Embracing Agile

Embracing agile

Methodology turns aspirations into real actions and results; What you can do

One of the lessons of recent events is that companies that are determined to rapidly improve quality, speed and decision-making have turned to agile business processes. Despite the economic challenges we have all seen — including the pandemic, inflation and the great resignation — global digitization isn’t slowing anytime soon.

The agile approach to processes can remove roadblocks, accelerate processes and improve the bottom line, delivering real value and stunning results. The goal of agile portfolio management processes is to become significantly more resilient and efficient. Typically, agile teams are smaller and multidisciplinary. When presented with a complex challenge, they break it down and develop modular solutions using rapid teamwork and tight feedback loops.

Agile teams operate differently from the traditional top-down model in that they position innovation in the hands of those closest to the customer, which reduces levels of control and the number of approvals while accelerating work — which, in turn, increases team motivation.

At Rackspace Technology, we are in our third year of transforming a traditionally successful but constrained legacy system in order to become a faster, more purpose-driven organization — without compromising the present or slowing the accelerated and immediate future of our business. As a result, over the last two years, we’ve increased the number of projects, models and initiatives we were taking on eightfold, while simultaneously reducing defects by 90%.


Seizing agile opportunity

According to the latest forecast by Gartner, global IT spending is projected to top $4T in 2022, an increase of 4% from last year. CIOs in the post-pandemic era are accelerating investment in security, customer experience, analytics and cloud.

Even though IT spending isn’t slowing, too few companies are proactively managing the changes that constitute the new normal. According to 2020 research by eMarketer, some three-fourths of companies (76%) say they currently lack the ability to transform raw data into actionable insights.

COVID-19, supply chain disruptions and labor shortages exposed shortcomings in the traditional operating models of many industries. These deficiencies include a lack of reliable long-term planning, faulty supplier economics, suboptimal collaboration between teams, and inefficient use of existing technology.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies currently leading the way in agile include Amazon, USAA and Pfizer. Based on what we’re hearing within the technology vertical, we at Rackspace Technology consider ourselves agile pioneers in our industry.


Why agile?

The concept has its roots in the idea of lean management Toyota developed in manufacturing, and in the ‘agile manifesto’ of a group of software developers in 2001.

Having revolutionized the software industry, agile portfolio management is poised to transform nearly every function in every industry. Typically, organizations set up smaller agile teams to enable analytics-driven improvements. Take the same operating model, bring everything into play at enterprise level and you might have a “New Frontier” moment, writes McKinsey on the subject. These fundamental changes in management practices and supplier ecosystems present a unique opportunity to set ambitious goals, define comprehensive systems for teams, attract talent, build new skills and deploy new systems.

But while many companies are beginning to embrace agile, many more need to start integrating efficient real-time data solutions or risk getting left behind.


Toward a more agile Rackspace Technology

In October 2019, Rackspace Technology set out to create a centralized data organization. Using agile and lean principles to align to business strategy, we’ve unified our operating model.

Many of the bottlenecks we saw back then stemmed from delays, defects and a lack of visibility. Once we started focusing more on planning, we were able to change our methodology and how we prioritized.

We're delivering quality faster, which has had a tremendous impact because we're no longer passive order takers. Instead, we're essentially working with our internal business leaders to proactively identify and respond to specific needs, delivering both technical and data solutions.

We're planning maniacally so that we can execute flawlessly. After refining processes and uncovering value-creation opportunities to remove friction from Rackspace Technology, we saw a 10X boost in our NPS score and the lowest base of churn in 14 years.

It’s been quite a transformation so far, and we’re just getting started. We are maximizing resource utilization and capacity planning to drive value across our organization. At the technology level, we are ensuring seamless integration and a smooth experience for internal end users.


Why you need to go all-in

Institutionalizing a new operating model requires close scrutiny of your processes to identify the best ways of working and establish people solutions that boost resilience, improve performance and drive efficiency.

One way to get there is by building a data-driven cross-functional set of  levers that you can monitor and adjust accordingly to streamline and protect set benchmarks (time to market, profit margins, etc.). A strong bias to action, a commitment to a deeper understanding of agile innovation and a rapid commitment to the new way of working are common success factors for organizations looking to take advantage of agile.


Take advantage of agile

Each company faces circumstances and challenges unique to its situation. An agile portfolio management approach combines a strong action plan with deep agile planning and innovative frequent iteration to boost productivity and manage costs. No matter what an organization’s current, unique snapshot looks like, the result of a comprehensive agile dive commonly resembles something far closer to the company’s full potential.

Companies that are willing to manage scope, commitments and activities more closely, and reduce total labor cost, can bring on cost improvement the likes of which they have never seen. As time passes, operations improve and agile values and principles begin to permeate all areas of the company, making it more responsive.

It’s happening right now at Rackspace Technology. Because we’ve made the commitment to agile, we’re seeing major changes. We now have the ability to read priorities and adapt, becoming more proactive and innovative in the face of global uncertainties, economic challenges and the everyday crises that all companies face. We’re taking the friction out of our business. We’re doing it at scale, and we are being benchmarked as something that’s best-in-class. Read more in our blog, “Our Technology Factory: Delivering Better Business Outcomes Through Agile Portfolio Management.”


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About the Authors

Juan Riojas

Chief Information Officer

Juan Riojas

As Chief Information Officer at Rackspace Technology, Juan Riojas is responsible for enterprise-wide data strategy, management, and analytics to meet the need of the business to answer critical questions through time to insight. He has more than 20 years of industry experience successfully migrating data ecosystem across all public clouds, leading to significant business transformation outcomes. Prior to Rackspace, Juan worked for Informatica building their inaugural Data Office and has held various executive leadership roles at Gogo, Dell, Accenture, and Expeditors. A native of Texas, Juan attended Texas A&M International University, where he studied business administration and holds a post graduate degree from Said Business School, Oxford University

Read more about Juan Riojas
Lara Indrikovs Director of Product Management Rackspace

Director of Product Management

Lara Indrikovs

Lara Indrikovs serves as the director of product management for the Global Data organization at Rackspace. She is responsible for leading the development, management, prioritization and execution of the GDO product portfolio that encompasses end-to-end enterprise data initiatives. Lara is a certified SAFe leader and led the GDO’s agile transformation. Prior to her current role, Lara led the marketing intelligence and data science teams, which were dedicated to developing actionable reporting and insights for Rackspace’s marketing activities and creating predictive analytic tools to enable business transformation initiatives. In that role, she led the global migration and consolidation of web analytic platforms to Google Analytics 360, directed the Salesforce Cloud and Google Analytics 360 integration, and established the first Marketing datamart in GCP Big Query. Before Rackspace, Lara held various leadership positions at global advertising agencies, where she focused on multicultural media strategy and buying. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Advertising and Media, later earning a Master of Science in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. Lara lives in Austin with her fiancé and 8-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Indiana Bones. In her free time, she likes to balance out her analytical left brain on a yoga mat, traveling, hosting dinner parties, dancing Rumba and other Afro-Latin dances and volunteering with local non-profits.

Read more about Lara Indrikovs