Helping Barwon Water tap into the promise of agile

The situation

Barwon Water is a government owned statutory authority that has been responsible for managing the water supply to the city of Geelong in Victoria, and the surrounding districts for over 110 years.

But change is in the air — and water. Barwon Water is transforming from simply a functional utility provider to an enabler of regional prosperity through a diverse and high performing workforce, strategic partnerships, an entrepreneurial approach and a commitment to zero waste and zero emissions in their operations, driving innovation, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The challenge

According to Jane Tyzack, Manager Customer Experience, Barwon Water had already been active in the agile space to some degree through the adoption of some Lean and Design Thinking approaches across the broader business.

While the organisation was already applying some agile ceremonies such as daily stand-ups and agile concepts like using Kanban boards to visualise work, they were not working within a dedicated agile framework to solve customer problems.

Tasked with leading customer experience transformation, they knew the answer would be to build the team’s capabilities around a new way of working. The challenge was how best to approach that.

The decision was made to set up a pilot initiative working with a small business team to use agile ways of working to rapidly solve a customer problem and demonstrate the value of this to the broader business. The team identified a number of focus areas before deciding that as a business, their priority for this pilot would be to make it easier for customers to access their concession entitlements.

The process

Elabor8 began by running a discovery session in order to refine what the team had set out to achieve. This involved a process of co-design that considered the overall objectives, what the pilot could look like and how Elabor8 could best support the team role.

Jane noted that, “this session was really valuable. It was through this that we were able to refine our problem, co-design the program and select the right team members to be involved.”

After the initial workshop, Elabor8 focused on building the core team’s capability with training in agile, scrum and human centred design, tailored to their specific context. Next, the team applied this learning to break down their targeted opportunity into potential solution options, built a backlog around these, and prioritised items into a two-week sprint.

Elabor8 then worked with the team throughout the sprint, providing coaching around agile, design thinking and problem solving to ensure the pilot was able to deliver value from the very start.

“The real benefit of this on-the-job coaching is that we are now set up with applied learning, skills and expertise to be able to run this independently in the future,” commented Jane.

The results

While the pilot was only of a short duration, the team were successful in achieving the pilot goal of solving the longstanding problem of providing customers with easy access to eligible entitlements, which had been difficult to solve through traditional approaches.

But while the pilot was about delivering customer outcomes more quickly, it was also about finding a better way of working.

Jane says, “I expected we would achieve some great customer outcomes, and we did, but the other pleasing outcome was the difference that it made to the team. Having the opportunity to operate in this new way of working — in giving them the space in which to build customer-centric thinking — what that did from a morale and culture perspective exceeded our expectations.”

“It’s fair to say that going into it, some people were unsure of what to expect, but in the end, they became the biggest advocates. And as a business, the opportunity to take people who had never had the opportunity to be involved in a project like this, and giving them the space and time to work on something different – we couldn’t speak more highly about the results.”

Final thoughts

Jane observed that, “the whole project has been transformative for our organisation helping to build a solid basis of skill and capability within the project team. It’s had a lasting effect — not only have we realised major benefits for our customers but also have built the skills and capability of our staff who, having had their first experience with agile ways of working, want to do more.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *