Agile Consulting / Customer Story

Endless possibilities in a changing market

KPN is a Dutch landline and mobile telecommunications company that’s actively shifting focus to providing interactive television and video. Already a national player, this shift brings KPN into direct competition with the world’s operating telecom, technology, and entertainment giants. What’s KPN’s strategy? Be quick, smart and flexible to meet the ever changing demands of the client.

 

Why

Continuous innovation ensures relevance in a changing playing field

What

A new product requires a new Agile & DevOps approach

How

Autonomous teams with shared responsibility meet customer needs

The Interview

Here, the key project leaders share the details of KPN’s necessary transformation- product/ commerce manager, Bas van Vlierden and Peter Claerhoudt, manager of technical operations and DevOps iTV. Xebia’s Agile transformation consultant, Menno van Eekelen, who coached them through the project, also joins the conversation.

"As KPN we want our internet, TV and video services to stay relevant in a changing playing field."

Bas van Vlierden, Transformation Manager

More interaction and more communication have led to a more stable operation

Q: What is, or was, your most important business challenge?

Bas van Vlierden: “In the first place, we as KPN want to stay relevant with internet, television and video services in a changing playing field for the current and new target groups. Our market is currently under pressure. The number of television subscriptions among younger generations is decreasing, and the viewing behavior as a whole is changing. That calls for better products and services.”

Peter Claerhoudt: “We give form to the product wishes that Bas and his team come up with. For the most part, it revolves around the flexibility of the infrastructure, the ability to respond quickly to changes.”

BvV: “As KPN, we are dealing with new competition, for example from companies like Facebook and Netflix. Parties who offer their content and services ‘over the top’ based on what existing telecom providers like us can offer. So it’s important for KPN to play a role in this segment because we want to keep the TV customers connected to the phone and the internet.”

PC: “The scenario in which we, as KPN only still provide the infrastructure is not relevant. We can add a lot of value for our customers with content and other products and services, especially when you take into consideration developments like ‘smart energy’ and ‘smart home,’ in which more and more elements come together in the living room.”

Q: How does KPN distinguish itself in this competition?

BvV: “Media companies, technology companies, telecom giants, everybody sees a central role for themselves on the TV screen. They invest a lot in content in to reach and connect with people. We need to take part in that as well, but the choices have to be right.

We’re a real Dutch company; we can’t compete with the content of Liberty Global - who acquired the rights to Formula I for its offspring company Ziggo.”

PC: “In addition to that, customers want more for less money. Things not only have to work well technically, but they also have to be more affordable. We must be smart and effective.”

Q: To what extent did Agile help with that challenge?

PC: “Regarding the management of our IT platform, we always worked quite traditionally, with sound management processes and project management. But in a situation with continuous demands for change and new releases, you can’t wait a year for a new product to be developed. That would be too slow and too expensive. We looked at how others did this and came to Agile.”

BvV: “From IT, as a business perspective, we had to be able to adjust faster. The customer and user are central to this. In the past, a rating of 6 or 7.5 was good enough, but that time is over. To serve the customer better, we want to improve our customer service in small blocks, see how things are perceived, and then adjust accordingly.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge?

MvE: “That the management team would not see the transformation as yet another project, but as a top priority. From that realization, it was key that the new strategy and the way they work with that, would be something they’d have to carry themselves.

That required some patience from my position: let people ask questions themselves. Then I accompanied all the people in the change process. By the way, transforming is not only a goal but also a skill to develop. So you don’t give people fish, you teach them how to fish.”

Q: Which change do you remember the most?

BvV: “Before we had too many people in coordinating roles and employees who did the actual work sometimes became crazy from their interference. Now you give teams a few boundaries in which they can move; then you brainstorm with them to get where you want to be. That leads to a huge acceleration because everything is broadly acknowledged.”

PC: “You don’t have four to five major divisions, but autonomous groups of five to nine people involved in a particular function. In the past, in times of crisis, the best people were gathered together to reach a quick solution together. That dynamic is now the order of the day. Within the squads, they take on opportunities and challenges themselves.”

BvV: “One part of the dynamic is that within the chapters, small clubs with specific expertise, the leaders rose up themselves or were designated from within the group. In this way, you’re sure that the best rise up, and the commitment to doing things and resolving any difficulties become much bigger. “

As KPN we want our internet, TV and video services to stay relevant in a changing playing field.
- Bas van Vlierden (KPN)

Q: Has everything now become a shared responsibility?

PC: “Traditionally, two to three people had the overview. You were responsible for that. That could then be a problem going live because it had to be done by people who had not been involved in the implementation so far. There is now more interaction and more communication. The operation has, therefore, become much more stable. We’ve never had so few disturbances.”

BvV: “This is inherent in DevOps, in which everything during the development of something new is considered regarding how it will work in operation. New features are captured, developed and go live together. Previously, any disagreement between development and operations had to be resolved through the management team’s intervention.”

PC: “The work process and culture are much more open because everyone is involved. There’s not even a management team anymore because everything is centered on the regular meetings on Thursday in the central, employee-designed workspace we call ‘the cockpit.’ Then we talk from the perspective of the leadership team about the value and impact of new ideas. When it’s judged positively, it goes on the roadmap.”

Results

From 13% to 18%

NPS Score increased

-42%

Personnel costs

100%

Transformed KPN iTV into interactive television & video platform

Change & shared responsibilities

Agile Consulting

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.