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How agile projects develop agile services

By Breno Lima
Breno Lima
Connecting processes, people and technology to amaze my wife with a beautiful Diesel Wallet Bag.
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How agile projects develop agile services
Farfetch is a very young and dynamic company, full of great professionals working on making our mission happen, and the F-Tech team is not different. However, we have our singularities, and one of those is the number of different management practices demanded to make things happen. Coming from agile, such as Scrum, DevOps and Kanban, walking through traditional project management practices, until service management practices - all structured based on a process basis.

As it is natural in an environment full of professionals born to #BeBrilliant (one of Farfetch's values, which you will find more along this article followed by a hashtag), it could be a challenge to make all this knowledge converge, and this is what is great about the Agile Coach role. They can provide us with a set of valuable tools, so-called agile practices, methodologies and principles, that can be used based on specific needs, instead of having one single "Silver Bullet” that promises to solve all the issues.

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” (Abraham Maslow)

Management Practices

More than a set of tools, agile is a mindset and can be applied to any kind of initiative, management practice or methodology. It is perfectly possible to fulfil agile services, agile processes improvement, agile auditing and so on.

Besides agile practices, the F-Tech is demanded to provide high service levels to our (internal) customers, which includes defining products, processes and people that fit into the service purpose and use, providing both useful and reliable solutions.

Utility and warranty mean that customers don’t want only great features, but also stability, reliability, continuity, security, availability and, sometimes, to feel that their problem is as important for us as it is for them. #AmazeCustomers is about building more than software, but about creating unforgettable experiences.

In order to deliver such luxury services, the F-Tech team (and the whole of Farfetch) must work #TodosJuntos (Portuguese for ‘All Together’) from the beginning to the end, which includes project management practices, agile practices, process management practices and service management.

We Work Better Together

If we put all those practices in a context, it is easier to see that each of them has its importance to that luxury service delivery.

As it is possible to see in the image above, services and projects interact through the whole lifecycle. While the project manager is more concerned about delivering what was required by the sponsor, customer, product owner etc., by controlling schedule, scope, priorities and resources; the service manager is seeking for guarantee that it will be operated in a sustainable way, accomplishing the services’ levels of quality agreed and that all those services already in place can remain to deliver the value they had been designed for.

An IT service is composed by four P’s: People, Process, Partners and Products (both hardware and software). Let’s take the service as an example:

When a Software Project Manager, or a Product Owner gather requirements for a product, they are commonly more concerned about software characteristics. However, what is at the bottom of the iceberg:
  • Process perspective:
    • [How, when, who] will apply security updates?
    • [How, when, who] will treat the incidents after the project (a temporary initiative by nature) is completely finished?
    • [How, when, who] will control changes on this product and its related processes and people?
    • [How, when, who] will provide access, or even a simple information, to this new product?
    • [How, when, who] will provide the user with its own information based on GDPR? 
  • Hardware perspective of the product:
    • [How, when, who] will monitor the increase of infrastructure consumption in order to proactively plan upgrades?
    • Is there enough IT infrastructure capacity to process new features or a user increase?
  • People perspective:
    • Are there enough people to support and deal with issues related to a new product?
    • Support team have the right skills?
    • Who is "on call” for that product?
    • What is the escalation structure?
    • Who is the (only one) final accountable for the product performance?
  • Process quality perspective:
    • Are this product and its related processes compliant with GDPR?
    • How long do we have to put a service online back again in an outage situation?
    • Can we have planned outages or will we need a redundant environment?
    • The time Customer Services and Partner Services have to solve an issue contractually is aligned to engineering and the third party agreed times?
  • Partners perspective:
    • What is the "time to recovery” JIRA’s provider has when there is an outage from their side?
    • What are our requirements for an internet provider?
When we are too much focused on the software project management view (either agile or traditional), there is a tendency (no generalisation intended) of over-focus on the software product, putting aside the structure of hardware, people, processes and partners demanded to operate them as a service. On the other hand, service management practices are not specialised on creating products and control this kind of initiative, being more focused on control.

So, the best scenario is to work together, ensuring that great products are going to be put in place, in a sustainable way, with the due governance, as a company exists in a regulated environment, the right level of control, risk optimisation, both inside the project lifecycle and regarding to the services already in operations, and all of this, using standardised process modeling and management tools and techniques.

Getting Started

PMBOK, SCRUM, Kanban, ITIL, DevOps, ISO, BPM CBOK, BABOK and many other management practices are tools which work very well together, and its usage should be defined and combined according to each problem. So, keep your mind open, collaborate, understand the other side of the table, #ThinkGlobal and do not isolate yourself. 

Don’t be afraid to seek help when defining complete processes and, don’t over complicate when helping someone else so that they don't hesitate to ask for your help too. Don’t be an obstacle, be a solution.

It is also essential to keep growing, keep learning and trying to get out of our boxes and our comfort zones continuously, understanding that a better tool could always exist.

We, as human beings, tend to dislike, at the first moment, everything that is outside of our domain. Knowing that, be alert about this kind of unconscious feeling so that you can consciously drop the preconception barrier, watching the problem from different perspectives and becoming a more effective problem solver.

Often, what may look like a crazy idea can #BeRevolutionary.

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