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Globally Agile

14 June 2010

Working collaboratively and effectively within a global company and with supplier partners presents both technological and behaviour challenges. A solution developed at BT’s Adastral Park facility has now been rolled out across five locations including the USA and India

GLOBALISATION HAS REDEFINED the modern economy; it offers growth and opportunity but also demands a new way of working. As a company that serves customers in more than 170 countries, BT recognises that it must improve business agility to generate efficiencies and improve operational and environmental performance. To achieve this, BT Innovate & Design (BTID) has embarked on a Global Development Centre (GDC) Programme that embeds collaborative solutions from SMART Technologies.
BTID is central to BT’s growth ambitions. IT is BTID which is responsible for building all the systems and networks used by BT. The people that work in this section are the core BT technical development teams that design and build BT networks, products services and all the systems that support the company’s operations. The teams also include all the the partner companies that BT works with, particularly in India.
These BT network systems are built by end-to-end project teams that have adopted the agile development methodology. Collectively these teams are responsible for development that enables BT to drive on towards its strategic goal of being ‘Number One for Customer Service’.
The adoption of agile development practices requires a new type of environment, especially as the teams are geographically dispersed across the UK, India, China, USA and Central Europe. BTID realised that it needed a new environment where both layout and technology supports agile delivery.
According to Bola Oshisanwo, Director, Agile Development Centre, “The idea was influenced by information from Google, Gartner Group and Microsoft as well as research into understanding how people actually collaborate. We also researched interactive environments that are conducive to dynamic and positive decision-making. We knew some form of telepresence was required and evaluated a range of technologies and software, all of which supported some of our vision.”
He continued, “Our developers tend to work in groups around a white board and research revealed that they want to interact with and see what their colleagues are writing on the boards, and not their faces. At that point we knew our solution must support this way of working whilst connecting teams are spread across multiple locations.”
BT’s research culminated in the complete redesign of the agile development teams’working environment and included the adoption of SMART Technologies’ collaborative solution. It started with a proof of concept at Adastral Park, BT’s centre for development in Ipswich. The initial pilot project was conceived and implemented within five months, involving 200 people and 17 SMART Boards at Adastral Park, one whiteboard each in Belfast and Glasgow and two whiteboards in India.
End to end development teams were selected to occupy the new space. Desks are arranged so that people on chairs can easily slide between them, monitors sit on swivel arms and each team of 12 people has its own SMART Board interactive whiteboard, a circular meeting table, IP video and audio conferencing capabilities.
The SMART Board features were originally used in stand alone mode and there was no opportunity to collaborate with people in other locations. However, extra training was needed to focus on how to use the features beween locations, and once learned the benefits were quickly realised.
“People were wowed by the SMART Boards initially but quickly snapped back into old habits,” explained Oshisanwo. “It became clear that this was because they didn’t understand the capability of the technology, so we designed a training package which was delivered to a critical mass of people over a short period of time. The training was based on observing what people did day to day. The training focused on helping them to incorporate the SMART Boards and collaborative working into their day to day work.”
The proof of concept subsequently proved so successful that BTID has set up the GDC Programme to manage the deployment of the solution to five Agile Development Centres worldwide. The next stage of the project has deployed the solution to Dallas, Adastral Park, BTID’s headquarters in London and to Pune in India, enabling a further 700 people to work effectively.
BT has calculated the benefits and assessed the return on investment particularly onreduced travel costs and travel time. However, they have found it harder to measure the real benefits of experiencing better collaboration and faster actions.
Bola comments: “The successful delivery of a customer solution relies upon the effective collaboration between people across BT. Our new SMART collaboration capability enables people to meet, irrespective of where they are in the world and interact as if they were in the same room. This has had a massive impact on travel costs and reduced our carbon footprint significantly. Last week I trained 34 people in India from Adastral Park and yesterday I trained a further eight – that’s a saving of a flight to India, plus my time, in just two weeks.”
In another instance, by using the new SMART collaboration tools, a group of five developers were able to resolve a problem within two days rather than travel to India for five days. This has clear implications for people satisfaction, staff retention and work life balance, as well as reducing travel costs and carbon footprint.
The BTID team members use the cells very regularly, usually on a daily basis for both ad hoc and regular sessions with other teams across the globe.
Collaborations has worked particularly well for:
● sharing plans
● working up joint solutions to issues and new customer requirements
● and discussing and agreeing actions and activities between software and systems development teams across the UK and in other GDC locations worldwide.
In addition, the collaboration cells were designed into a whole new co-locations working environment for transforming working practices in BT. This allowed BT to both implement the collaboration stations and increase the occupancy of the floor.
“Ultimately we’re using this technology to change and transform the culture of the company,” explains Alan Bateman the Director for Next Generation Engineering “What started as a project at Adastral Park has led to plans for a network of five global development centres worldwide, all adopting the same blueprint and specifically designed to accelerate and improve the quality of our development.”
He concludes: “BT is dedicated to helping customers thrive in a changing world. We understand the power of technology to achieve this and believe SMART has a pivotal role to play.”
Smarter working
 Collaboration with remote team members in real time
 Work collaboratively on shared documents
 Share desktops, write directly on the screen with the pen or a finger and annotate in digital ink over any application, generating and integrating data
 Meeting notes can be written, saved and distributed during the meeting
 Data conference can be set up in a matter of seconds
 Meetings become highly productive, collaborative events, ensuring a more efficient use of time and money, as well as reducing carbon footprint
 A scalable solution

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