A considerable business challenge, very little time, a young team, and a single external Agile consultant taking on the roles of Agile coach and Scrum master simultaneously—these were the ingredients of a rapid and ultimately successful transformation at the e-commerce department of Dutch coffee giant Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE).
Increase autonomy, authority, speed and the ability to adapt
A More customer-centric approach with Agile
Multidisciplinary approach and speedy Agile implementation
As the director responsible for the change process, Auffret understood better than anyone else how steep the learning curve was. “By delivering end-to-end results with a high degree of autonomy, the young team has gained five years of experience in just six months,” he explained. “I don’t know of any organization that has managed to accomplish such change in such a short period of time. There were no viable alternatives, but I am happy and proud that we made the right decision and started working Agile. Because of that, and with the help of Xebia, our speed and ability to adapt has radically increased, without losing anyone in the process.”
E-commerce is critical to JDE’s coffee sales and distribution, but channel fragmentation had become an issue. Direct to consumers, online supermarkets, specialized retailers, and traders had to be integrated, which created significant challenges for the young e-commerce team in terms of ambition, expectations and expanded responsibilities.
“We received internal feedback that there were too many competing priorities and too many things that needed to change, “ said Merel van Oosterhout, JDE’s global HR manager. “On top of that, the team wasn’t quite yet ‘fit for success’. We needed a new approach that was all about making the right choices in a rapidly changing environment.”
JDE wanted to quickly move to a more customer-centric approach by increasing the team’s autonomy, authority and personal responsibility. “Agile was the only viable option for increasing our speed,” explained Peter Vogel, JDE’s head of technology and e-commerce operations. “We already applied the methodology within our platform development stream, but since we didn’t have the knowledge and expertise in-house to also train the business teams, we looked for a partner to support us. I knew Xebia from my previous position and, since that had been a good experience, it made sense to contact them.”
"It took just half a year to implement changes that take other organizations sixteen to eighteen months."
The preparations for the transformation took two months, with the help of Xebia’s consultants. In September, JDE e-commerce started working Agile, initially with just a single team and expanding from there. Auffret described the experience, “It was totally new to us: moving fast and adapting to the constantly changing circumstances. Xebia was right there with us—the weight of success or failure was on all of our shoulders.”
Agile Consultant Mark van den Brom was the link between JDE management and the e-commerce team, with Xebia’s Jurriaan Bernson, Agile Product Manager, created transparency and ensured focus and coordination. Together they mapped out all 182 projects that were to be carried out, rated them based on their added value, prioritized them, and evaluated them on a weekly basis. Van den Brom said, “Xebia’s multidisciplinary approach is one of its greatest strengths. The cooperation between various disciplines enables us to achieve real business impact for our customers.”
JDE’s leadership also posed a significant challenge. It needed to transition from a management approach to a coaching one. This shift meant learning to support the team in its evolving relationship with the stakeholders, as well as bringing its mission and objectives into focus. Leadership needed to provide a clear goal and context for team operations.
Global eCommerce Director Ludovic Auffret said, “A new kind of leadership has emerged; one that removes obstacles and helps with prioritization. The overall engagement has significantly improved because everyone has to continuously deliver value, contribute new ideas, and make decisions as a team. The entire process is now more sustainable, personally enriching, and adaptive. It has made work more fun while also creating growth for the business.”
Vogel sees it as the start of a positive trend, one where people hear each other better and take more ownership. “We learned to move faster, with stronger teams. Without Agile, we would have had serious issues.”
The sector in which JDE operates is developing rapidly. This demands constant adaptation, acceleration, and growth of its global footprint. Agile will continue to be required. “What has been achieved here is truly incredible,” says Van Oosterhout. “But this journey is by no means over and we are constantly adapting to be ‘fit for the future’. We continue to improve ourselves.”
Auffret agreed, “With Agile, people no longer develop in just a single role or function. They achieve a much broader growth After all, people work together on shared, complex issues. The challenges and responsibilities that come with this new approach have a positive effect on career opportunities.”
“Advising and guiding is all about people,” Auffret emphasized. “The interaction with Xebia’s Mark van den Brom was very productive. He took everyone at JDE with him to make the change happen and was really hands-on, without too much PowerPoint, leading from the front. He showed us the unused potential we had available. Xebia’s combination of Agile strategy and actual Agile implementation makes it unique. They were definitely the right partner for such a huge, time-constrained business challenge.”
Van den Brom smiled, “Instead of just a slide stack, we choose personal contact with lots of cups of coffee.”
Today’s most successful businesses have one thing in common: they are open to change. They know that continuous innovation is critical to meet customer needs and remain competitive. The world we live in is extremely dynamic. Trends and new technologies follow each other at high speed. What breaks new ground one day, will be torn to the ground the next.
Staying ahead of the game is key. This doesn’t always mean moving faster or turning your business model upside down. Maybe, you need to work smarter. An Agile way of working requires many aspects of your business to be reviewed, refreshed, and reorganized.