

There’s nothing more to add to that! Thank you very much for the cool interview!