Be Agile Like a Startup and Be Able to Scale and Respond Like an Enterprise

by: Bruno Guicardi
A photo of a man in a running outfit sprinting towards the finish line on top of a colorful background
Posted on Oct 17, 2017

Digital transformation within a hyper-connected world is an inevitable evolutionary shift.

There are a lot of consultants and agencies who promise digital transformation models to completely alter and revolutionize your entire business. Businesses who try to be agile for the sake of speed and new technology often find it not long-lasting and sustainable.

A decade ago when CI&T began, we discovered that implementing new technologies and training teams to apply them consistently takes time. It’s not an instantaneous change that an entire organization alters its operational model without training and gradual implementation. There isn’t a finite and detailed list of what a company must have to achieve digital maturity. It’s an infinite journey—a rewarding one at that.


An illustration that depicts training teams and introducing new technologies as a continuous process


For us, the real transformation started when we discovered Lean. Lean is a methodology created in the 1950’s to improve a company's performance by changing the way they face and solve problems. With Lean principles and processes applied to digital channels, we developed the transformation model that we now call the "Lean Digital Transformation".

 In order to learn, one must do 

An illustration showing the concept of Lean Digital


A way to illustrate Lean is by looking at e-commerce. In e-commerce, there is always a need to create a sales environment that’s more capable of supporting digital experiences, and one that’s agile enough to respond to the speed the market and consumer needs. How do we solve this with Lean? We continue to create and develop and it’s through the continuous development that allows us to create new features and products. However, in order for this to be successful, it’s necessary to change the architecture of traditional systems. Legacy systems often limit innovative ideas. Often these traditional systems strain to support the complexity, speed, and variety of current products and services.

To make the process more flexible and be able to adapt quickly, system architecture should be decoupled and less dependent on legacy. One way to address this is by using tools that allow the development of features independently, such as API management and micro-services. Ideally, it should be a gradual change that provides a natural way for a new interface and system to be introduced autonomously.

In addition to creating an agile environment, Lean also brings simpler processes that teams can incorporate into their routine seamlessly. Once team members have adopted the new system and methods, they can then become advocates for change within the organization— a principle that is deep rooted within Lean. By applying processes that influence behavior, it can in turn transform culture within an organization. As this gradually happens organically, organizations become more prepared to consistently deliver on the speed and quality that the market needs. Cultural change is the key to achieving a sustainable digital transformation.

Cultural change

Besides applying these key processes to change the way that teams operate, it’s also important to determine how to start solving or approaching a problem. Instead of looking for who or what the culprit is, problems should be seen as an opportunity to learn—look for the root cause of the problem to be able to solve it.

In CI&T’s transformation, this was a crucial point and what really helped our new way of thinking was the use of A3 tools. The A3 is a visual presentation, designed in a sheet of the European paper size of “A3” (roughly equivalent to 11 in x 17 in American tabloid size), of the problem and action plan to solve it. First, problems are identified, then the causes and action plans are created in order to solve them.

An illustration of the A3 process for a lean digital transformation

Start with the leaders

Business leaders need every team member to be more engaged and productive than ever. Which means that the role of the leader is even more critical. Leaders need to lead by example and be the first to embrace and understand changes in mindset and processes. Leaders must be immersed in all aspects of a project. The “Gemba” is a tool that proves to be helpful to involve leaders to work side by side with their teams. It allows leaders to play an active role and lead the team to a solution.

A fundamental principle of Lean is a leader’s involvement and knowledge of the inner workings of their organization and how they can create greater value for their customers. Leaders must be committed to learning and developing their skills to gain a deeper understanding than anyone else about their organization and their teams. They must be able to see the context and identify possibilities and opportunities.

Lean Digital Transformation is an infinite journey. It’s a constant and structured change. It’s anything but traditional, therefore a leader should be continually challenging the status quo and should always be aware that there is always room for improvement. Consistent practice of this is key.

Changing the teams 

Just as strong leadership is crucial to implementing Lean, teams must also be committed in the transformation journey. Teams practicing a daily routine while developing skills such as empathy is also a principle of Lean. Teams working within a multidisciplinary environment must understand and communicate with other team members from different departments and be able to work together productively. Developers may find it difficult to communicate with Creatives and the Marketing Manager, for example. Communication improves as each person immerses themselves in other team members’ work to understand their work and each other.

Before embarking on a digital transformation journey, you need to understand people and business and that Lean is a constant effort. It’s a continuous challenge that allows for continuous learning and improvement.

Understanding Customers in Order to Test Fast and Learn Fast 

CI&T’s more than 20 years of experience has taught us two key insights: First is that understanding the customer is essential—not just understanding their behaviors, but also how their behaviors and motivations change. With this in mind we’ve discovered that designing relevant experiences means creativity in omni-channel solutions.

The second insight is that speed is emphasized (without sacrificing quality). As mentioned earlier, consistent testing, experiments and learning is the approach to address the market full of uncertainties and inconsistencies. This means defining a theory, developing small products or features based on that theory, testing, and then adjusting accordingly. The idea is to test fast, learn fast, and hit the target quickly. This enables companies to make small bets on many ideas at once.

Big changes and breakthrough results require digital transformation. Traditional practices can limit innovation, and consistently challenging the status quo is how companies can take advantage of data analytics tools and use learned insights to develop products for the consumer in the shortest possible time.