It is more important than ever to be agile as an organization in order to be able to respond quickly to changes. Especially in the B2B market.
Agile working with methods such as Scrum, Lean and Kanban is therefore preferred over traditional project management. But how do you approach this way of working in an often traditional environment?
Watch the video below and see how a B2B digital commerce group discusses Agile and Scrum in the B2B organization. Herbert Pesch, director of B2B digital agency Evident and Roelof Swiers of Intershop are the joint hosts of the group. This time, the group has been invited to Evident. Evident is a digital agency that supports B2B organizations in their growth in an economic climate that is constantly changing due to digital developments.
Is Scrum or Waterfall better in B2B?
Scrum is used in all organizations represented in the expert group. How this works in practice, however, is different in each organization. For example, Technische Unie uses Waterfall and Scrum side by side. The method chosen depends on the project.
The same is the case with LindeGas. They use Waterfall for the backend and Scrum for developing the e-commerce environment. Zamro also works a lot with Scrum and uses Kanban for the front end. In short, the purpose and the circumstances determine which methodology will be used.
"We recently stopped an agile project because we were mainly working on the fancy add-ons."
However, it appears that Waterfall is mainly chosen for projects of which the outcome is predetermined and Scrum fits better with projects that are more explorative - and this is often the case in the world of digital commerce. For instance, in projects that follow an MVP approach (Minimum viable project), adjustment, flexibility and customer feedback are of great importance.
How can agile B2B teams prioritize their backlog?
Prioritizing is important in Agile working. But, Jules van der Werf (MS Schippers) says: "In many companies people don't take the value of priorities as serious as they say. Nanne Batelaan (The Stiho Group): "A Product Owner has to assign value to each story, but you have to avoid a race for the highest number of value points. Then you create an unworkable situation."
Krimo Maadi (Fluiconnecto) also agrees that Agile is not always the best option. "For an ERP implementation, people are more inclined to work with Waterfall. I think that Scrum can also work for an ERP project if you apply the principles of it correctly. We recently stopped a project because we were mainly working on the fancy add-ons." In that case, the backlog was not properly prioritized on business value and risk!
What is the role of the Product Owner in agile B2B teams?
With the Scrum method, the Product Owner determines which items are on the backlog and prioritizes them. In doing so, he or she represents the interests of all stakeholders.
Eric Croon (Zamro) gives an example of how it did not work: "We had individual Product Owners for different subprojects. They ran into interdependencies, and this did not work. That is why we now have a steering group that meets weekly to coordinate and remove bottlenecks."
LindeGas also has a steering committee that makes occasional adjustments. Marco van Dorp: "Our Product Owner has a global hat on. If regions want a certain user story, they can get it based on budget. In fact, they buy their stories from us."
Nanne Batelaan (The Stiho Group) adds that although a mandate is important for setting priorities, keeping a critical eye on what you do remains essential. "The stakeholders only see the effect of what has been built when it is actually available. Sometimes the technical solution is too mature and could have been simpler. This is solved by defining your user stories well in advance.”
Does Scrum work for remote B2B e-commerce teams?
More than half of the organizations in the group operate internationally. This means that many colleagues work remotely. How do they make Scrum work properly?
5 tips to improve working with Scrum in a remote setting
- Make sure that everyone has access to all documentation, for example via SharePoint.
- Keep communication accessible, for example by literally giving people a face because the camera is always on.
- Respect cultural differences, such as lunchtimes or manners.
- Make sure that you meet in person regularly for the retrospective, this is more efficient.
- Make sure that the Scrum Master gets to know the team members personally, even when the overall setting is remote.
Do you need C-level support when starting to work agile in B2B?
Every organization is different, but often the management has to be convinced of the benefits of Scrum. The C-level often associates Waterfall with control.
"Scrum may offer a little less control over planning but the more control over productivity, quality and business value and that is actually what C-level should be looking for"
According to Krimo Maadi (Fluiconnecto), "we could show in practice why Scrum was the best methodology for us: At some point a number of stores had to be closed and we decided to speed up the switch to e-commerce for these customers. We were able to change our priorities almost on the fly because the business value shifted, and so we realized the project within two weeks. In this way we demonstrated the value of agile working.”
15 tips: How to make Agile & Scrum work in B2B
When it comes to working with Agile or Scrum, the group has tips in three areas: people, organization and process.
- A good Product Owner has an absolute mandate and is close to the business.
- Invest in personal relationships and a safe environment, for both benefit efficiency.
- Make sure that the Scrum team is not too large, that the team members feel responsible and use a joint method.
- Make sure you have a good Scrum Master and put an Agile project manager next to the Product Owner.
- If possible, work together in one room, or use video conferencing when working remotely.
- Make sure the stakeholders have knowledge of Agile working or the Scrum method and send all team members on a respective training.
- Communicate proactively.
- Make sure that the entire organization follows the Scrum idea.
- Involve the bigger picture in the retrospective (Mountaineering Retrospective)
- If a sub-project goes live, then that is a great marketing moment. This way you also keep the organization involved.
- Be aware of the impact that tests have on your process and pay attention to demos.
- Break up the project into small pieces and remember to document each step. Combine your partial planning with an environmental planning.
- Refinement is important, because the quality of stories is essential. Name the key Epics.
- Use estimates also to determine whether functionality should be developed and be aware: measuring is knowing.
- The retrospective is sacred.
And last but not least: celebrate your successes!