Zingat.com started operating in cooperation with Doğuş Group and REIDIN in 2015. Zingat.com is a reliable real estate information and marketing platform that brings together real estate professionals and individuals under the same roof with accurate and comprehensive reference information by adhering to the concept of high quality service and transparent information.
What was the need?
Since Zingat is in a highly competitive business and being agile is the only way for them to be responsive to the market needs, they have been using Scrum and agility practices for a long time. Initially, there was only one team of four people who created the product “Zingat” from scratch. Since then the business has grown tremendously and as a result, the number and size of teams has grown. Currently there are 4 teams who are getting continuous requests from internal customers and external customers.
As we wrote above that they have already been applying Scrum practices, they were facing challenges and difficulties, so they decided to get coaching support. It was at this time that Zingat’s CTO and Product Director came across our blogpost Scrum Antipatterns and thought that we were the right partner to support them. We offered them our Team Coaching Framework which is a revolutionary initiative by agile42 to speed up the team learning process and performance.
Creating Transparency and inspection
There are a lot of coaching tools you can apply to teams but since every team is unique and needs are special, we started with team assessments. This enabled the company to see what was missing and get a clear idea of the current status of the individual teams. In the assessments, we discussed with the team members how well they were able to turn agile principles into practices and also how well they were they are as teams. The results were self reflection of the team members so they were able to see and decide what actions needed to be taken. This was not a top down instruction, but instead bottom up commitment from team members.
Every team had different improvement areas but in general below were the initial findings.
Due to the complex, adaptable nature of software development, teams work with a lot of unknowns. This means that even with infinite planning and analysing, teams will always be making some assumption of how that software will be used in the future. The software teams were in need of perfect “analysing” within long hours of meetings before taking the items into the sprint.
The productivity and cognitive abilities of a team decreases with overtime, so Agile always promotes sustainable pace of development. Sustainable development also means catching an average productivity in terms of Sprint outputs. What we realised was, team had the opposite of this criteria. Agile teams were in need of clarified backlog items to include in the Sprints. Therefore, they had long hours of technical review and analysis before sprint planning meetings. Most of the time, Sprint backlogs were not ready according to team size although it was an experienced team. Sprints could not be started and a few days of breaks were decided until the backlog items get ready for team. The rhythm of the productivity was not predictable.
Business & development team
The Agile Manifesto describes a customer who is engaged and collaborates throughout the development process. This makes it far easier for development to meet the needs of the customer. The case was customer involvement was lacking through whole the sprint events so that team members were in ambiguity to be clear to start the items.
There was not a regular feedback mechanism between Scrum team and business partners, team had the intention to do their best but lack but they generally were able to verify customer satisfaction after they deploy it.
It took a long time for a requirement to be clear enough this sometimes prevented the teams’ capability to pull the next most valuable item. And since it took a long time before entering the some more valuable items were already in the que to be pulled by the team.This created a tension between Product owners and development team and was damaging trust in the Scrum teams.
What areas did we work at ?
The leadership team was aligned on the critical problems to be addressed and the desired cultural change. We had a backlog of leadership items to be worked on. One to one coaching was one of the achievements that implemented according to misalignment inside leaders.
- New teams were formed including testing capability to make them able to deliver without dependency.
- Agile principles emphasise face-to-face communication wherever possible so the first thing that we asked them was to place every team member together. Scrum teams need to be self-organising and this starts with how to organise their communication at team level, so a Working Agreement was written how to maximise benefits of co-location. That agreements were live and it is up to them to update whenever needed.
- Yet Scrum supports cross-functional, self-managed teams in which individuals help each other in completing the tasks. The ownership of completing user stories lies not with any one individual but with the complete, collective team. So assigning user stories to individuals were stopped and team started to take collective ownership of Sprint backlog items. Teams started proper daily stand ups to give daily decisions and their progress in the Sprint.
- To be able to support sustainable pace and increase Product Backlog readiness firstly key stakeholders were informed about how teams were working to develop their requirements and how they could contribute the process. They started to attend to review meetings to give feedback about Sprint outcomes. Secondly, teams started to perform regular backlog refinement meetings to gather data, discuss and split backlog items to support the Product owners backlog management.
- Previously retrospective meetings were held in large groups with the attendance of whole development team. Now they started to perform this meetings in the new formed stabile Scrum teams which allowed environment for every member talk (even the silent ones) and give more teams decisions and actions. This helped to improve team spirit and trust.
- Although Zingat has significant experience with Agile practices, to take everyone on the same level and page took 2 days of Scrum training. There were a lot of discussions , questions from the teams it was realised that some practices were misunderstood and some basic Scrum activities were not done properly. People were thinking that Scrum needed to solve all the problems. So it was made crystal clear that Scrum is a framework that helps manage and control the process and they can’t benefit from it if you break the fundamentals and they need to transparently talk about the issues and find solutions for the problems one by one. Scrum provided the necessary transparency, inspection and adaptation. Now after having the aligned Agile knowledge teams were invited to execute the Scrum rituals as it is written in Scrum guide.
