Index

SURVEYING THE DATA LANDSCAPE IN 2021

In the past, data wasn’t necessarily important to every person within a company. It was used primarily by analysts, accountants, and other specialists.

But in 2021, companies are learning that becoming a data-driven organization means incorporating data into every aspect of their business — from talent management to customer engagement and beyond — and continuously optimizing how they use data with new innovations and process improvements.

What does being data driven look like in action? Here’s an example: a west coast retail automotive company employing over 7,000 people across 9 states came to us with the goal of implementing a mixture of data science and machine learning to identify, implement, and improve safety, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and profit margin. The client asked us to work with multiple teams within manufacturing, HR, marketing, and technology innovation to build out the desired capability.

To help this company reach their goals, we provided high-level strategic insight for new initiatives, built out proof of concepts, made recommendations for innovative methodologies, designed machine learning algorithms, helped them redefine company-wide KPIs, and trained their staff on new processes.

As a result, executives are better able to make key strategic decisions and further company goals based on data-driven insights, and the entire organization’s data literacy has improved.

A shifting mindset

A few years ago, the goal for many companies was “fixing” their data processes (a reactive way of looking at data management), with a focus that was often confined to specific departments. In 2021, most organizations are approaching data management differently. They’re aiming to be far more proactive — and to stay competitive, they have to be.

It’s less about simply “cleaning up” messy data, and more about creating meaningful, long-lasting, company-wide change that will continue to drive value and inform decision making in the future. In other words, it’s all about becoming data driven across the board.

Here’s an infographic that breaks down this change in mindset and some common challenges that are forcing companies to rethink the way they approach data:

Approaching data reactively and in silos is the way of the past. To keep up with the intense pace of change, constant innovation, and evolving customer expectations in 2021, a proactive, holistic, organization-wide strategy is required.

This change is positive on multiple levels. It’s not just good for staying competitive — it’s also a way to ensure that each of the common challenges described above (talent optimization, business insights, technical debt, etc.) get addressed so you can reap the benefits of becoming a data-driven organization.

That said, embarking on a large data transformation project can sometimes feel impossible, especially if you can’t promise ROI until months (or years) down the road. At The Gunter Group, we believe in taking a different, more iterative approach that enables organizations to realize immediate value while still keeping their larger goals — and the overall data landscape — in mind.

Ready to reframe the way your organization thinks about data? Talk to the experts at The Gunter Group.

What is tech debt?

Technical debt is often defined as the cost incurred when you repeatedly choose short-term solutions rather than doing the (larger, more expensive) work of tackling the big-picture causes of your problems.

But let’s look at the issue through a different lens: what is the nature of technical debt?

Because new solutions are built and deployed every day, all organizations incur tech debt, to some degree, with every system and process implementation decision they make. Even if you implement a new, innovative solution today, there will be a better one available tomorrow. In this scenario, you will still incur tech debt — just less than an organization that makes no updates.

Too many organizations think of tech debt as a problem that can be permanently solved. In reality, it’s a constant that’s renewed continuously by change and growth, and trying to “solve” it completely is a futile pursuit.

While you can’t make tech debt vanish into thin air, you can certainly make it more manageable. If you focus on managing its impacts in an ongoing way, you can deflate its looming, monstrous reputation and get to work on making meaningful improvements in the here and now.

Is tech debt destroying your data-driven dreams?

Analytics bottlenecks are a common issue related to tech debt. Silos slow down the analytics process; if only one person knows where a spreadsheet is and how to extract meaningful data from it, they become the bottleneck.

With each short-term fix and siloed process, data becomes harder to manage, access, and analyze. In turn, drawing insights from that data requires more time and effort, the insights become less timely and less reliable, and informed decision making becomes more challenging.

In other words, tech debt has a way of draining value from data — and the longer you let that debt accrue, the more value you’re losing. Using a prioritized approach to managing tech debt can help you cover more ground right out of the gate, so you don’t lose any more value than you have to.

One way to apply this prioritized approach is with backlog grooming, the periodic process of reviewing and prioritizing backlog tasks (and removing unnecessary or outdated tasks).

How do you prioritize what areas to address?

