Growing pains


Dean Pattrick, PMP, Nokia, Espoo, Finland


The end game
is that Agile is
embedded into
the corporate
culture, with
the necessary
meshing with
other ways
of working
to allow it to
survive and

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THE MOBILE phone market moves fast, forcing industry players to keep up—or go under.

Three years ago, that need for speed and innovation prompted Dean Pattrick, PMP, to move mobile giant Nokia to an Agile project environment.

“It was a painful journey,” says Mr. Pattrick, head of the company's program management office (PMO) for its music division. But the result is a technology group that can now produce production-grade code within two-week sprints, giving the company an edge over its rivals.

Describe Nokia's approach to project management.

Three years ago, we were faced with an important technical decision of implementing a new set of requirements onto one of our existing store platforms. After some initial planning using the waterfall method, the project looked like it would take a year.

At the same time, a few of the developers were discussing the advantages of moving to a more Agile way of working. They argued that using Agile, they could build a completely new platform from the ground up, including the new set of requirements, in the same amount of time. We missed the deadline by only 20 hours—not working hours, total hours—and that was due to stakeholder calendars.

How did the company make the transition to Agile?

Everyone from developers to senior management was affected.

The team was realigned. There were major changes to the working environment, with walls taken down to create completely open workspaces and boards mounted to the walls. One major impact was the different type and style of reports: Gone was the monolith waterfall approach to reporting, and in came the product backlog and burn-down charts.

What advantages have you seen?

Looking back, the final benefits completely outweigh the initial risks. We know how to create focused teams that can be reprioritized based on changes from the customer or the competitive landscape. As an example, we recently had to create a demo consisting of completely new features—and completed it within 10 days. For me, that illustrates the power of Agile.

What's the PMO's role in Nokia's Agile environment?

PMOs are certainly not the management fad everyone thought they would be. Within Nokia, the PMO adds tremendous value to the business.

The PMO had to figure out how to mesh Agile with a culture that still expects a certain type of long-range waterfall approach to reporting. We have three huge divisions—markets, devices and services—that interact with each other. One cannot exist without the full support of the other two. The end game is that Agile is embedded into the corporate culture, with the necessary meshing with other ways of working to allow it to survive and flourish.

What advice would you offer other organizations looking to transition to Agile?

Consult with people who have lived through it, who have an understanding of the pain that turning resistance into acceptance can cause at every level in the organization. Having someone who has experienced it first-hand can help you make better, more informed decisions.

One major undertaking is to offer training to everyone, especially managers, so that they can understand and appreciate the ramifications of the change that you are all embarking on.

Is there anything you would alter about the way Nokia approaches project management?

Nokia fully embraces project management methodologies. It understands the benefits of project managers and offers training and support. If I could change one thing, I would influence some key people within the marketing organization to undertake some formal training in project management. I see this as a huge opportunity not only to the business but developing team members. PM




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