- There needed to be someone to take care of Scrum process and support teams in their agile journey, so the Scrum Master role was introduced and a volunteer took the Scrum Master role in the organisation. They had the alignment of Agile knowledge so that every team member was ready to evolve. The Scrum Master, who was willing to improve Agile behaviour inside the organisation, was coached and mentored by agile42 coaches to remove impediments within the organisation.
- There was also some confusion about Scrum roles and organisational roles which were preventing the Scrum teams’ self organisation and ability to give decisions.The responsibilities and authority was discussed among management and Scrum team and alignment was secured in the organisation.
What are the achievements?
The feedbacks from stakeholders and employees have been largely positive. Here’s a selection.
«Although teams and team members had experience in practical application of Scrum and Agile frameworks, teams were not aligned for the correct application of scrum.»
«There were disputes on definition of team. Now there is a clear understanding of definition of team and self-organisation.»
«Before agile42 coaching support, Scrum was considered to be set of nothing but rituals. Now team agrees that although rituals (dailies, planning meeting etc) are required, the most important thing is the philosophy behind it.»
«Product owners were acting as the customers of development team. And vice versa. Now they are aware that Product Owners and development teams are indeed one team that run towards one goal.»
«Scrum teams used to have stories that are exceeding their capacity so that they could not manage to catch their Sprint goals. Now with the help of coaching support, they are aware about their capacity and make the planning accordingly.»
«ScrumMaster role has provided teams to better define and solve their conflicts.
«Teams started to use shared workspace.This change dramatically improved their collaboration and communication inside the team.»
«Every company has inconsistencies which is unique to it. agile42 taught us the Scrum framework very well but on the other hand, our requirements were defined for further solutions by diminishing the uncertainties.»
«Solutions and required processes were defined by teams by working closely.»
«“The roles and responsibility” definitions were one of the conflicts inside the teams. Every role were studied with owners and the rest of the team so that respect and trust can be built.»
«Teams had honest and genuine support through all processes so that a more healthy way of working was built.»
«We learned transparency is one of the unshakable pillars of Scrum so we are trying to build a transparent medium. Team members are trying to solve their problems by facing openly with each other.»
«DOD has provided a common language for team members so that Sprint outcomes is now in a better quality.»
«Using Time Box has really worked for us to hold more productive meetings.»
«Teams are now have a better focus on their Sprint Goals.This has raised productivity on the other hand reducing complexity.»
«In our previous model of work, Scrum teams had no knowledge about why they are doing the Scrum rituals. Now they are conscious about what is Scrum and its framework.»
What were the highlights for the company?
- A full time ScrumMaster is needed for Scrum teams to better operate and for the organisation to improve incorporation of Agile mindset.
- Team agreements are crucial when self-organising therefore teams need to define their way of working as soon as possible to be visible for everyone.
- It is a long journey for people to be a team and it takes a minimum of 6 months for people to understand and explore each other. One of the requests for us was not to change team members unless they are forced to do that.
- For a company to be agile, the culture or mindset should be changed accordingly. In Zingat, leadership is quite aware that agility is not gained only on the team level, it is also management responsibility to be in this mindset. There are some key elements that the leaders need to support their teams, by changing performance review systems, or providing Scrum teams a place to co-locate(as teams are small) so crucial actions can be achieved by the support of the leadership team. Our touching points had its impact with the help of leadership and will continue if the leadership preserves this focus.
- Documentation was one of the long arguments when we worked with teams. Most of the companies has a judgement about documentation when working Agile.The Manifesto for Agile Software Development values “working software over comprehensive documentation”. This core value asks us to think about how much and what kinds of documents are needed and when they need to be written.The best documentation is the simplest that gets the job done. We don’t need to create a five-page document when five bullet points will do. We need to document only enough to provide a useful context. To determine what is truly the minimum amount of documentation required in Zingat, we explored their intent to use a “Definition of Ready” document. Their needs are more explicit and actionable now that triggered a fresh new start for Agile teams to produce better outputs.
- The structure and organisation of Scrum events should be structured and has a rhythm so that culture starts to change with the help of more communication and collaboration.
Is everything perfect yet? No, of course they face challenges, ups and downs but this does not stop their efforts. Zingat is a company that has the consciousness of Agile values and has a spectacular vision to implement it at every aspect of company. By knowing that it is a journey they are eager and motivated to keep this continuous improvement spirit.
Quotes from Zingat Executives
«When I read the “Scrum Anti-patterns” article by Ebru Yalçınkaya, I realised that we actually have these anti-patterns on application of Scrum in the company, so I immediately contacted Ebru to see if we could work together. They have a very good background of agile and Scrum practices. Their approach on coaching was very smooth and thus fruitful. Very good team, highly recommended. Zingat is a very young and dynamic company that plays for the leadership in the industry. On top of strong product, technology and customer service we provide; being agile across the entire company help us quickly reach our goals. Working with agile42 helped to get one step closer to our goals.”»
– Chief Technology Officer, Mehmet Erkek
«I would like to thank agile42 Coaches for their decisive and relentless support during our agile journey. We manage to build a better way of working and smart process with your support.»
– Director of Product Management, Halil Uzundal