There is a lot of information available on how to tackle tech debt. Unfortunately, most of it is theoretical. While the abstract stuff can be valuable, if you’re looking for a practical way forward, you need to bring your considerations back down to earth and fold in the business perspective to create a technical debt prioritization plan.

You probably have a lot of tools at your disposal, internally and externally, and resources to leverage. Take a look at what you need to have happen — not theoretically (e.g. eliminating all technical debt by some point in the future) — but actually.

For example, The Gunter Group recently worked with a retail automotive company that was struggling with data debt. It was impacting every area of their business, including employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and profit margin. They needed a new approach, but with such a vast problem, it was difficult for them to know where to start.

We worked with multiple teams within the company, including manufacturing, HR, marketing, and technology innovation to create a prioritization plan. High priority initiatives included redefining company-wide KPIs, designing and implementing machine learning algorithms, and improving data literacy across departments.

Though they still have a long way to go on their data maturity journey, this company was able to start making changes where it mattered most, rather than remaining paralyzed by the challenge ahead.

How we work with clients to tackle tech debt

Remediating data-related tech debt requires far more than just technical skills — it requires asking the right questions, gaining a holistic understanding of your organization’s business goals (as well as how they may vary across different departments), and creating a dialogue to explore possible solutions.

Each of these components requires a tremendous amount of time, which internal teams rarely have. In most cases, managing ongoing operational struggles takes priority over transformation, and team members don’t have the capacity to focus all their energy on addressing tech debt. Meanwhile, recruiting new team members is a time-consuming, resource-intensive process, and thanks to the tech talent shortage, it’s more challenging than ever.

Turning to outside help can get the data transformation ball rolling without overwhelming internal teams or opening a can of recruitment worms.

At The Gunter Group, we leverage a multidisciplinary approach (technology, people, strategy, and execution) that enables us to see the long-term big picture while solving the highest-priority problems in the short term.

Combined with our extensive technical capabilities, this approach allows our clients to chip away at their technical debt and reclaim the value of their data as quickly as possible — without the burden of hiring a new team.

Conclusion

Think about a meaningful, specific problem you’re facing right now that’s rooted in technical debt, and what you would be able to accomplish if this problem was being managed proactively.

If you set your sights on eliminating tech debt across your entire organization, you’ll likely get caught up in a complex tangle of issues — and that one major problem that’s holding you back now will still be holding you back in six months.

To accelerate your progress, identify your most pressing issues, and reach out to expert help if you need it. With the right strategy and the right partner, you can mitigate tech debt and use your data to its fullest potential.

Is technical debt slowing you down? Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making with workshops hosted by The Gunter Group.

DON’T LET TECH DEBT STAND IN THE WAY OF DATA-DRIVEN INSIGHT

Technical debt can put organizations in a headlock, both in the short and long term. Almost nothing casts a bigger, scarier shadow for decision makers — the perception of the time and cost necessary to overcome tech debt looms large, keeping entire companies frozen in fear.

This burden makes it difficult to efficiently extract insights from data. It’s a recipe for stifled growth.

We’re here with a message of hope: you don’t have to dive into a resource-intensive, five-year transformation project in order to manage your technical debt and realize your data potential. You have other options, and it all comes down to prioritization.

What is tech debt?

Technical debt is often defined as the cost incurred when you repeatedly choose short-term solutions rather than doing the (larger, more expensive) work of tackling the big-picture causes of your problems.

But let’s look at the issue through a different lens: what is the nature of technical debt?

Because new solutions are built and deployed every day, all organizations incur tech debt, to some degree, with every system and process implementation decision they make. Even if you implement a new, innovative solution today, there will be a better one available tomorrow. In this scenario, you will still incur tech debt — just less than an organization that makes no updates.

Too many organizations think of tech debt as a problem that can be permanently solved. In reality, it’s a constant that’s renewed continuously by change and growth, and trying to “solve” it completely is a futile pursuit.

While you can’t make tech debt vanish into thin air, you can certainly make it more manageable. If you focus on managing its impacts in an ongoing way, you can deflate its looming, monstrous reputation and get to work on making meaningful improvements in the here and now.

Is tech debt destroying your data-driven dreams?

