G2 Tech Group is a Boston-based Managed DevOps and Managed Cloud provider that was fed up with the challenges of reacting to client problems. They stood back, took a long look at their approach, and started addressing some of their core problems: ticket count, project management, and team communication. When we gave our talk at IT Nation 2015, CEO Glenn Grant realized that they had already been making the move to Agile and didn’t realize it.
"When I saw the talk on AgileMSP at IT nation,” says Glenn, “I quickly realized we were most of the way there already. The talk inspired us to add a few more Agile-influenced meetings to our weekly cadence that quickly improved our week-over-week performance as a team."
Agile doesn’t translate 100% when it’s taken out of the context of software development, so Glenn’s team did what anyone looking to implement Agile should do: they went Beastie Boys with it. G2 Tech Group started by pulling the best “samples” from other successful Agile businesses, exploring sprints, Kanban, standups, and retrospectives, and they blended the techniques that they gleaned with their own beats. That’s how Glenn describes the process of cherry-picking, vetting, and adapting Agile practices for use at G2. That kind of humor is a good way to approach the process of implementing Agile in your own practice — don’t take it too seriously at first because there will be stumbling blocks.
A sprint is, very basically, a set period of time where a team’s effort is laser-focused on iterating through part of a project. Sprints conclude with a meeting of stakeholders to determine whether another sprint (and another iteration on that part/project) is necessary. G2 Tech Group has come up with a sprint formula that works for them; about 65%-75% of the work allowed in a sprint is dedicated to planned work, with the remainder set aside for unplanned and urgent tasks. G2’s sprints aren’t exactly flexible — Glenn says they still have to figure out how to fit urgent incoming work into the sprint — but there is elbow room around the sprint for regular client work.
G2 Tech Group’s ticketing system has been converted into a custom Kanban board, with swimlanes representing corresponding ticket status. Their ticket count had been trending down, but there was a spike in open tickets when they started implementing Agile. That’s because G2 was developing better ticketing practices as part of the shift. For the first few months Glenn and his crew had to wait for the ticket count to normalize and hit a predictable rhythm; since then they’ve been steadily pushing down their open ticket count.
Standups were a crucial ingredient in Liberty Technology’s transformation into The Agile MSP. G2 is using standups as a way to catalyze team members into taking on work independently and managing themselves. Standups at G2 also help the team identify and focus on the most important tasks for the day.
At the end of each week, Glenn and his team take time for a retrospective of what they’ve accomplished that week. Everyone describes the work they’ve done in one word, and then the team looks at their key performance indicators (KPIs). The KPIs can shift, and usually the team changes which KPIs will be most important in the next week, based on feedback from the group.
Then the group of on-call techs recaps what happened that week: what was good or bad, what problems they encountered as they went about the week, and any suggestions they have on fine-tuning the client-issue alerts that on-call techs are receiving. Then the group sets up the on-call roster for the next week, brings up any outages that on-call techs need to be aware of, and they end the retrospective with a one-word close.
Like any other Agile practice, G2 is still learning and changing. Their next steps include homing in on a good task-time estimation system, visualizing work, fostering self-organizing teams, and limiting work-in-progress. G2 Tech Group has the one ingredient that all but guarantees Agile success — they’re invested in implementation. There are slip-ups. Sometimes a particular practice rubs your team the wrong way, or a piece is missing that isn’t immediately apparent. The most important aspect of implementing Agile in your own service practice is pushing through the initial stages to get to a point where you can assess what needs to be done next with confidence. From there, all it takes is flexibility and enthusiasm.
About G2 Tech Group, Inc.G2 Tech Group is on a mission to become the most sought-after Managed DevOps firm in the United States. Their Managed DevOps and Managed Cloud services help entrepreneurs align their technology and product strategy, scale with confidence, and achieve business goals, faster. Learn more about G2’s mission, team, and experience at www.g2techgroup.com
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