Rentcars.com - Squads, Business Agility and Digital Transformation on the Management Level
I was hired on rentcars.com as IT Manager, so this story will show a different side - from the leader point of view to the strategist point of view.
Rentcars.com was on that stage of having the growth pains. They produced a lot, fight a lot of problems as they came up, but without any method or strategic focus on scalability, sustainability. They had not only technical debt, but management debt too, and technology was on the center of all that.
The IT team had around 30 people. Only one junior tester. Many programmers were not satisfied with some practices. They had two different issue trackers, and most managers complaint about not getting things done. The work was basically having a big backlog, and just prioritize (with no rational base), assign to the developers and them keep asking them fi they were finished already.
I basically was hired to change that picture. I spend the first month trying to figure out the business, the people in my team (their strengths and weaknesses) and the people outside my team (the other managers pains and needs). I need that information to have a direction and elaborate a strategy.
Inside IT team there were a few points to fix, like hire more testers, give them better tools, and adopt a few changes to make their life easier. The biggest challenge was outside there.
The biggest complain from other departments was the lack of support. If it was not an urgent issue, they didn't get any innovation moving forward. At the same time, they had no idea about how different being a manager on an technology company might require them to think different. They were already managers, but they've never worked on IT companies/projects before, and that was a point that was causing friction.
Also, manage 30+ people isn't a practical thing. Nor manage all the requirements from all departments. It was simply too much for basically anyone who deals with knowledge work industry.
Time to make some bold changes and promote a deeper transformation. First, I've broken the IT team into very small squads. Two or three developers responsible for each department, ensuring at least one of them was a senior (with a trait to be promoted to tech leader). Some managers could not even believe they would have "their own exclusive IT team". But for that work as intended, I need to give my support to them.
I helped to set the start with every squad and the other managers. What framework should they use? Kanban? Lean? Scrum? What was the sprint duration? One week? Two weeks? Four weeks? What was the balance between bug fixes and implement features and innovation? I trained the other managers as needed and conduced the first rounds with four hands, but the other manager became the responsible for their own backlog prioritisation.
To be true, most managers get used to that faster than I thought as first, and they liked that very much, because I've attacked their biggest pain point - not being heard and prioritised. Now they were controlling the outcomes and innovations, and this predictability was making them way happier. They were experiencing business agility and were more protagonists.
I became responsible to ensure we will have people enough, and that they had the expected skills. I act to solve conflicts, and guided the heavier tech challenges. I've shared the load promoting a digital transformation on the management level. On the developers side, things got better too, once they were participating more on the departments strategic view, they started to get more engaged.
I also enforced the teams to participate more of the daily operations and suggest improvements by seeing the users daily usage. Customer success, marketing, BI, commercial, products, finance... And some innovations came up. Of course, it was still up to the managers to accept and prioritize those suggestions. They saw they could rely on committed people to help their departments to be even more productive.
This state of high-performing, high-commitment teams is hard to see. After 3 years I left there, this work structure haven't changed, thus, this strategy was proven to be a great win and advantage for the business, and helped them to scale. This is one of my career achievements I'm most proud.
Would you like that too? Hire me!