Analytics bottlenecks are a common issue related to tech debt. Silos slow down the analytics process; if only one person knows where a spreadsheet is and how to extract meaningful data from it, they become the bottleneck.

With each short-term fix and siloed process, data becomes harder to manage, access, and analyze. In turn, drawing insights from that data requires more time and effort, the insights become less timely and less reliable, and informed decision making becomes more challenging.

In other words, tech debt has a way of draining value from data — and the longer you let that debt accrue, the more value you’re losing. Using a prioritized approach to managing tech debt can help you cover more ground right out of the gate, so you don’t lose any more value than you have to.

One way to apply this prioritized approach is with backlog grooming, the periodic process of reviewing and prioritizing backlog tasks (and removing unnecessary or outdated tasks).

How do you prioritize what areas to address?

There is a lot of information available on how to tackle tech debt. Unfortunately, most of it is theoretical. While the abstract stuff can be valuable, if you’re looking for a practical way forward, you need to bring your considerations back down to earth and fold in the business perspective to create a technical debt prioritization plan.

You probably have a lot of tools at your disposal, internally and externally, and resources to leverage. Take a look at what you need to have happen — not theoretically (e.g. eliminating all technical debt by some point in the future) — but actually.

For example, The Gunter Group recently worked with a retail automotive company that was struggling with data debt. It was impacting every area of their business, including employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and profit margin. They needed a new approach, but with such a vast problem, it was difficult for them to know where to start.

We worked with multiple teams within the company, including manufacturing, HR, marketing, and technology innovation to create a prioritization plan. High priority initiatives included redefining company-wide KPIs, designing and implementing machine learning algorithms, and improving data literacy across departments.

Though they still have a long way to go on their data maturity journey, this company was able to start making changes where it mattered most, rather than remaining paralyzed by the challenge ahead.

How we work with clients to tackle tech debt

Remediating data-related tech debt requires far more than just technical skills — it requires asking the right questions, gaining a holistic understanding of your organization’s business goals (as well as how they may vary across different departments), and creating a dialogue to explore possible solutions.

Each of these components requires a tremendous amount of time, which internal teams rarely have. In most cases, managing ongoing operational struggles takes priority over transformation, and team members don’t have the capacity to focus all their energy on addressing tech debt. Meanwhile, recruiting new team members is a time-consuming, resource-intensive process, and thanks to the tech talent shortage, it’s more challenging than ever.

Turning to outside help can get the data transformation ball rolling without overwhelming internal teams or opening a can of recruitment worms.

At The Gunter Group, we leverage a multidisciplinary approach (technology, people, strategy, and execution) that enables us to see the long-term big picture while solving the highest-priority problems in the short term.

Combined with our extensive technical capabilities, this approach allows our clients to chip away at their technical debt and reclaim the value of their data as quickly as possible — without the burden of hiring a new team.

Conclusion

Think about a meaningful, specific problem you’re facing right now that’s rooted in technical debt, and what you would be able to accomplish if this problem was being managed proactively.

If you set your sights on eliminating tech debt across your entire organization, you’ll likely get caught up in a complex tangle of issues — and that one major problem that’s holding you back now will still be holding you back in six months.

To accelerate your progress, identify your most pressing issues, and reach out to expert help if you need it. With the right strategy and the right partner, you can mitigate tech debt and use your data to its fullest potential.

Is technical debt slowing you down? Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making with workshops hosted by The Gunter Group.

WHY ISN’T YOUR DATA TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM TRANSFORMING ANYTHING?

It’s a familiar tale — you’ve embarked on a journey to transform the way your company uses data, but all you have to show for it is a lot of very ambitious documentation and hundreds of progress update meetings where time feels like it’s standing still.

Why isn’t your in-progress data transformation program producing tangible results? Here are three common reasons why your efforts might be failing to deliver:

1. Your approach isn’t incremental.

We recently wrote about data maturity models and how they can actually hinder data transformation if you don’t apply them correctly. To summarize, organizations tend to focus too much on the brass ring (reaching some proverbial data maturity nirvana) and not enough on the details (getting more value from data along the way).

