Posted by Marbenz Antonio on October 17, 2022
The Co-operative Group (Co-op) is a combination of many companies in the retail food, funeral, legal, and insurance industries. The Co-op, established in 1863, is owned by its members and is known as a leader in social and community projects. With more than 2,500 retail convenience outlets, Co-op is the largest funeral provider in the UK thanks to its Funeralcare business.
The business has been undergoing a digital transformation since 2016. A change to a more modern company model served as the motivating factor in this. For instance, by investigating the online possibilities of its membership scheme to enhance member interactions, modernize the offering, and expose the business to a customer that is representative of its members and communities.
This has added digital technology, goods, and services, notably in the online and e-commerce areas. Examples include online membership, digital offers, a mobile app, home food delivery, and other services. In an omnichannel environment, these services are at the forefront of enhancing and growing the Co-customer op’s experience.
The introduction of these products was supported by some departments, including engineering, IT operations, and governance. Different viewpoints on how to manage change were maintained by each team. As a result, this requires a novel strategy centered on shared outcomes and collaborative working.
In the area of customer technology, Sundeep Singh, a Lead Technology Service Owner, has been a leader in bringing new methods of operation. In addition to controlling risk and maintaining the security and dependability of operations, this entails combining service management with agility to provide change quickly.
His responsibility is to make sure that the technology utilized by Co-op customers and internal product teams continues to be dependable, useable, follows user needs, and adds value. Providing outcomes that are crucial to business usually entails bridging different practices, processes, and approaches. His group has served as a change agent and advocate for this new approach.
The teams at Co-op started by integrating speed and agility into the infrastructure of the company. They still have to work within the larger governance and institutions. Cloud-based services were used in the design and development of many innovative products and online services. In contrast to the on-premise technology that the Co-op was used to, this necessitated a different approach in terms of the skills, procedures, tools, systems, and general ways of working.
Therefore, how could the Co-product op’s teams manage the greater flow of change along with the higher risk as they designed, engineered, tested, and released new technological advancements on cloud-based platforms?
Agility and stability were put in conflict by the product teams’ methodology and the current risk and service management procedures. Sundeep explained: “The team needed to facilitate a greater volume of change, but at the same time not compromising service stability. However, the approach to change management at the time didn’t work.”
At first, the most of changes were managed using a standard service management strategy, in which a central change advisory board (CAB) met once a week. As a result, any new changes required a five-day lead time. As a result, it was more challenging to take advantage of new business opportunities or keep up with the rate of change demanded by customers.
This was initially intended for systems with infrequent updates using a more waterfall methodology, where the amount and type of the change could increase the risk to the service they provide. The constant delivery of modifications, in which changes are broken into smaller changes and frequently given in smaller batches rather than all at once, was not supported by this strategy.
For smaller, product-based modifications, The Co-teams op’s tested with a daily, local CAB where they represented the flow of changes on a Kanban board for service team approval. Despite a shorter lead time, the team quickly realized that the strategy was unsustainable with almost 50 changes every day. There was a growing backlog of tested and ready improvements that increased risk and led to additional service problems. As a result, there was less trust between the teams, more change than the operations team could handle, general frustration, and low morale.
The service teams became aware of the need to change their approach to change management and to be more in line with Agile and DevOps values as the development teams transitioned to the decoupled, microservices architecture, which is the current approach to designing and delivering complex software systems. The team’s strategy ultimately integrates ITIL 4, DevOps, and the Jira Service Management tool. Therefore, to integrate and manage the change pipeline, the development and operations teams may use the same platform.
The Co-business op’s goals are to increase the accessibility of digital goods, online channels, and services like mobile applications for its customers. Thus, the current working methods needed to change.
Enhancing change management and increasing the number of changes that may be done safely have been the objectives during the past few years. Added Sundeep: “ITIL 4 was used to achieve these goals by aligning service management and product teams, to create a simpler, leaner, and more valuable change management process.”
The Co-requirement ops for more frequent technological changes, as well as the deployment of efficient risk assessment and scheduling, allowed modifications, were linked with the move in ITIL from change management to change enablement.
The goal was to minimize any negative effects, please stakeholders, carry out the modifications in a timely and efficient manner, and adhere to all governance and compliance standards.
The teams working on digital products now employ an automated release system. Before going live, changes are ensured through a pipeline of development and test environments, occurring often but in smaller batch sizes and with lower risk.
Due to the fact that the entire process is automated, the team has been able to delegate change management tasks to the teams that would be affected by the change the most, including testing, scheduling, and conflict resolution. Sundeep explained: “This negates the need for CAB to be involved with every digital product change, so the first thing we did was to remove the daily CAB. Instead, it was scheduled only if necessary, as the people who authorize the changes are now part of team stand-ups where changes are discussed. So, they don’t come as a surprise which is a big step forwards in changing how we work. The decentralization of change management enabled our service team to provide value through an advisory role for changes that pose a greater risk, are high impact, or need further business visibility”.
