Launch new digital services faster with distributed teams and agile co-creation delivery model

Launch new digital services faster with distributed teams and agile co-creation delivery model

Mar 30, 2020 • 7 min read
Grid Dynamics

OPINION: Coronavirus is rapidly reshaping our world. It is demanding businesses to redefine how they engage customers, employees, and supply chain by shifting operations online. Learn best practices for designing and launching new digital services at lightning speed by adopting an “agile co-creation” delivery model with Grid Dynamics.

The world around us is changing, and we must change with it

In less than a month, COVID-19 has changed every aspect of American life. It has confined millions of people to their homes and halted the normal operations of most businesses. While no one knows how long Americans will be forced to stay away from offices, schools, shopping malls, restaurants, and sport events, it’s clear that life will never return to exactly how it was before.

Instead, it will go forward, enhanced by the next massive wave of digital services, ranging from work-from-home to food delivery, telemedicine, remote education, virtual Yosemite tours and streaming entertainment. This moment presents each business with an imperative to reinvent itself as a digital company at lightning speed or become decisively irrelevant. Which way is it going to be?

The vantage point of “best supporting actor” in the story of digital transformation

Grid Dynamics was founded in 2006 at the dawn of the cloud era. The core idea was to combine exceptionally strong engineering talent from Eastern Europe with the product management culture of Silicon Valley and leverage the emerging cloud technology ecosystem to offer a new software delivery model for American enterprises: rapid development of digital products and services through joint co-development.

This engagement model was later coined by Forrester as “agile co-creation”¹. At that time, using offshore outsourcing companies for commodity software development was common; trusting an onshore/offshore vendor to co-design highly innovative core digital products was not.

Over the years, we had the privilege of building some of the world’s largest online services with technology giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo, as well as industry-leading omnichannel retailers including Macy’s, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Home Depot, and Nike. We have seen both runaway successes and gut-wrenching failures. While the technologies used have changed a lot, the blueprints on how successful companies embrace innovation and accelerated time-to-market haven't.

In May of 2019, the Forrester Wave Report on Midsize Agile Service Providers named Grid Dynamics as a leader and #1 in strategy amongst the pack. On March 5, 2020, just three weeks ago, we completed the IPO on Nasdaq stock exchange, taking our place amongst American public companies as a tier-1 innovation partner to Fortune 2000 clients. That’s like winning both the Golden Globe and Oscar for the “best supporting actor” in the story of digital transformation of the last decade.

We firmly believe that it is the culture of innovation that separates winners from the rest of the pack, and that this culture can be codified, structured in a set of practices and implemented as a part of the digital transformation journey. Bringing that culture to every project, sharing it with our clients, and learning from each other is our core value proposition.

ADAPT framework for agile co-creation

Winning organizations use a collection of best practices that together comprise a cohesive framework we call ADAPT:

Agile process enables faster launches and better products
Distributed remote teams bring together the best engineers from any organization
Architectural blueprints accelerate and de-risk development
Product PoDs own successful delivery end-to-end
Technology enables development speed, productivity and quality

Let’s briefly describe each practice individually and explain how they work together as a system that assures predictable delivery of new products and the best mix of internal and external talent in one integrated delivery culture.

1. Agile process enables faster launches and better products

At the core of the agile process is the idea that a single cross-functional team owns all facets of a product creation end-to-end. The team is small, fast and collaborative; it builds a Minimal Variable Product very quickly, usually in a matter of months or even weeks, to get it into the hands of a limited number of customers, learn how customers react and then quickly evolve the product with new features on an on-going basis. Agile process requires a high maturity level of organization change management, supported by automation that includes continuous delivery pipelines, test automation, zero-downtime upgrades, A/B testing and related capabilities.

Unfortunately, many corporations adopt agile development for requirements management only, don’t have the skills or fortitude to build the enabling capabilities, and thus fail to realize most of its potential.

As a pure-play agile shop since the inception, Grid Dynamics has the technology, process, people and contractual terms to assure rapid delivery of the initial feature set and fast iterative product evolution in close collaboration with the business stakeholders. We bring along all the agile enablement infrastructure, including cloud, devops, quality engineering and site reliability engineering to every engagement and build productivity KPIs into every definition of success.

The result is a fastest time-to-market with products that win market share, and the cultural transformation to practical customer-centric innovation across the organization.

2. Distributed remote teams bring together the best engineers from any location

Everyone intuitively understands that great engineers build great products. But where to find these great engineers, especially on-demand?

As a rule, quick ramp up of an in-house team with the right mix of technical skills and business domain is not feasible. A strong vendor can tap into their inventory of skilled developers to find the right talent - but they don’t all sit in the same office. We’ve seen time and time again that a distributed team of great developers skilled in agile and supported by the right process is far more successful than a colocated team of mediocre ones.