Often, the goal is a total overhaul of how data is used from the top to bottom of the business, delivering unimaginable value to everyone, everywhere — an ambitious transformation that will take years to achieve. Even if you’ve had a few updates and helpful process changes along the way, most of the value remains locked behind the “project completion” door.

What does that mean for those who are trying to get some incremental improvement and use data more effectively in the near term? It means they have to just sit tight and wait for the big reveal — otherwise, they’ll be doing work that’s not aligned with the broader strategy.

It’s important to consider the folks in your organization who use data to complete everyday tasks, and how you can make their jobs easier, not harder, during the data transformation process.

2. Technical debt is handcuffing you.

Individual innovation can be a huge asset for an organization. You want people to take initiative, solve problems, and make it happen. But when it comes to managing data, all that individual problem solving can add up to huge technical debt, and make organization-wide data transformation efforts feel insurmountable.

When everyone has their own unique, siloed quick fixes and band-aid solutions, there’s no more unifying structure left to transform — so where do you even start? Think of the chaos you’d unleash by pulling at even one loose thread; mission-critical systems that were crudely patched together would come tumbling down.

As an additional challenge, there will always be responsibilities and processes that can’t be switched off while things are fine tuned. For example, if you’re using your existing data systems to calculate monthly commissions, that presents a huge barrier to making any meaningful changes — you can’t stop paying out commissions until changes are implemented, and it would be risky to just cross your fingers and hope that brand new systems produce accurate results in time for you to cut checks.

Getting out from under technical debt isn’t impossible — it just requires a lot of effort. It’s also infinitely easier to achieve with the right combination of planning, skill, and resources, which is why many companies partner with firms that specialize in tackling technical debt.

It’s also important to remember that tech debt isn’t something you can escape completely, but a challenge that needs to be continually addressed. Good solution design assumes that today’s new solution is tomorrow’s tech debt, everything is eventually deprecated, and all solutions incur maintenance and upkeep. Finding the balance between standardization and innovation is important, as too much of either can be stifling.

3. You don’t have the right people.

Pulling off a successful data transformation project takes a lot of skill sets (strategic planning, project management, change management, ETL development, data science, etc.), and it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to find a single person who can do them all well. It’s also unrealistic to expect your current staff to sustain day-to-day operations and magically find the time to make changes. In 99% of cases, you’ll need outside help.

Trying to build an in-house team is difficult, especially in the midst of a data analytics talent shortage. Planning and recruiting for a team can take anywhere from six months to a year, plus the time it takes to get everyone up and running. If your organizational culture (or even just a particular decision maker) is change-resistant, this process can take even longer — and feel like pulling teeth.

Technical leaders often have to spend a large amount of time jockeying for resources and pitching projects. You may have to argue and advocate for three months to hire one person that was needed to solve a problem three months ago. By the time you get a decision, you’re going through the same cycle with a different problem.

It’s easy to see how years can go by with little to no progress.

This is another situation where it can be helpful to work with a data transformation partner, which gives you access to highly skilled, experienced people, without the pressure or long timeline of trying to build an in-house team.

Conclusion

Our general advice for data transformation can be summed up in two words: don’t wait. Every day you remain stalled out, you acquire more technical debt, and your problems get more complex. You lose more business, you gain less on your competition, and your company loses value.

If you need to see real outcomes from a data transformation project, focus on incremental improvements, and find a partner who can help you overcome the challenges we’ve outlined here.

Above all, remember that data transformation isn’t a “project” that begins and ends. It’s a decision to become a data-oriented organization — and it takes continuous effort and agility.

Not seeing results from your data transformation initiatives? Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making with workshops hosted by The Gunter Group.

A QUICK AND DIRTY GUIDE TO DATA MATURITY

You’re probably familiar with the concept of data maturity — a measurement of how well an organization uses its data — and the maturity models that go along with it.

Understanding your current level of data maturity is the first step towards improving it. But the way you interpret and apply data maturity models might actually be hindering your success.

It’s tempting to look at a maturity model as a straightforward tiered system — your organization exists in one category, and your goal is to move up to the most mature category. But particularly for larger organizations, things aren’t so clear-cut. It’s common for different departments or business units to be at different maturity levels. Additionally, too many organizations get caught up in the long-term goal of data maturity, and miss out on opportunities to create value at every maturity level.

