From Spider Webs to Squads: How is Professional Services changing at ANS?


ANS culture, DevOps, Professional Services

We have a pretty traditional PS team at ANS with a lot of talented, knowledgeable and highly-skilled people. In fact, they’re so amazing, that everyone wants each other’s time and skills on their project to give our customers the best possible experience. At 54 members strong and growing, we are always looking for innovative ways to evolve our culture and collaboration processes.

Our PS team is made up of technical teams grouped together by skill set, but they rarely work together as their skills are needed right across the project portfolio, so it has become an intricate, complex web of changing priorities. Some of the team, especially our technical consultants and architects, found themselves entangled in a network of different commitments with various parts of their time divided between different projects.

As ANS grows and we take on bigger and more complex projects, we found that the practices of a more traditional structure were hindering productivity and efficiency. And with around 300 projects on the go at any one time, it’s safe to say we are busy bees.

In 2017, we acquired Webantic, an expert in innovative digital transformation and cloud application development. The team from Webantic, who later became our Application Development team, brought with them a more agile approach to delivering projects.

This is something we had been considering before, and once they established their place in the wider ANS team, it confirmed to us that was the way to go. Very soon, we saw the benefits of introducing a more agile and fast pace approach into the team.

Culture is ubiquitous, but we have all the power to change it if we want to. Sure, rules are good, but it never hurts to refresh them when they’re starting to look a little dated. So, I started doing some research to find out who else is leading the way in innovative project management.

I took some inspiration from a music streaming company, Spotify, who had themselves taken inspiration from Scrum methodology, an agile framework for managing knowledge work. What we like about the Spotify process is that they have taken the aspects of Scrum that work for them and adapted it into a way that works for our professional services team too.

At Spotify, teams are split into ‘squads’ which are small, cross-functional, self-organising teams that have autonomy over one area in a company. They have end-to-end responsibility of their project/area with a long-term mission for their product as well as short term goals. They decide what, how and when to build their product.

These autonomous squads have the ability to adapt to the needs of the moment, nothing is set in stone. For ANS, that means our squads can realign themselves to any one of the projects in their portfolio based on customer requirements and priorities.

Loosely taking on this structure of agile practices, our ANS Squads will consist of approximately 5 members, all with their own area of expertise that is vital to the functionality of the squad. Each squad will have their own portfolio of projects that they need to collaboratively deliver. They will have the autonomy to decide what takes priority within the portfolio and to easily switch between projects to do what is right for our customers, rather than having to wait for the next available consultancy day in our existing schedule.

The key benefit of this restructure is that we are able to untangle the web of time dividing by allowing our squads to decide when and where their time and skills should be assigned within their portfolio of projects. Not only that, everyone will have a deeper understanding of the projects in-hand, fuelled by communication and collaboration.

There are so many other advantages to this change that we are almost certain will bring heaps of benefits to not only ANS, but also to our customers.

By incorporating a more agile style of project management into the team, we can work more closely with our customers to ensure we give them exactly what they are looking for in a more on-demand setting. With more concentrated teams and more autonomy, we can save time and money for both ANS and our customers.

As we started to consider the restructure, we realised that our Readiness Assessment team already functions as its own squad. They are a team of enterprise architects and project managers that are solely dedicated to our readiness assessments which are highly successful. For every 10 readiness assessments that we complete for a customer, 8 of those choose us to guide them on their digital transformation journey, so I would say our team is doing a sterling job so far.

We are expecting the bigger, more complex projects to potentially have an element of development in them which is why this restructure leaves ANS well positioned to lead the way in innovative project delivery. This will allow us to manage the ongoing long-term projects together with the continuous integration and delivery which is ingrained in the DevOps era we are entering.

We are not moving completely away from traditional PS, but rather we are taking the best parts of an agile approach, for ANS this is the structure, and combining them with a methodology that suits the customer. This way, we will deliver projects even better than before.

Thanks, Spotify, for the inspiration! Now it’s up to the team and I to restructure PS at ANS to help us deliver digital transformational projects even better than we’ve ever done before. Wish us luck!

Professional Services isn’t the only team that is evolving at ANS, read one of our latest blog to find out how our innovative Managed Services Team is building a DevOps culture.

Posted by Rachel Wood