The Co-op required an evolution that addressed culture, communication, and collaboration with people from different teams sharing the new vision. The department needed people who are flexible, open to change, and capable of handling uncertainty. This represented a new method of working and thinking.
As the Co-digital op’s transformation progressed, ITIL 4 was crucial from the standpoint of training and development. Using ITIL 4, teams and stakeholders were able to communicate, collaborate, and acknowledge the value of Agile, DevOps, and the importance of service management techniques.
Sundeep added: “the cultural change included treating risk as an opportunity to continuously improve and learn from failure, in other words, fail fast. For example, when changes are rolled back, they are done so quickly to minimize the impact on the customer. Accepting that major incidents and outages will happen, and instead focusing our efforts on promptly restoring service, required a mindset change. This would enable rather than prevent change and allow it to be implemented in smaller increments. Therefore, it would be easier and quicker to recover by rolling back to the last working configuration in the event of a problem.”
Compromise and trust have been important in promoting the cultural shift. Product teams increasingly have responsibility and accountability for the services they create and maintain. The support to solve issues is known to the service team. Product teams are aware that some changes might have to wait as a result. “It is typical for change to be constrained or restricted across enterprise organizations during business-critical periods,” Sundeep stated. Therefore, more caution is needed to prevent service stability from being compromised. Applying general “change freezes” might be harmful to an organization’s ability to respond to security concerns in the long run, however, given the increased security risks associated with modern digital services. When this happens, the approach to change necessitates a mental shift because implementing change in a more responsive, automated, and agile manner at these times can improve an organization’s standing in terms of the reliability of the services it provides.
The company’s service management procedures had reached a turning point. The team was attempting to rethink service management for an Agile and DevOps future, but there was nowhere to go because the best practices at the time had not changed. They only possessed outdated methods and other, more recent service management strategies, none of which could grow to the required enterprise level.
Sundeep explained: “then, ITIL 4 arrived; it virtually codified what the team was trying to do and provided it with an externally recognized reference. As ITIL 4’s best practice guidance reflects the challenges that other organizations are facing, it gave the team confidence that they were on the right path.”
Although some team members thought ITIL 4 was a change from earlier iterations of ITIL, they still supported it. Both the overall direction of service management and the operation of the larger technical teams were consistent with ITIL 4 and made sense.
Sundeep added: “rather than the process-driven approach of previous ITIL versions, ITIL 4 has instead allowed the team to consider value and outcomes. Along with the flexible and adaptable nature of ITIL 4, the team now performs tasks that make sense and bring value to the customer.”
Sundeep was the first employee of the Co-op to be certified in the more specialized ITIL 4 Managing Professional after obtaining a certificate in ITIL 4 Foundation and encouraged other employees to do the same.
Sundeep asserts that the introduction of high-velocity IT as a specialization in ITIL 4 Managing Professionals increased understanding and provided the foundation for digital transformation. Additionally, it had concepts from Agile, Lean, DevOps, and site reliability engineering that were new to ITIL, as well as ideas about culture, ethics, and people components.
Communication between the team and larger development teams improved because of ITIL 4’s shared language. It unlocked the potential for improved communication and mutual understanding between product teams.
All technology teams now have a need to comprehend, learn, and integrate ITIL 4. It has focus and is helping others in their own change processes.
Sundeep and his team began considering changes from several angles after adopting ITIL 4’s four dimensions of service management (organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, and value streams and procedures).
“You have to look at it holistically, because you cannot make improvements and changes without considering what has happened around these decisions, including the people and skills aspect,” Sundeep said.
“So, the four dimensions really bring things to life when you are having improvement conversations.”
The service team’s methodology now centers on the seven guiding principles of ITIL 4, which offer general suggestions for how businesses should achieve constant improvement.
“We tend to refer to the guiding principles in their day-to-day work when solving service management problems and implementing continuous improvement,” Sundeep said. “The customers are the product teams and the guiding principles have played a massive part in simplifying the service management approach with them.”
The guiding principles have been used in a variety of real-world situations, including:
Start where you are
The service team chose to implement a number of different systems that were already in use by different technological teams. For instance, it made use of the Kanban boards that the product development teams already used. This requires the service team to successfully integrate with the practices, cultures, and knowledge still in place.
Keep it simple and practical, with a focus on value
There were questions on the current request for change (RFC) form that was used for all different kinds of modification throughout an organization. However, it was better suited to changes where the risk profile varied, testing was mostly manual, or where the technical processes to accomplish the change varied greatly. This is not the same as the strategy for controlled, product-based, or routine change.
The form used to record and register modifications was examined by the service team, who also decided to make it more user-friendly by reducing the number of inputs. They also paid more attention to what was beneficial to everyone involved. For the digital product teams who were seeking the changes, the minimum feasible form and the introduction of standard updates streamlined the procedure and decreased time, effort, and cost. This made it possible for the service management team to focus more on value while immediately understanding requirements.
