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The transformed role of a delivery manager in Agile-DevOps model

The transformed role of a delivery manager in Agile-DevOps model
January 22, 2019

Agile and DevOps are not just buzz words across IT landscape but are now mainstream and a necessity to realized business value faster with continuous feedback loops to course correct. This blog is not focussed on Agile methodology or DevOps methodology but look at the changed role of digital delivery manager.

The term Digital Delivery Manager has been represented loosely to any delivery role within IT Organization responsible for running Digital Programs in an Agile methodology. The focus in particular is on Digital Delivery Managers from the point of view of IT Service providers.

We all know Agile principles empower team as well as provides autonomy for the team to take decisions. For teams starting agile journey, a Scrum Master is more of an enabler rather than someone to drive the team. The question is when you have large programs with multiple feature teams following scaled agile framework with lot of collaborations with customers, what will the role of a digital delivery managers?

For teams starting agile journey, a Scrum Master is more of an enabler rather than someone to drive the team

The responsibilities of a Digital Delivery Manager are complete contrast to the traditional delivery manager. Agile Purists will probably demonize the role Delivery Manager as he needs to balance Agile principles which includes anatomy Vs ensuring the organizational norms are adhered.

A quick summary of the tenants of an Operational and a Transformational project.

Tenants Traditional Delivery Manager Digital Delivery Manager
Methodology Waterfall / Process Focussed (CMMi / ITIL etc) Agile / DevOps / Fast Fail
Objectives Cost Optimization / More for Less / Optimization / Automation Value Delivery / Time to Market / Faster Feedback
Team Organization Pyramid (Few SMEs to drive teams) Diamond (Few SMEs and Juniors with competent folks)
Deliver Manager Focus Cost Effective Delivery, Micro Management of Cost Parameters, Process Focussed. Control That is what the blog is about.

The question is what are some of the characteristics of a Digital Delivery Manager that will enable him/her to successfully attract, retain and groom talent and in turn ensure success of delivery digital programs. I have been careful in highlighting that having the right set of people and providing an empowering environment is more important trait for a digital delivery manager than in directing the teams to deliver.

Here is my take on summarising some of the key tenants for a digital delivery manager, modelled around the agile manifesto (http://agilemanifesto.org/). This is based experience in both agile delivery as well as my interactions with teams as a consultant in assessing & helping teams in agile transformation journey.

  • Collaboration & Empowerment Over Hierarchy and Control
  • Automation & Code Generation Over Status Reports and Manual Updates
  • Learning & Enabling Over Preaching and Directing
  • Value Generation & Motivation Over Timesheet and Physical Presence

That is, while there may be some or no value in the items on the right, we should value the items on the left more.

Let me explain each of the in some detail along with the reasoning:

Collaboration & Empowerment Over Hierarchy and Control

The first tenet according to me is to let go of the mind-set of controlling the team. This thought arises when we start looking at our designation and getting the false assumption that we know what is right for the team.

Doing it the right way would mean to get the right teams on boarded and providing an open collaborating environment. This will also empower the teams will go a long way in giving ownership to teams to deliver.

Let me quote a real scenario to explain. Sitting along with the teams helps break the barrier get better insights about the team rather than having a discussion in a manager’s cubicle. The intent of the message is not the cubicle but breaking the thought process of command and control.

Code & Objective measures Vs Status Reports

The Second tenet is to do away from the whole Manual Project Status report. The point is when agile methodology focusses on visual board and online boards including ceremonies asking the Project Updates as a status report is a bit dated. One quick way to get updates is drive agile framework maturity so as to leverage online tools like Jira, Confluence etc as well as participate in meetings to get status updates.

The bigger point is to make the whole Performance Management as objective as possible. The automation here refers to the Devops pipeline where we can get hard code KPIs that can be aligned to the teams and in turn aggregation to Program and Portfolio levels.

The intent is not about demonizing Status Report but changing the thought process of leveraging tools and automating KPIs to measure performance of team as well as drive the right team behaviour.

Learning & Enabling Over Preaching and Directing

The third tenet is an important trait to have irrespective of the type of project as this becomes more critical when driving agile digital programs. The key it to assume that teams knows better than us and to hear them out. Rather than giving our point of view and trying to push that though the better way would be to ask questions and let the team figure them out.

That does not mean that we do not share our point of view but key is how do we convey the same. Having Empathy is a key for the delivery leader to look from team’s perspective so we take a balanced judgement.

The entire thought process can be summaries is one two words Servant leadership. This is again an abused term as everyone calls themselves a Servant Leader but seldom one.

Value Generation & Motivation Over Timesheets and Physical Presence

The fourth and the last tenet is equally important one as this is the whole essence of an agile delivery Ownership and Value Generation by the team. Value Generation required motivation of the teams to operate at highest levels of productivity and not Timesheets and mere presence in ODC.

Motivation the teams should be the key objective for the Delivery Manager as that will drive valve and in term keep customers happy. Daniel Pink describes in his book DRIVE - basically talks about 3 aspects driving Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

According to Pink, Autonomy motivates us to think creatively. This gives the teams the freedom to try out and test new ideas, which can deliver benefits to the organizations.

Mastery is the desire to improve. If someone is motivated by mastery, they will constantly seek to improve your skills through learning and practice.

Purpose is more about looking at the bigger picture on what the organization goals that are something larger than themselves.

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose means providing an enabling environment for learning, giving them the space to learn and providing the bigger picture in collaboration with the customer on the larger purpose of the teams.

Last but not the least Organizations should also understand the critical role of the digital delivery manager and align the KPIs that enables to drive this behaviour.

Organizations should also understand the critical role of the digital delivery manager and align the KPIs that enables to drive this behaviour

In my subsequent blog would share some insights on ways of moving towards being a Digital Delivery Manager.

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