In this article, we’ll go over the four categories we use to assess data maturity, give examples of challenges that arise in each category, and offer recommendations for driving more value at that level.

Before we get started, here’s a summary of each category for context:

Note: As you consider where you fall, it’s important to be realistic — think about where you are right now, not where you hope to be after completing a particular project. It’s also helpful to remember that it’s rare for an entire organization to exist within a single category. In most cases, different departments and teams will have different maturity levels.

Siloed

What it looks like:
Point-in-time data is manually exported from various applications and pulled into spreadsheets on an ad hoc basis. Team members compile and analyze data in their own individual workspaces (e.g. a spreadsheet only you have access to, or a platform that’s only used by one particular team).

Finding data requires some exploration — team members are not always sure where to look or who to ask for the data they need. They often end up emailing or asking around until they find someone who has what they’re looking for.

Example of a challenge:
You’re planning to hire people for a new team, and want to use a data-driven recruiting approach. You need access to key data about past recruiting efforts, like cost per hire, time to fill, recruiting yield ratios, and first-year attrition, so you send an email to HR requesting the information. HR then needs to take the time to locate and compile the data into a spreadsheet and send it to you.

Because you don’t have immediate access to the data you need, the recruiting process is already slowed down, and it will take longer to get your new team filled.

How to drive more value:
The importance of business process management can’t be overstated. For a process that will undoubtedly need to be repeated in the future (like looking at recruiting data), it’s important to start out with a deep, thorough understanding of the process itself. The first step to creating a repeatable environment is understanding what you want to repeat and why — then you can work on implementing more efficient processes.

Standardized

What it looks like:
Your organization has standard, scheduled operational reporting. You don’t have to go on an expedition every time you need data, because you know that you can find it in the most recent report (however, you’re still manually pulling data from that report). Even if you’re creating useful insights, they tend to stay with you — they’re not shared with other teams or business units.

Example of a challenge:
Each week, everyone in your department receives an email with an automated report that covers POS data. Most of the time, you don’t find anything in the report that’s actionable for you, so you sometimes don’t even open it.

When you do read it, you have to comb through tons of data to find anything relevant and manually extract it, which is time consuming and inefficient. You complete analyses that are important to you within your own workspace, and the results aren’t usually shared outside of your immediate department.

How to drive more value:
Once you know where to find your data, determine what makes it actionable and relevant — and who needs to see it. As a starting point, ask yourself the following questions:

Enterprised

What it looks like:
When a particular threshold that’s relevant to your job is met, you automatically receive the relevant information. Rather than getting a standardized report that may or may not contain information you care about, you get notified only when there is data pertinent to a decision you need to make or action you need to take — whether that data is related to a budget milestone, warehouse stock, page views, or something else.

Sources of data are aggregated, so when you need insights, you don’t have to manually combine and analyze data. However, the reporting is still fundamentally historical, and often comes too late to help you make informed decisions.

Example of a challenge:
You’re responsible for mapping out an upcoming seasonal campaign, and need sales data to inform your plan. Each week, you receive an automatic report containing data that helps you shape the campaign, but you have no way of looking forward in time — you’re stuck with a decision-making process that is reactive, not proactive.

How to drive more value:
With the right timing, data can be leveraged to achieve better outcomes (and predict possible future outcomes). Don’t just think about what data you need and where to find it — think about when it will have the biggest impact on decision making, and how it can help you course correct before things get off track.

Actualized

What it looks like:
Your data is set up to model and predict future outcomes, perhaps using AI tools like predictive analytics and decision algorithms. Analysts and data scientists are an integral part of the business vision, and insights are created by the company (not requested by specific business leaders).

For many companies in this realm, the data model is inextricably linked with the product or service they provide. For example, platforms like Netflix and Spotify are rooted in predictive data analytics and the ability to make personalized recommendations to customers.

Very few companies reach this level of data maturity — and the reality is, not every company needs to. It takes continuous investment to maintain an Actualized data system, and depending on the products and/or services you provide, it might not deliver enough ROI to justify spending the resources and effort.