Collaborate and promote visibility
The team introduced self-service dashboards because service management required a way to work more closely with other teams. This increased the transparency of changes and gave everyone on the IT teams advance notice of impending changes, enabling them to plan for any potential problems. It thus eliminated us vs them culture and the silo mentality between the development and operations teams. Additionally, self-service dashboards made it possible for leadership to quickly and easily monitor technological advancements without having to seek a report. Due to the transparency of changes, which enables businesses to see advancement and play a more integrated role, has also assisted in removing boundaries between “business” and “IT.”
Think and work holistically
Any kind of change requires consideration of many stakeholder perspectives, including those of the audit and risk teams, as well as meeting their expectations when it is implemented in an agile development environment. It was important to consider other teams’ experiences as a whole and make sure they were satisfied with a certain strategy.
Optimize and automate
The service team discovered chances to optimize and automate processes by using tools and systems by examining the number of steps and time required to make technological improvements. To ensure complete integration and the ability to notify stakeholders of impending changes, the team integrated Jira Service Management for change registration and Slack messaging tools.
Change management became more effective as a result of effort and time reduction. Additionally, it has made it possible to automate workflows for approvals and further link the systems used by the development teams with the IT service management tools.
The service team has worked closely with its internal customers to collect feedback on what it needs to improve while still adhering to the guiding principle of starting where you are. For instance, this has involved building forms and notification routines in response to customer requirements and standardizing templates in the service management tool. This has made it possible to make minor changes and has made it possible for the team to be more open to client requests. The following steps involve advancing tool integration and creating APIs that can connect change management to other enterprise systems to further minimize the manual work required for registering changes.
The deployment time for production releases has been cut by 85% thanks to the Co-change op’s management procedure. This has increased the pace of software feature releases and doubled the number of deployments. Additionally, this has made it possible for service management to modify more quickly and effectively than before.
Our service management teams now have the freedom to implement the appropriate level of risk controls, to balance the effectiveness and throughput of changes, as well as the results of the ITIL 4 change enablement practice, thanks to the complexity-based approach to change. The amount of change has been increased and the costs associated with managing those changes have been reduced by increasing the use of pre-authorized standard changes for regular, low-risk, better-understood, and more predictable changes.
Smaller batch sizes and shorter change cycles have been encouraged by this new agile and adaptive change methodology. About 1800 changes were made in 2021, and 98.7% of them were successful. The lead time for most change approvals was cut from days to under 30 minutes. The Co-overall op’s change failure rate has decreased, and it has also gotten easier to recover from mistakes without sacrificing a change’s safety. Before a change can be delivered into a production environment, it must first pass testing using our continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/ CD) pipelines.
With additional teams embracing this new change process and change volumes already expected to surpass those of last year, the team has already seen improvements this year. It has been a positive evolution and a testimony to how the development and support teams currently function to move to a system where modifications are only brought to a central change advisory board under exceptional circumstances.
Feedback from product teams has been positive with comments such as “It’s great to see service management evolve to support this way of working: enabling engineering teams to release code faster whilst doing so safely, changing the perception of change management as a barrier and bringing teams closer together.” Sundeep said: the team has been able to create a culture of enabling change to suit the needs of all the teams at Co-op.”
The teams now operate more cooperatively and with more mutual understanding as a result of the usage of ITIL 4 to build trust and confidence.
Because of this, Co-op has been able to test, learn from, and deploy new product features more quickly as a business. For instance, the group has contributed significantly to the business’s digital mobile app, which sends customers offers for goods in grocery stores. The team succeeded in achieving this by launching a proof of concept and, depending on user feedback, turning it into a real service.
The business had to adapt quickly to change throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, thus this needed to be reflected in their websites and their services. The Co-op has additionally shown good governance and risk compliance.
To make everyone’s lives easier, the team will keep building on the foundations it has laid and use its expertise in ITIL 4. The team can do a lot more to investigate upcoming service difficulties because ITIL 4 includes a lot of knowledge that it has not yet applied. Sundeep thinks the team has only begun to scratch the surface.
However, the team’s reputation within the Co-op has improved as a result of the digital transformation and change management journey. As a result, other teams are turning to the team for suggestions, leadership, and assistance with the difficulties they are experiencing.
Sundeep said, “change does not happen overnight, but by seeing our team’s successes, other teams within the Co-op want to learn about what we have achieved and how they can apply this knowledge.”
The Co-lead op’s technology service owner is Sundeep Singh. He has over ten years of experience managing service-focused teams, offering technical support and consulting for ITSM systems, and putting in place business-driven service management procedures.
He is currently in charge of pushing the Coop’s online e-commerce business across food retail and Funeralcare to focus on modern service management. He is especially interested in the connections between DevOps, ITSM, Lean, and Agile.
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