This is what scaling means..

Pieter Zwart (founder of Coolblue) talks about how you can be and remain flexible as a company and with that he gives the best example on what it means to scale.
Unfortunately in Dutch.

All kudo’s to Pieter for the great example, I’ve used it many times and the inspiration was used by others as well.

By the way, flexible is a very good alternative word and probably better than Agile…

Group Product Manager Fraud & Risk (a.i.) @ Bol.com

“We scale catching fraudsters”

Fraud&Risk is the Fraud Excellence Center of Bol.com, delivering generic fraud prevention and detection solutions and fraud scores to help business owners make the right decisions within their risk appetite, including building KYP capabilities and using AI opportunities to scale.

Assignment/challenges

  • How can we scale Fraud prevention and detection, without linear growth in people?
  • What kind of leaders do we need?

Results

  • Clear North Star and Strategy accepted and acted upon
  • Product and team setup clear, now it needs staffing
  • Day to day Co-leadership Fraud&Risk (~30 FTE), including tough personnel decisions
  • Part of FinTech Leadership co-creating vision and strategy for FinTech within Bol.com

Recommendations

Menno Verschuren, Head of FinTech

Assumptions are NOT the mother of all f#&K ups

Actually in almost all situations, assumptions are all we’ve got. We just need to create the right experiments to validate (or falsify) them…

I’ve been re-reading “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. The book contains very important ideas on how to grow your business using validated learning, innovation accounting, the value and growth hypotheses and the way startups should handle all these things to be successful. While re-reading it, I kept on wondering how some of these things might apply to normal day to day business in a non-startup situation.

For me the crucial part lies in the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Even more so in the reserve order in which it is initiated. To quote Ries:

“Although we write the feedback loop as Build-Measure-Learn because the activities happen in that order, our planning really works in the reverse order. We figure out what we need to learn, use innovation accounting to figure out what we need to measure to know if we are gaining validated learning, and then we figure out what product we need to build to run that experiment and get that measurement.” Page 78

I see that in “mature” companies, teams are creating new products or features in an existing product, based on assumptions made by the business or the teams themselves (and sometimes on customer research). Those assumptions are not that explicit, nobody knows exactly how they are going to measure any outcome and/or prove that the feature actually adds value. Management is frustrated because they “don’t see the value”. Teams are frustrated because management doesn’t understand what they are doing, etc, and so on.

Assumptions are not the problem here. The problem is that we do not test them in a good ‘scientific’ way. We need to Build-Measure-Learn or even better, we need to make the reserve order of that feedback loop very explicit!

  1. Make the assumptions explicit. “I think feature X helps to solve problem Y.” 
  2. Add the (potential) value it will (hopefully) bring (added revenue, time saved, performance improved by x amount). “I think feature X helps to solve problem Y with amount Z.”

Let’s pause here. 

You are still in assumption mode. Of course you want to make sure it is a good assumptions and you can spend a lot of time doing the math, but that feature x will bring value y is an assumption, or put in scientific terms, a hypothesis.

  1. Make the way to measure the outcome explicit “ I think feature X helps to solve problem Y with amount Z and we measure this with Q” (Q can be new or something already in place)
  2. Build the feature to test your assumptions. Nothing more! Just build that which is needed to validate your hypothesis
  3. Measure the outcome
  4. Share the outcome and make a decision if needed (rolling out to all users instead of a subset, make it a bit more pretty if it adds value, etc.)
  5. Learn what to do next (improve further, pivot, something new)

A feature is only done if the full B-M-L loop is fulfilled. For people using product backlog’s with items on them, that means 1-6 should be part of your product backlog item. 7 is the start of a new pbi.

And

“The truth is that none of these activities by itself is of paramount importance. Instead we need to focus our energies in minimising the total time through this feedback loop.” Page 76

For instance: don’t go into analysis paralysis on item 2. Don’t make 4 too fancy at first. Be data driven in 5 and 6 don’t over analyse again. And improve every step along the way to learn better and faster.

Chief Product Officer (a.i.) @ Friss

Quartermaster and member of MT to push Product Department to the next level in professionalism, scalability and growth

Results

  • Grew Product & Engineering department from skeleton crew to ~75 FTE (including 15 direct reports)
  • Stabilised teams from firefighting to strategic thinking
  • Solved high turnover
  • Improving ownership at all levels

Senior Product Manager/Owner (a.i.) @ Newmotion

ad interim Product Manager/Owner Home Devision including:

  • MyNewMotion (web)
  • EV Charging (app)
  • Home Charging (app)
  • Customer Care (web)

Assignment was to hit the ground running and create clarity and order for several Products & Teams.

