Skill BuilderS builds talent. For over 35 years, they have been discovering, developing and deploying talent. They assist and coach both companies and individuals. Their services include:
Job & career guidance
Talent & organization development
Care for talent
In addition, they also contribute to a sustainable future.
Watch how Skill BuilderS tackles sustainable corporate mobility
Watch how Skill Builder Marieke experiences the Olympus app
How does Skill BuilderS approach sustainable corporate mobility?
Evita explains: “We are currently transitioning to a fully electric fleet. About half of our company cars are already electric.
Those who do not have company cars may use the Olympus app. We also try to promote the rental of bikes and scooters among our colleagues.”
What was your biggest obstacle in terms of mobility?
Evita: “Our colleagues work in different locations. Not everyone has a company car to move around. They have to use their own car or public transport.
The expenses they make then have to be paid in advance by themselves. The result? Tickets are submitted late, not at all or just get lost.”
What criteria did your solution have to meet?
Evita brings up two points: “On the one hand, we were looking for an automated process. We wanted to limit manual operations. No more tickets to enter, no more refunds to process.
On the other hand, we wanted a solution where our colleagues would not have to advance their tickets anymore. The Olympus app solves both issues.”
How did the implementation of the Olympus app go?
Evita: “Very smoothly. We started with a test phase where ten colleagues tested the app. We only got positive feedback, so we decided to partner up.
The implementation didn’t take much work. Olympus Mobility created the necessary accounts and our colleagues could start using the Olympus app.”
What is the biggest added value for Skill BuilderS?
Evita: “The amount of time saved. The many manual tasks are a thing of the past. Colleagues no longer have to advance the amount themselves either.”
She adds: “The benefit for the environment should not be underestimated either. We can better encourage our colleagues to take public transport.
For short trips, they take their bikes more often, as this avoids traffic jams and they get to their destination faster.”
How do colleagues experience the sustainable mobility policy?
We talked to Marieke Van Lysebetten, an avid cyclist and train traveler. She uses the Olympus app to easily order train tickets. When she still needs the car, she parks with 4411.
Marieke explains her experience: “The biggest change now that we use the Olympus app? The ease.
We no longer have to keep track of and enter tickets. It provides some extra headspace to think about other things.”
Marieke has always been an advocate for sustainable mobility. She uses her bike as much as possible when she can.
“I find it more enjoyable to move around by bike or train. You start your day fullyrelaxed. When I do have to take the car and get stuck in traffic, I miss my bike or the train.”
She continues: “I find it important to always consider my mode of transportation – is it really necessary for me to take the car? Can’t I just go by bike instead?
When, for example, we have a meeting in Brussels, I will be the one looking up the train times. Then I also encourage my colleagues to take the train together. Your day starts off much calmer. I can actually recommend it to everyone.”
What does the future hold?
Evita confidently responds: “More sustainable mobility! Encouraging colleagues even more to use public transport, cycling or scooters to get around.”
Sandra explains: “Your mobility policy should be set up for your employees first and foremost. Their input is therefore crucial. That’s why our approach began with an internal mobility survey with help of Traject.
Through this survey, we gained a better understanding of the specific mobility needs within our company. We got direct input about the travel behavior of our employees.”
That’s not the only advantage of a survey. Sandra continues: “This way, your employees get to think along with the sustainable path that your company wants to take.”
Step 2. Create a mobility team
The next step? A dedicated mobility team.
Sandra: “You want to encourage everyone in your company to use more sustainable mobility. We set up a mobility team with representatives from different departments.
Because of their exemplary role, you create a greater support base.
In addition to myself, our ‘Mobility Team’ consists of our Facility Manager, Communication Manager, HR Comp & Ben Manager, HR Director and CFO. Together we facilitate sustainable mobility at Mediahuis.”
Step 3. Determine your long-term goals
Sandra explains: “Next, our Mobility Team put its heads together to determine our vision, ambition and long-term goals.
Our current mobility plan consists of three parts:
Avoiding trips by teleworking
Such a plan gives your mobility policy a clear direction. You work systematically towards your goals.
We also come together as a team on a regular basis. Then we look at the results and adjust when necessary.”
Step 4. Choose the right mobility partners
Sandra: “You can’t create a new mobility policy alone. You need the expertise of the right partners.
