Vodafone New Zealand (NZ), previously part of the Vodafone Group is a telecommunications provider servicing the mobile and internet needs of over 2.5 million customers. Following the 2019 split from the broader Vodafone Group, the company was intent on achieving major changes to their funding, operations, and delivery systems. It was around this time that Andrew Haddad took over the role of Chief Information Officer, bringing a clear vision for driving operational performance and enhancing the customer experience.
To deliver on this goal, Andrew saw the need to transform Vodafone’s existing waterfall processes into an agile model. “In order to attract talented staff, we wanted to be working in modern ways with modern technologies, and that meant introducing an agile culture and practices,” he said.
While agile ways of working already existed at Vodafone NZ, they were focused solely on developing a roadmap and planning. Andrew knew he needed the right support to create true organisational agility but wanted a partner who had experience at scale. That’s when he turned to Elabor8.
“I’d already worked with Elabor8 in Australia and seen the benefits of improving broken processes,” Andrew explained. “With Elabor8, you have good people, flexibility, and you know what you’re getting.”
Andrew was looking for a model that would avoid a restructure of the IT department but to enable them to work closely with business teams. Over the years Vodafone had acquired several smaller telcos, resulting in a level of duplication and complexity across IT platforms. “In lieu of having clear and consistent processes, teams were coming up with their own versions, which impacted efficiency or quality in the way we were working,” Andrew said.
However, beyond this, the single greatest challenge was the lack of visibility for the IT team. Without end-to-end transparency over all work happening across the business, it was impossible to streamline IT processes.
“To solve the issue of prioritisation, we need a sustainable delivery model that not only helps us deliver things in the right way but ensures we’re working on the right things at the right time,” Andrew said.
Because Vodafone NZ had previously attempted to implement an agile operating model on multiple occasions with limited success, this presented an additional challenge in terms of receiving the necessary buy-in across the business.
In early 2021, Elabor8 completed an initial design of the new operating model. But with such a significant decision to be made, Vodafone NZ had to undergo an intensive internal business case process and an external review before they were ready to proceed. In April 2022 – almost a year later – Andrew reengaged Elabor8 into the process.
Elabor8 seeded the program with a cohort of Australian consultants who had a proven track record in organisational transformation and business agility, supplemented with skilled local consultants to create a blended team.
The project team articulated clear design principles, based on the specific business problems that Andrew had identified. They then produced an interactive playbook outlining workflow, key roles and responsibilities, and structure.
Elabor8 took an iterative approach to re-designing the operating model – leveraging learnings from their original design and the knowledge the team had acquired about the business, systems and operating constraints. At the same time, they documented processes that could be mapped across the organisation, so the model could be scalable.
The operating model was co-designed by Elabor8 specialists with input from around 25 Vodafone NZ staff from across the business and IT divisions.
“Elabor8 were here from the very beginning helping us design the model,” Andrew said. “It’s important to have both sides of the coin pushing and pulling – how we do things here versus how we should be doing them – to make sure we landed in the right place.”
Beyond ensuring the model was right, Elabor8 played a key role in leading the transformation. Throughout this journey, the team offered embedded support with eight full-time coaches working at Vodafone NZ.
Mahi Tahi in Māori means ‘working together as one’. The Mahi Tahi approach that Vodafone NZ followed was designed around the core principle of creating a consistent and sustainable delivery model by embedding IT into individual business units. Andrew said, “The framework creates a level of alignment across tribes, so they can deliver end to end and prioritise cross organisation.”
The model also provides clear metrics for users to track their tasks and work status and promotes cross functional squads where each person has a clear role and can work together with a shared purpose. In June 2022, the project team launched the new model to two tribes with a big room planning session led by Elabor8.
“There is no off-the-shelf model that you can simply take and apply – it always requires some refinement and modification,” Andrew explained. “When you take an organisation on that journey, the organisation itself is learning, so it’s important to have flexibility along the way.”
Under Andrew’s leadership, Mahi Tahi has empowered people at Vodafone NZ to take ownership of the services and platforms they provide and recognise the value they give back to customers.
Staff engagement has measurably improved among the tribes that have adopted the new model, leaping to an NPS score of positive 50.
“People have been glowing in their praise of Mahi Tahi,” Andrew said. “Surveys have shown that staff have lapped it up and continue to do so.”
Once the team had proven results among the initial tribes, they were able to start rolling out across the business. Vodafone NZ has since launched the model into three additional tribes, with more to come in an iterative staged rollout.
What’s more, through their engagement with Elabor8 and the transition of the agile rollout to the local team, Vodafone NZ has successfully created an agile transformation capability in New Zealand.
Thanks to their partnership with Elabor8, Vodafone NZ is starting to reap the benefits of an agile framework. Three Elabor8 coaches have remained in the company to train staff and ensure a smooth handover in 2023.
With Mahi Tahi’s demonstrated success, Andrew is now focused on transforming the way the entire company works to make even greater efficiency gains. “We’re clear that if you want to do Mahi Tahi, you need to adopt the whole model. Word of Mahi Tahi has now spread to the extent that other parts of the business are reaching for it. The model is selling itself.”