Example of a challenge:
Your organization is experiencing a slight decrease in customer retention. You already have access to real-time data and analytics that help you understand the problem, but you want to leverage that data in new ways in order to make more informed decisions.

How to drive more value:
Being an Actualized organization doesn’t mean you’ve crossed the data maturity finish line — in fact, there is no finish line.

Only the most advanced companies make it to this level, which means competition is stiff. And considering the incredibly fast pace of data technology, companies that don’t continuously innovate will be left behind.

At this stage, optimization is key. Consider how data can better drive decisions and open up new opportunities for your organization. In the case of the challenge above, building new algorithms for churn models could help guide decision making and reveal more actionable data.

Conclusion

Identifying your current data maturity level and setting goals for improvement is all well and good, but without taking steps to get more value from your data at your current level, your long-term progress may stall out.

Rather than thinking of data maturity models as rigid paths with set destinations, use them as way finding tools. Once you understand where you are, you can move forward — no matter what “forward” looks like for your organization.

Regardless of your maturity level, we can help you get more value from your data. Discover how to improve your data infrastructure and decision making with workshops hosted by The Gunter Group.

TECHNOLOGY PRACTICE Q&A WITH MATT JAMISON

At The Gunter Group we categorize our work into four practice areas: Technology, Execution, People, and Strategy, with client engagements often stretching across multiple service categories.

Our Technology Practice focuses on understanding clients’ technology needs and challenges, and crafting pragmatic action plans.

In this Q&A we explore our Technology Practice in greater detail with Matt Jamison, Principal Consultant and Technology Practice Service Leader.

Tell us a little bit about the nature of work TGG focuses on within the Technology Practice:

Our Technology service line stands out in that it’s an extension of our management and business consulting work. We’re always engaging with our clients from a business lens, utilizing processes and people, and adding a technical depth and expertise to our client partnerships.

What is the most rewarding aspect of supporting clients in TGG’s Technology Practice?

Meeting our clients where they are, understanding their needs and challenges, and crafting a pragmatic action plan. This means evaluating their tech stack, teams, and asking, “What can we do in the next 6 weeks and 6 months?” With this approach we can start helping and start delivering value right away and not just toward a project’s end.

Tell us about a recent engagement supporting a client initiative:

A national education services provider planned and started a digital transformation initiative. We helped them step back and assess their readiness to execute their digital transformation strategy. Additionally, our team made a series of digital program structure and agile product delivery recommendations that we are helping drive forward.  

What are recent trends you see impacting organizations in the Technology space?

COVID has substantially increased consumer expectation for a robust digital experience for many companies. People are much more willing to engage in a digital experience now because it became a reality during the pandemic. And this aligns perfectly with our Technology Service offering. Consumers are demanding a great digital experience and we’re able to help because that transformation is built from everything TGG does.

What do you anticipate impacting businesses over the next 3-5 years in this area?

Expectations of digital experiences are going to be high. Whoever is doing this experience well right now, will likely be doing it well in 3-5 years. Ones that aren’t doing this well or didn’t do it in the past, might not be here in 3-5 years and expanding and creating a digital experience is expensive. Instead of buying property for storefronts, you’re investing in technology costs and data centers — and this will be just as true in the future as it is now.

Tell us about one of your favorite projects your team has worked on:

A global athletic wear company started their digital transformation back in the mid-2000s mostly focused on North America. Now we’re helping expand their global footprint because they sell so many products outside of the United States. This leads to interesting questions to answer, involving how to make technology scalable and reliable. It’s even more interesting because we can use prior learnings to inform new strategic ideas.


More about Matt Jamison:
Matt is an experienced solutions architect with a results-oriented understanding of the intersection between reality and architectural theory. He has the ability to plan, develop, and implement large-scale projects while maintaining impeccable attention to detail. With 20 years of functional information technology experience, Matt has end-to-end IT knowledge from layer 1 networking to application API interaction. An expert in mapping technology solutions to business needs, Matt is also able to conform to required regulations while maintaining IT best practices. Matt’s experience spans multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, and security and software. He is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect and a Certified SAFe 5 Agilist. Outside of work, Matt enjoys the outdoors and all things bike-related.