In fact, we’ve taken key metrics across over 1,000 product development projects and found that, in average, distributed teams have a staggering advantage over co-located ones:

  • Takes 4x faster to put a team together (2 weeks vs. 2 months)
  • Delivers 20% higher productivity due to higher quality of talent
  • Costs 50% less

If you are puzzled as to why the distributed teams can amass greater technical talent consider the fact that over 95% of Grid Dynamics offshore employees have Masters and PhD. degrees as compared to less than 50% of local US hires.

3. Architectural blueprints must guide product design

Innovative business services don’t require the invention of new software designs. On the contrary, what makes business innovation fast and practical is the ability to apply proven architectural blueprints to novel business applications. Having the right architecture reduces risks, accelerates development, lowers costs, and ensures the  quality of the resulting software.

As pure-play digital transformation engineering specialists and pioneers in the fields of cloud, DevOps, site reliability, big data, noSQL data stores, microservices, search, data science, ML, and AI, we rely on dozens of proven architectural blueprints and customer-ready solutions. These can be applied to highly scalable data platforms, omnichannel eCommerce systems, product catalogs, search and recommendation engines, order and inventory management systems, pricing engines, mobile commerce, and conversational digital assistants.

The mix of a rich collection of proven reference architectures, blueprints and frameworks with the ability to synthesize, integrate, and adopt them to the specific requirements of each customer has been our formula for success on over 1,000 product launches

4. Product PoDs own successful delivery end-to-end

The concept of a PoD (Point of Delivery) exists in many industries and stands for a smallest self-contained unit that can solve a problem end-to-end. Applied to software development, a PoD is a self-contained cross-functional product team that can successfully design, develop, launch and evolve a digital product.

The concepts of agile product development and distributed remote teams are best realized through purpose-designed agile, distributed product PoDs that encapsulate all the necessary resources and skills to own the successful delivery of new digital products end-to-end.

While we offer a variety of standard and custom-built PoD configurations, the typical PoD structure consists of am integrated onsite / offshore team organized the following way:

  • (1) Technical Program Manager - from Grid Dynamics, onsite; ultimately responsible for the successful delivery of the digital product. Experienced in running distributed agile teams. Enables information sharing, timely decision-making and collaboration between client and vendor team members onsite and offshore.
  • (1) Business Analyst - from Grid Dynamics or customer, onsite; responsible for managing requirements and bridging the gap between the business and technical teams related to product features.
  • (1) Architect / Technical Lead - Grid Grid Dynamics, onsite; responsible for technical architecture and design, leads the engineering team from technology perspective, provides real-time answers to technical questions for onsite personnel, assures that the product will be stable, reliable, scalable, efficient and bug-free.
  • (1-2) Distributed teams of 4-7 developers each that contain all the skills necessary to develop, test and deploy code to production

Such PoDs are typically funded as a long-term, fixed-capacity, stable core team + additional speciality resources added or removed as-needed.  These PoDs own the product creation end-to-end, from the start of the development through launch and continuous product development.

5. Technology enables development speed, productivity and quality  

A deep understanding of the ever-changing technology landscape and efficient implementation of the right tools makes a huge difference in the success or failure of digital product development. While some projects may have unique requirements and warrant special solutions, there are many common tools, approaches, and frameworks that the best companies rely on to enable digital innovation.

A combination of Jira, Slack, and Zoom comprise the backbone of remote collaboration. Clouds make the infrastructure readily accessible to any application, developer, or user from anywhere in the world. Containers and container management technologies like Docker and Kubernetes simplify application deployment. Continuous delivery pipelines use dozens of different products to build, integrate, validate, test, secure, deploy, scale, and manage code during various phases of development. A plethora of different ML models enable modern data science to generate insights and use them to optimize all facets of business operations.

Grid Dynamics delivery teams pay a great deal of attention to the careful selection of the right technologies and work with the customer’s business leaders to ensure team  access to the tools needed for frictionless collaboration, high degrees of automation, and uncompromising quality standards.

Grid Dynamics delivery teams pay a great deal of attention to the careful selection of the right technologies and work with the customer’s business leaders to assure team’s access to the necessary tools to assure frictionless collaboration, highest degree of automation and uncompromising standards of quality.

Summary

Grid Dynamics was born as a distributed global digital product engineering company and honed its services, competencies and skills through hundreds of production launches over a decade-and-a-half alongside with some of the world’s largest companies.

We practice agile development exclusively to accelerate product launches and improve product-market fit, provide distributed teams of highly talented engineers, bring proven architectural blueprints, jointly operate product PoDs that own product delivery end-to-end and utilize the best technology for speed, productivity and quality.

We can usually assemble a product team within 2 weeks and launch a new product within a few months. These capabilities are critical enablers of business steed to companies that rush to reinvent their operations impacted by COVID-19 and the shifts it is bringing to the industry and the society.

To learn more, send us a note!


List of references:

  1. The Forrester Wave: “Midsize Agile Software Development Service Providers, Q2 2019”.
  2. Webinar “Best practices for choosing the ideal digital transformation partner".
  3. How we make remote development work.

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