Together, Finding Our Way Forward
- By Abilis
- April 21, 2020
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We show gratitude and appreciation as the business is able to adapt to many changes imposed by the pandemic. We are already in our 6th week of isolation to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, and while we are practicing social distancing and taking care of our loved ones, we are also taking care of business: we are fully operational and able to deliver on an essential service, we were quick to adjust from on-site to remote work, a change that took place effortlessly, in a blink of an eye. You may think that having the entire team working from home is a given for a software company, but there is a story to be told on how we reached this point as two years ago, this would not have been possible.
This is our story, Abilis Solutions’ story.
In 2013, Abilis decided to transition from a professional service company to a product company with a strategic focus on the development and implementation of CORIS®, our Offender Management Solution (OMS). While the vision was embraced across the organization, the operational efficiencies were lagging. We needed to reinvent ourselves in order to deliver on the promises made to our customers. The strategy encompassed changes at every level of the company. A plan with three- and five-year objectives was introduced in order to get the organization away from a silo, project-based operation into a matrix, collaborative approach. We had to develop our in-house expertise and competencies and adjust our processes.
Fast forward to 2016 when we started Agilis, our Agile transformation employing a specific type of Scrum framework. Agilis touched everything in the organization: our processes, our teams, and our technical infrastructure. It was a long journey to get to where we are today; we were aiming high with better product quality, improved customer satisfaction, lower time to market, reduced risk, and increased collaboration. Gradually, new processes were introduced, and new standards and modus operandi were developed and prepared. A Change Management task force was formed in order to carry out the mandate.
By the end of 2018, we had aligned required documentation and standards to the scrum framework, and established teams working with epics, features, user stories, and sprints, which enhanced the traceability of effort. We introduced architectural enhancements supporting product technical evolution, and reduced cloud deployment procedures. CORIS® was better-defined based on the corrections’ business processes, for added consistency and accuracy. We have now a total of eight product domains that follow correctional operations: offender management, facility management, community management, sentence management, financials, public safety, reporting & BI, and application management.
In spring 2019, an external coach was engaged to help with the roll out across the organization. By July 2019, our change management task force (now comprised of leadership, product development, and the external coach) formed cross-functional teams with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Our switch to Agilis happened in one day, in July 2019, following several years of planning, preparation, and restructuring.
This is what has changed:
Our processes rely on self-organizing, cross functional teams, collaboration, and incremental development. The progress takes place via a series of sprints, each three weeks long, during which a set of features is brought from idea to tested functionality. At the end of a sprint, features are integrated into CORIS®, and the team conducts a sprint demo and retrospective. We currently have a better way of refining and clarifying requirements, of planning, and of assessing lessons learned. Our product is developed more efficiently, iterations are reduced, while defects are prevented from being carried over to later iterations. We also have improved metrics to track progress and better visibility.
“Agilis allows for more visibility. It streamlines processes and allows everyone a chance to offer improvements.” – Abilis employee survey
To support Agilis, new roles were created (e.g.: Scrum Masters, Agile developers), while other roles underwent modifications and / or clarifications (e.g.: project managers, team leads and business analysts). While we lost a few team members due to these changes, our team continues to grow as we are attracting new talent. In this new framework, every individual member of the team chooses the task to tackle during a sprint, an approach which enhances self-accountability and engagement. To date we have a total of 11 Agilis teams with a high degree of specialization, each team being focused on a single CORIS® Domain.
“Everybody understands his or her role now, and nobody waits for someone else to jump in and solve an issue because everything is planned in advance. Agilis provides us with a clearer vision on our roadmap, showing us where we are, what our goals are, and how we can achieve them.” – Abilis employee survey
We have common, shared platforms for work visualization and collaboration. We have recently introduced Git for software integration and upgraded TFS 2018 to Azure DevOps. We have also introduced PowerBI dashboards, a tool that gives us all the health checks on our development progress and project resources.
“Agilis gives clarity and focus to the work that needs to be done. Everyone knows what is happening, there are no surprises, and there is efficient, close collaboration between all team members.” – Abilis employee survey
Everything mentioned above also contributed to our readiness to work remotely: the availability of highly autonomous teams, increased communication and transparency, full inventory of the work effort and progress of development, better measurements, and a defined way of matching capacity with workload. With the proper technical infrastructure in place, and the right processes to support Agilis, our employees adapted easily to the new reality. We are fighting COVID-19 by working from home and remaining confident in our ability to deliver for our customers. Thanks to the Agilis approach we currently have in place, the transition from having our employees working 95% of the time in our downtown innovation center to having 99% of the team working from home took three days and was seamless. Our KPIs will soon show if this transition had an impact on our productivity. As we experience the effects of this pandemic in our everyday lives in small and large ways, at Abilis we all pledged to stick together and remain committed to our mission, thus adding a bit of certainty in these uncertain times.
Codruta Prefit, Abilis Solutions Marketing Manager