MeVis made the change sustainable with the help of agile42
In the wake of product quality challenges in 2009, MeVis decided to try out Scrum in one software team. For too long MeVis had prioritised features over quality in their medical imaging products, letting technical debt accumulate to the point of putting their customer satisfaction at risk. They now needed to try out new and radical solutions.
The Scrum experiment quickly generated positive results and the method was soon adopted by all teams. However, the transition didn’t move ahead quickly enough and it became clear that a more profound change was needed. MeVis needed a more structured approach.
In early 2010 the company went ahead and selected agile42 as their collaboration partner. Together the two companies used the agile42 Coaching Structure to identify goals and metrics for the MeVis agile transition. agile42 trained all engineers and product owners, helped people understand agility, coached the teams in the use of Scrum, and introduced test automation with Cucumber and R-spec. “agile42 gave us the confidence that we were on the right track,” explains Christian Beck, Agile Coach and ScrumMaster at MeVis.
After some organisational changes in the beginning of 2012 — in which MeVis received a second round of coaching by agile42 — the agility really started to take off. “Everything seemed to stabilise,” says Beck. “There was considerably less fire-fighting. Technical debt was reduced. The statistics went in the right direction. The morale increased, people had more fun and more confidence in their work.”
“At first, the strongest impact was on quality. Reducing technical debt was critical,” Beck explains. By pulling work off the backlogs instead of getting it pushed on them, the teams really have time to make high-quality code: “The number of bugs found per quarter has dropped to one third and we see that productivity has improved by 10 to 15% per year.”
Descriptive of the depth of the transition is that the product developers have changed their self-perception. Previously they saw themselves mainly as medical imaging specialists, now they feel that they are first and foremost software engineers. “We used to go only to medical conferences. Now we are visiting agile and software conferences and feel that we are at the front line. What they talk about there, we have been doing for a couple of years already,” says Beck with a smile.
“We have a strong scientific background and a culture of doing and figuring things out by ourselves. The decision to engage external coaches was very difficult,” says Beck. But in hindsight, it was the right decision. “Without agile42 I doubt that our department would have made any further progress towards agility, possibly the other way around,” Beck concludes. “agile42 gave us the foundation to make the change sustainable.”
MeVis Medical Solutions creates medical imaging software used in medical equipment for diagnosing cancer, such as X-ray and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners.
agile42 supports organisations in agile software development and agile transitions by training and coaching managers and employees in agile methods and agile leadership.