Results

  • Clear way of working & ownership
  • Aligned Roadmap Q1
  • Focus and time to upgrade/stabilise legacy system
  • Higher ownership of the teams on how to deliver the customers needs
  • Happier individuals & teams

Senior Agile Coach | Transformation Lead (a.i.) @ Nationale Nederlanden

NN is part of NN-group, an international insurer and financial asset manager with a listing on Euronext. The Customer & Commerce (C&C) department is responsible for the digital, data and IT part of NN with over 30 teams. C&C initially adopted the LeSS framework for their Agile transformation. My assignment: evaluate the current Agile Transformation, provide next steps, coach the Management Team and co-design new organisation.

Results

  • Descaled by dropping the LeSS framework and providing the means to go “back to basics” with Scrum and Kanban, Service Management and Project Management
  • Bottlenecks in operations, delivery, teams and organisational structure identified and improvement steps defined for more value delivered and higher employee satisfaction
  • Successful high impact redesign/reorganisation with positive advise from Work Council. Less hierarchy, clear goals and agile way of working
  • Personal coaching in servant leadership, operational excellence, lean thinking for Management team, Product Owners and Scrum Masters
  • Lead transition team and providing blue print for transition period

Agile Coach | Technology & Operations Swiss Army Knife (a.i.) @ Fontem Ventures

“It’s simple”

Jaap gets results. His broad skill set combined with a pragmatic and human-focused approach, significantly improves team productivity, even in the most challenging environments.“

Martin Samsa – Fontem CTO

Fontem is part of Imperial Tobacco (Fortune 500). The digital department serves the global markets in their endeavour to get half the revenue of Imperial Tobacco from Next Generation Products (mainly Blu) in 2025. That means ~18 B$. To enable this fast growth, people and teams, their way of working and the supporting processes need change.

Roles: Agile Coach, but also: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Operations Manager, Support Manager, general Swiss Army Knife

Results

  • Transformed digital department including 5 product teams and management to Agile/Scrum way of working
  • Increased velocity and value output of the teams by 50-100%
  • Coached product owners from scribe to business representative level and scrum masters to operational agile coaches
  • Implemented and improved support processes, including major incident management and release management
  • Created and implemented BI roadmap transforming team from product to service orientated team with BI manager

Agile Coach (a.i.) @ Fujitsu

Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company offering a full range of technology products, solutions and services. To enable growth and listen to clients wishes, the client facing infra and workplace support teams needed to change to an Agile/Scrum way of working in their infrastructure environment.

Roles: Agile Coach, Transformation Manager

Results

  • Delivered agile transformation blueprint for agile transformation to be implemented globally
  • Transformed teams from cost centers to revenue driven, from re-active to pro-active value driven client partners
  • Changed service delivery managers to professional product owners (Sponsor level)
  • Changed ITIL change managers to professional scrum masters
  • Coached 3 new agile coaches to implement delivered transformation blueprint

“Jaap was our Agile Coach in our Agile Transformation Project. He trained various team members in the organisation successfully as Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Agile Coaches. He has a unique combination of business knowledge, people knowledge and Agile “know how” that helped our organization to grow to the next level. Under his guidance we changed the way we worked from waterfall to agile, and were able to deliver changes in half the time, with an increased customer satisfaction”

Henk Witke, Head of Program and Project Services @ Fujitsu

Product Owner (a.i.) @ BrandLoyalty

BrandLoyalty designs, develops and implements loyalty solutions that help the world’s most successful retailers to change consumer’s behaviour. BL changed to a data driven company based upon a developed data warehouse solution and changed their CBI department to a agile/scrum way of working.

Roles: Product Owner CBI, Agile Coach

Results

  • Delivered in 5 months a data warehouse reducing analysis time of loyalty programs from 3 weeks to 3 days including data load from 3 days to 10 min for 1 TB
  • Delivered support processes for improving and maintaining the DWH
  • Changed 5 CBI teams to agile/scrum way of working
  • Changed consultants to product owner (business representative level)

“With Jaap in my team in the role of product owner and agile coach, we managed to merge two data teams into one product team in a short time. We then proceeded to deliver a state-of-the-art big data/business intelligence solution in almost 8 months’ time that was able shorten our core analysis process from 8 weeks to 1 week reduce manual labor of our analysts by 25%. Jaap was a great driver in accomplishing these results. He is a quick thinker, is very honest and has the talent to give you insights in a very constructive way.”

Arnoud Andeweg – Manager Consumer & Business Intelligence @ BrandLoyalty