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Sprinting to the goal – agile product development at iCon

Times are changing, as are the projects that innogy Consulting is carrying out for its customers. Previously, time used to be thrown at a project until all involved parties were 100% happy with the solution produced. Now it is often speed that is the decisive factor.

It goes without saying that this also has implications for our project organisation methods. We keep on having to question our established ways of working. What is the best possible way to reach the desired solution? The answer is often an agile approach over classic project management. The advantages are obvious: shorter development cycles, faster results and a flexible organisational structure that allows for constant adaptation.

I too am always coming across agile methods in my projects, so I decided to have a chat with my colleague Marie Wegner to find out more. Among other things, she has supported our customers in the use and implementation of agile methods as a scrum master in the Rise project.

David Gölz: Before we go into depth and start talking about concrete projects, what is special about scrum and what do you do as a scrum master?

Marie Wegner: Scrum is a method of agile working. In contrast to classic project management, the emphasis is on flexibility rather than rigid planning. The goal is to implement product ideas step by step while continuously bouncing them off the customer for approval.

As a scrum master, my role is to help the team, which consists of the product owner and development team, to internalise and implement the agile way of working and remove any potential barriers.

This includes coordinating the sprints, as they are referred to, which are set periods of time within which tangible intermediate goals are achieved. At the end of every sprint we carry out a review where the team presents the finished results to the product owner. Additionally, I run daily standup meetings in the mornings for daily planning.

David Gölz: You adopted agile project management in the flagship project Rise – why did you opt for this approach?

Marie Wegner: Rise was about developing agile solutions for innogy’s B2B customers. These days, electricity sales alone yield minimal profit margins. With that in mind, innogy came to us with the task of helping develop Energy+ (E+) solutions. These are products and services that are a combination of hardware, software, commodity and/or services.

The concept of selling products to customers that go above and beyond the mere sale of electricity as a commodity is nothing new for innogy. However, it turned out that the challenge of pursuing developments across numerous specialist fields was greater than anticipated. Processes became lengthy and protracted and hardly any customer feedback was coming in. We overcame all these challenges by implementing agile project management – even with our very specific product portfolio.

David Gölz: You implemented scrum methods in multiple teams to develop these new E+ solutions. Tell us concretely how this methodology was implemented in practice.

Marie Wegner: Instead of sticking with classic project management and developing projects largely within the separate departments, we adopted the scrum method in our team right from the start – including the daily standup meetings and sprints mentioned above.

Additionally, we made sure that we got direct feedback from the innogy customers in the form of interviews and trials – after all, this feedback is essential to agile product development and is a key part of any project. Because access to the customers is limited in B2B, we don’t use product testers and trial groups as we would in B2C. Instead, we rely on the feedback of so-called “friendly customers”.

David Gölz: Exciting! But using new methods entails a challenge or two. Can you give us some examples of best practice, and also of any difficulties that arose?

Marie Wegner: I was so happy to see how fast an agile way of working could tun a group of individuals into a strong team that can effectively develop products. Our project is the best proof of how effective it is to bring people with different expertise together.

But of course we encountered a few bumps in the road. The implementation of new methods takes time – especially in a company with a more classic organisational structure. The scrum method itself was viewed sceptically at times with some team members being a little shaky in their roles at first. But the more successful we became, the quieter the critical voices became.

David Gölz: What do the projects give you personally?

Marie Wegner: I have learned so much about agile working methods in practice, product development and the innogy retail business. It was a great experience to be able to accompany agile solution development processes from A to Z – from developing the product vision to celebrating the first sales successes with the customer. Experiencing for yourself how a new development becomes reality is very exciting and definitely the biggest highlight for me.

David Gölz: Marie, thank you for the interview and your exciting insights into agile working.

An article by

David Gölz

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