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Home | Newsletter | UPDATE 3 | 2018 | How Syngenta developed a smart reporting solution with Scrum and Lean
October 24, 2018

How Syngenta developed a smart reporting solution with Scrum and Lean Experimentation - a Success Story

Innovative thinkers and teams frequently find themselves frustrated with rigid processes and project management methods that keep their ideas on paper for too long. Everything is analyzed and rethought ad absurdum before anything is implemented and tested. Agile principles are still a highly popular choice, as they allow project teams to take new functions to the market and their customers faster.

 

For one such project, ARCONDIS combined the Scrum framework with the principles of Lean Experimentation. By leveraging the resulting short feedback loops, we delivered tangible results and adapted them to our customers’ requirements faster.

 

Starting point and requirements

Syngenta is one of the world’s largest agricultural corporations. The subsidiary of ChemChina is the market leader in the segment for chemical pesticides and the third largest player in the global seed market. In its R&D department, more than 5,000 employees work on new, innovative products for farmers and improve existing ones day by day as part of around 2,500 projects with up to 700 tasks annually.

 

Smart reporting at Syngenta thanks to Scrum & Lean - agile approach

 

On top of constant market changes, these projects must comply with ever-changing regulations. Besides its project portfolio planning solution, Planisware, the department Portfolio Management Excellence (PMEC) used QlikView for making evaluations and reports available to the project managers.

The greatest challenge was the rigidity of this reporting solution: Evaluations and reports had to be created by a laborious, high-maintenance process involving Excel macros. Large amounts of data were stored in decentralized files, which significantly complicated their evaluation e.g. by way of trend analyses. This situation resulted in a lack of transparency and difficult decision-making.

Syngenta required a new solution that would integrate the decentralized data, facilitate the establishment of time-variant databases and simplify the reporting process for experts and relevant employees of the company’s departments.

Objectives of the project

The project had the following goals:

  1. Model the available data to create a consistent, reliable database within the data warehouse
  2. Integrate time-variant data and implement an automated recording system for future data
  3. Develop a selection of dashboards and reports for all user groups in Qlik View
  4. Define the operational process and establish an organization for product support and maintenance for business and IT
  5. Ensure integration into the existing system landscape and improve the Qlik Services for IT

 

Approach

ARCONDIS helped its customer carry out a comprehensive market analysis of the available business intelligence solutions. It also supervised the supplier selection process before beginning with the actual conception and implementation phases. An expert team was put together, combining classical project roles with various required Scrum roles. As the responsible implementation partner for product and service development, ARCONDIS provided a project manager, a Scrum master and a business analyst, ensuring project success. The pro­ject manager doubled as an ‘organizational change expert’, advising the product owner on customer’s side regarding the implementation of the solution into the organization.

 

Smart reporting at Syngenta thanks to Scrum & Lean Agile project organization

Graphic: Team-Set-up, following to agile PM (DSDM)


With agile and lean to success

As a first step, the team conducted a survey among end users of the future system. Its results underpinned an initial, conventional requirements analysis and the establishment of a requirements catalog. The application of agile and lean principles considerably contributed to the success of the project. Besides two-week sprints, the project team also integrated additional feedback loops. This improved the project team’s understanding of the customers’ requirements. Testing, failing and testing again ensured implementation – a process based on Lean Experimentation.

Put simply, Lean Experimentation is a phase-controlled process that iteratively runs through five phases: ‘ideation and analysis’, ‘constituent delivery’, ‘building’, ‘testing’ and ‘responding’. Its primary objective is to test new functions collaboratively with the end users to establish their value, learn and improve the product (build, measure, learn).

The minimal viable product – i.e., the minimal functional extent that would satisfy the customer – was defined initially and fine-tuned over the course of the project. The team conducted experiments and collected user data (feedback loop) substantiating these experiments to adapt and adjust the product.

Smart reporting at Syngenta thanks to Scrum & Lean. Agile Project Approach (click the images to enlarge)

In this case, the type of applicable experiments varied: One subgroup used a classical report prototype, another tested simple adaptations within the reports together with the users.

The users’ willingness to use these functionalities, measure with metrics and enable informed, data-based decisions is essential.

“Our experience joined with that of the consultation team was a key to success.”

— Franz Schuermann, Product Owner by Syngenta

When scaling the product, the project team focused on carrying out the required steps directly rather than evaluating each option on paper first. This created options for expanding the infrastructure and making it more flexible. It also implemented metrics that can highlight the need for such adaptations at an early stage.

 

Success factors

Franz Schuermann, manager at Syngenta, summarizes the factors crucial to project success in his opinion:

  1. Firstly, the selection of team members for their skills and expertise was a decisive factor: Our experience joined with that of the consultation team was a key to success.
  2. The consultants’ presence on site ensured a more efficient implementation and better communication.
  3. We all shared the same pragmatic, flexible outlook.
  4. Our small, powerful team was authorized to make important decisions autonomously in order to conclude the project successfully and as efficiently as possible.
  5. The combination of the selected method, accompanying alignment measures during the sprints and coordination by the ARCONDIS team accelerated the development process considerably.


“The close involvement of us as customers and the regular reviews of progress in the product development of the Smart Report application led to strong engagement and ownership. Also the regular sprints allowed us to correct problems quickly and in a simple way as they appeared. The proactive and personal engagement of the ARCONDIS team helped to always maintain the awareness and focus in the project.”

— Dr. Adrian Friedmann, PMP, Head CP R&D Project Management, Syngenta


Results

The project concluded successfully, and the solution has been integrated into the existing environment. ARCONDIS further supported its client Syngenta throughout the calibration phase after the implementation, helping the users become acquainted with the new solution. In summary, we have achieved the following results:

  • Project reports can now be created easily, quickly and with a clear structure, incorporating historically decentralized data as needed.
  • The connection to the Planisware source system supports daily change recording (snapshots) within projects and tasks and the automated maintenance of time-variant databases.
  • The new solution has been seamlessly integrated into the existing environment and all relevant recording and documentation processes have been adapted to the agile method.
  • A reporting community has been established that continuously monitors and improves the project and task reports as well as relevant data.

 

Once again, the vigor of an agile spirit is clear: the competent, autonomous team developed a product providing full business value that impresses users using a controlled trial and failure procedure.

Compared with classical development and implementation approaches, this method was faster, more cost-effective and above all much more user oriented.

 

Smart reporting at Syngenta thanks to Scrum & Lean. Stefan Haberberg, ARCONDIS Project Manager

The application of agile and lean principles considerably contributed to the success of the project. Besides sprints, the project team also integrated additional feedback loops. This improved the project team’s understanding of the customers’ requirements. Testing, failing and testing again ensured implementation – a process based on Lean Experimentation.

- Stefan Haberberg, ARCONDIS Project Manager

 


 

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