01 June 2021
Taking an agile leap towards a more flexible and responsive business organization
The digital revolution urges companies to rethink the structure of their organization from the ground up in order to deal with new challenges, such as a rapidly changing market, the constant introduction of new technologies, digitization and democratization of information and the war for talent. To adapt to these new trends, companies shift towards new organizational structures, such as an agile team organization.
In Belgium, leading telecom operator Telenet is one of the pioneers of this new way of working. In April 2020, just as the whole world was dealing with the consequences of a pandemic, Telenet made the transition to a fully agile structure - no small feat for a company with 3.400 employees.
In the most recent meeting of Beyond Digital, the knowledge-sharing discussion club organized by digital expert Ariad, Joris Van Aken, Digital Center of Excellence lead at Telenet, explained how Telenet managed to incorporate the agile way of thinking and working into the company. According to Van Aken, this paradigm shift was a major shift in the history of Telenet. He shared his insights on how the agile-mindset allows for a better and faster response to changing customer expectations and immersive technologies, exemplified by the shift towards mandatory home work and an increasing demand for streaming services due to the pandemic.
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Tribes, squads and chapters
An agile company is organized in various ‘tribes’, autonomous teams which consist of different specialists. Every tribe represents a strategic pillar, such as ‘Entertainment’ or ‘E-commerce’ in the case of the telecom operator. In turn, every tribe consists of various ‘squads’, multidisciplinary smaller teams which focus on specific products or services, like ‘Play Sports’ within the ‘Entertainment’-tribe. These squads work towards the global goal of the tribe. People with the same specialization within a tribe can form ‘chapters’ and exchange information across the squads.
"People who have a niche expertise can grow more easily within the organization and are more empowered and visible. This allows us to attract and retain much needed specialized talent.”
As a Center of Expertise (CoE) lead, Joris Van Aken supports multiple squads. He argues that the most important reason to implement an agile structure is to respond better and faster to changing customer requirements, changing market environments and competition from other companies. “It also helps to increase efficiency and effectiveness within the company by creating a clear outline of who does what within the organization, by improving transparency and avoiding overlap. Lastly, by giving each tribe and squad autonomy, people feel more engaged and appreciated.”
Smaller scope, more empowerment
In order to align all squads, every squad within a tribe will share their focus for the next three months during the quarterly business review (QBR). This allows Telenet to allocate resources on a quarterly basis considering the actual workloads. Before the QBR, the CoE lead pre-aligns with different squads and prioritizes certain projects. “Maintaining the brand strategy, identity and tone of voice across all tribes can be a challenging task,” Van Aken admits. “A squad doesn’t necessarily need to know everything that’s going on within the company, resulting in a smaller, more focused scope. However, squads have end-to-end ownership within their tribe, resulting in more engagement.”
Benefits are already showing
Taking the leap towards an agile organization wasn’t easy for Telenet but Joris Van Aken already sees the benefits of this new way of working. “The entire company was reshuffled into these tribes and squads, resulting in a huge puzzle. Certain people who used to be in a management position are now working in a horizontal hierarchy. On the other hand younger team members are more quickly given end-to-end responsibilities. Additionally, people who have a niche expertise can grow more easily within the organization and are more empowered and visible. This allows us to attract and retain much needed specialized talent.”
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