Mediahuis worked with three parties.
Stroohm assisted us in making our fleet more sustainable.
Traject supported us in sending out surveys, general communication and analysis of results.
Olympus Mobility provided a platform to simplify and encourage sustainable mobility for our employees.
These three parties transformed Mediahuis’ car policy into a full mobility policy without any extra work.
Furthermore, Olympus Mobility helps manage costs for companies with multiple locations – something that is very important for Mediahuis.”
Step 5. Communicate about your initiatives and results
Sandra: “Want your employees to be aware of your new mobility policy? Communicate about your initiatives.
We work with a specific newsletter about Mediahuis’ mobility. Here we discuss different themes, ranging from new features at Olympus Mobility or the Mobility Week to how you go on vacation with your car.
In addition, together with Traject, we also set up accessibility sheets for our locations. This way, our employees get a good idea of which mode of transport is the most efficient.”
Sandra adds: “What you must not forget is to communicate about the results of your actions. With attractive visuals, we involve our employees in our mobility story. We established a unique ‘Mediahuis Mobility’ logo to create recognition.
Continuing to communicate is key. You don’t want sustainable mobility to be a side issue, but something that your employees are actively involved in.”
Step 6. Keep adjusting
Sandra: “Mobility never stands still. Keeping track of your goals is crucial. You want to get a better view of how your employees experience the switch to sustainable alternatives.
We give each employee a budget to try out those alternatives and listen to their feedback. We also interview people who have exchanged their company car. This way, we can make timely adjustments when necessary.”
Their actions pay off. “We see that 86% of our employees know Olympus Mobility, and half of them already uses the Olympus app. Now that we’ve also introduced the legal mobility budget, that number will only increase.”
No wonder Mediahuis has been named a Pioneering Employer three times in a row. With their focus on sustainability and people-oriented approach, they are a true example.
B-architecten is a platform of talented designers who want to weigh in on policy and have an impact on the quality of living and life.
Designing is their core task – from door handle to city district – but they also invest in innovative research. They publish and discuss, initiate their own initiatives, and seize opportunities to push the boundaries of their profession.
They are part of the ‘B’ group, together with:
B-bis: specialists in private projects and interior assignments
The legal mobility budget is a sustainable and tax-advantageous alternative to the company car. With that budget, employees exchange their company cars for an environmentally friendly car and other alternative forms of transport.
Specifically, the legal mobility budget consists of three pillars:
Environmentally friendly company cars: cars with a maximum CO2 emission of 95 g/km (this regulation will change in 2026 to cars without CO2 emissions).
Sustainable mobility and housing costs: public or shared transport, purchase or maintenance of a bicycle or scooter, rental or loan …
Cash: at the end of the year, your employee will be paid out the remaining budget, after a reduction of 38.07% special employee contribution.
Who is entitled to the legal mobility budget?
The answer is twofold:
Employees who are already driving a company car today.
Employees with a position that entitles them to a company car, but don’t (yet) use it.
We also make two remarks here:
The legal mobility budget can only be implemented when you have had a mobility policy for three years and when at least one employee has a company car on which he or she pays VAA.
When you currently offer salary benefits in exchange for the company car, your employee cannot exchange these benefits for the mobility budget.
How do I calculate the legal mobility budget?
In short? Based on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). In other words: the total annual gross cost of the company car.
It includes costs related to the car, such as:
The lease or rental price of the car
CO2 solidarity contribution
For employees who are eligible for the mobility budget, but do not have a company car, it is different. They first choose a fictitious company car. Based on that you determine their TCO.
Currently there is no official calculator to calculate the mobility budget, but it is likely that this year the federal government will release a TCO Mobility Budget Calculator.
While we wait, we appeal to some concrete guidelines. The budget amounts to …
Maximum one-fifth of the gross annual salary of the employee or €16,000 per calendar year
In brief, it is an international CRM and e-business consultancy.
Experts in everything digital & data.
They’re more than happy to look into digital strategies and are ready to innovate alongside their customers.
How does business mobility take shape at Business & Decision?
As true innovators, they were among the first to implement the legal mobility budget. Approximately 170 employees have already joined, 50 of them with a company car in pillar 1. That is one-sixth of their total fleet.
