The Call Of Talent format allows us to get in touch with talents in the international scene: this time we had the pleasure of a chat with a friend who took the international route after many years of experience in telecommunications product development in Genova. His experience in TomTom is very interesting because of the innovative products he works on, but also for the Software development process Felice is driving in his role as an Agile Coach.
Who has direct experience the transition from traditional software development process to Lean and Agile knows that the change is not a walk in the park, especially in big organization. This is where Felice is supporting to drive the Berlin site of TomTom, embedding in the process continuous delivery and innovation, scaling up the number of teams in an international context.
In addition to the corporate role, Felice is speaker at international Agile conferences. The next date will be in October at Budapest at the Agila (http://agiliabudapest.com/).
In a company like TomTom, with end user customers, but also with automotive big customers, Innovation must be spread at different level in the organization. In addition, we need also to differentiate between product innovation and process innovation, and luckily they often match together.
End user customers usually see more Innovation as a set of new cool features, that are able to capture their hidden needs. Examples could be found in TomTom latest products like the TomTom Sport Watch or the TomTom Bandit, as well as in TomTom latest features like the TomTom Rider, with the possibility to choose more thrilling routes for the bykers. We not only need to be on track with our competitors, but we also need to have more cool new features. We need to be forerunners and not followers.
Innovation for end user customers is achieved by market research, interviews, competition analysis, but also by spreading bottom up the innovative mindset, starting from the software developers. Innovation Days and Innovation Sprints are main instruments for that.
Automotive customers, instead, are doing a lot of research on navigation, as the final goal is usually really a big innovative change. Studies and prototypes are ongoing for example related to the HAD (Highly Automated Driving), by using a lot of car sensors for the navigation, while development is proceeding for using the new maps in NDS standard format (http://www.nds-association.org/) that will replace proprietary maps.
In this case, Innovation in TomTom is achieved again bottom up, by implementing prototypes in the software development teams (maybe exploring how to solve some problems during the Innovation Day), but this is not enough. A lot of research is here necessary, in partnership with our automotive customers or with University or other research center.
Innovative is also our Agile software development way of working and organization, even if we cannot forget that our big automotive customers are asking us to match at some process standards. In the project I´m involved in, we are about 20 Scrum Teams organized according to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework: http://www.scaledagileframework.com/). Each 4 two weeks sprints we are able to deliver a new release, with the quality expected by our end user and automotive customers, warranted by our high number of automated tests and continuous integration environment. All teams and sprints are synchronized into a single “Release Train”, and each release cycle starts with a Release Planning day, where all teams representatives and the Stakeholders meet together in Amsterdam, to plan next 4 sprints according to features priorities, and to solve or manage any dependencies. But it will not stop with SAFe adoption. In fact, we have setup additional different mechanisms inside the organization organization (agile committee, agile coach / ambassadors, release retrospective, etc), so that we are able to change something from the SAFe, if we find some improvements (and this is process Innovation!).
About myself: I´ve been working for 20 years in Marconi and then Ericsson in Genoa (Italy) in different roles. In 2009 I was involved as Product Owner in a Pilot Project for introducing Agile (Scrum) methodologies in the company. After two more years as a Product Owner, I was asked to coach new scrum teams (brand new teams, or teams needing some help), most of them developing HW, also introducing Kanban in the company. In addition, I was a member of the Internal Transition Team, aiming to find out the best way to setup the Agile Organization and mindset for a very big project (25 Teams in Italy and 25 Teams in China, developing HW and embedded SW). In 2014 I left Ericsson and Italy, and started working as a Scrum Master and as an Agile coach for Berlin site in TomTom.
Felice De Robertis