TGG FACILITATED APPLIED AGILE PANEL DISCUSSION

A few weeks ago, The Gunter Group facilitated a panel discussion at one of our clients (a global footwear and apparel company), which focused on Agile methodology application within their organization.

We would like to share a few key topics from the discussion.

1 — Implementing an Admin Week for Scrum Team Efficiency

One panel participant shared the story of her team iterating on ways to improve development velocity. They were having the common issue of missing sprint target dates and discussed the problem during a retrospective. Together, the team realized that between meeting schedules and “shoulder taps” for side work, they just didn’t have enough focused development time. 

Initially the team implemented a block of time from morning until 1pm for dedicated development. While that did increase velocity, they still weren’t where they wanted to be. 

Finally, they landed on a concept to implement an “Admin Week”. They decreased their sprints from 3 weeks to 2 and added in 1 week for admin time. This gave the team 2 weeks of uninterrupted development and 1 week to sprinkle in all of their administrative work such as meetings, ceremonies, idea brainstorming, internal documentation, mentoring, and training. 

This shift resulted in a 36% increase in velocity and 36% decrease in duration of stories from “ready” to “complete”. 

2 — Mitigating Discomfort Around Uncertainty

Another panel participant, an Agile Coach within our client’s organization, shared his thoughts around building comfort with uncertainty. 

With the timely example of COVID-19’s highly impactful effects on businesses’ roadmaps, we discussed how important it is–now more than ever–to strengthen the ability to navigate uncertainty, with an agile mindset. 

Participants agreed that we are seeing executives embrace agile thinking in their ability to pivot quickly and react as efficiently as possible. Work is being prioritized more clearly and decisions are being made at the “last responsible moment.” 

3 — Servant Leadership in an Agile Framework

Lastly, our third panel speaker shared his perspective on leading in a Scrum Master role with a servant leadership approach. 

This perspective emphasized the importance of maintaining a people focus in agile environments. Rather than just focusing on scope, schedule, budget–the servant leadership approach enables and promotes leadership in others. 

He shared his experience about working with Scrum teams in this manner and how it has built relationships, garnered trust, and fostered growth within the team.

It also sets up the team for a safe environment during sprint retrospectives so that they are able to share thoughts and feedback more openly and from a place of assuming positive intent.


At The Gunter Group, we thrive on helping our clients by facilitating conversations such as this one and invite you to reach out if you are interested in TGG hosting something similar within your organization. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more. 

To those who attended the panel discussion outlined above, thank you so much for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the next one on June 24th! 

UPCOMING PORTLAND EVENT: APPLYING AGILE TO THE NON-IT PARTS OF YOUR BUSINESS

You love agile. You love the iterative approach to problem-solving. You love the way it empowers your IT teams to find solutions. You wish that you could see the same benefits in other parts of your business, but the problem is that agile seems stuck in the world of developers and technical teams. 

Matt Jamison, Tech Services Lead at The Gunter Group, has been thinking about this problem for a few years. In conversations with clients and peers in various industries, Matt has started to break down the principles, roles, ceremonies, and functions of agile into a series of “Whys” that add value in a broader business context. By deconstructing the structures of agile into their purposes, Matt is able to apply aspects of agile to lines of business that fall outside of tech. 

Excited to hear more? Join Matt as he explores how these agile concepts offer a fresh approach to building bridges between strategy, processes, and the realization of business goals. Matt provides examples that illustrate how agile can spill over the boundaries of tech into non-IT parts of the business, providing use cases from HR.

Come join the conversation! The event will take place at Puppet on Wednesday, November 20th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Click here for more details, and to register for the event! 

Matt Jamison is an experienced solutions architect with a results-oriented understanding of the intersection between reality and architectural theory. He has the ability to plan, develop, and implement large-scale projects while maintaining impeccable attention to detail. With 20 years of functional information technology experience, Matt has end-to-end IT knowledge from layer 1 networking to application API interaction. An expert in mapping technology solutions to business needs, Matt is also able to conform to required regulations while maintaining IT best practices. Matt’s experience spans multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, and security and software. He is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. Outside of work, Matt enjoys the outdoors and all things bike-related.