They are even more committed to further reducing their CO2 emissions in 2023. Working from home and electric cars are just some examples of their sustainable mobility policy.
They are also unpacking all pillars of the legal mobility budget this year. Many of their employees have already chosen to spend their budgets on housing costs.
Their only challenge? Current contracts with leasing companies.
Tine: “We find ourselves in the transition years. The Belgian state is calling for electric driving, but our contracts have not yet expired. That is why we also have fuel engines available.”
What did your mobility policy look like a few years ago?
Tine: “In 2020, we opted for cash-for-car, which was a huge success. After discontinuation in 2021, we looked towards the legal mobility budget.
This is a great project, but it currently deters companies because of its complexity. Especially since it is new.”
What challenges did you encounter in terms of mobility?
“We experienced dissatisfaction from our employees. Some of them used their company car only to a limited extent or not at all, but still faced the associated costs.
Furthermore, we also paid their public transport expenses.
That means that we incurred double costs, while dealing with dissatisfaction. This marked the start of our search for a solution for better mobility.”
What criteria was that solution expected to meet?
“The most important criterion, of course, was the satisfaction of our employees.A reduction in our CO2 emissions also played a role.
We also wanted to avoid increasing red tape at all times. The HR and finance departments already have enough on their plate as it is.
A project like the legal mobility budget should not add to that.”
What advice would you give to other companies who want to use the legal mobility budget?
“First of all, make sure your management is behind your choices. Next, organise a survey within your company to establish the needs of your employees. Are they actually interested in such a mobility budget?
After that, it’s a matter of using the right tools. For me, that means Olympus Mobility.
It is also important to engage an external person to guide you through the whole process. That is how you reduce the burden on HR.
If you do not have the right guidance and tool, implementation will be an administrative nightmare.”
Why did you choose Olympus Mobility?
“Users can consult their budget in real-time every day. Expenses are deducted immediately, including housing costs.
Refunds are made immediately by Olympus Mobility. This means that employees do not have to wait a month for their money.
Also, the administrative cost we saved is almost equal to the work of a half-time employee.
The costs of external coaching and Olympus Mobility are actually not that expensive, by the way. I definitely recommend giving it a listen before setting it aside.”
Tine also states:
“I believe in the legal mobility budget and the applications that guide us in it. Once electric driving becomes more widespread in society, people are increasingly starting to look towards the legal mobility budget.
They will opt more for a smaller car and use the remaining budget for alternative solutions.”
What does an experienced user of the legal mobility budget himself have to say about it?
We spoke to Pierre Caeymaex. As a Data Consultant at Business & Decision, he moves around Brussels by public transport on a daily basis. Or on his electric skateboard. He opted for the train for his holiday in France.
Pierre: “I initially chose the legal mobility budget because you can also use it to pay your rent. But in the end, the many options are the biggest strength of this system.”
“I have been using my budget for a subscription with SNCF since the implementation at Business & Decision, which gives me a discount on my TGV journeys.
I could also afford to use it to pay for my taxi rides, to rent an e-scooter and to purchase an e-bike and skateboard, as well my rental costs.”
Pierre has the following to say about using the Olympus app: “The app supports me in my choice of sustainable mobility.
Moreover, I can also contribute the cost of spare parts and repairs for my bike and skateboard.”
What does the future look like for Business & Decision in terms of mobility?
Tine: “Keep aiming for electric cars. Keep explaining what the mobility budget entails, what options are available and, above all, all the benefits. And keep doing what we have already started!”
Thank you for the pleasant chat, Tine and Pierre!
Are you also implementing the legal mobility budget?
In 2020, he teamed up with his rowing partner Niels Van Zandweghe to compete in Tokyo. The duo eventually achieved an impressive 5th place.
That same year, he also broke Toon Aerts’ cycling record in the Container Cup. That is quite an achievement!
To be honest, we are not really surprised. After all, we have yet to see Tim without his bike. Except on water, that is.
Next stop: Paris 2024
Those who know a bit about major sporting events are aware that the Olympic Games will take place in 2024.
Sounds like a logical next stop for Tim Brys, doesn’t it?
He will compete in numerous races throughout 2023 to secure his spot in the Belgian rowing team.
It promises to be an exciting year ahead for our ambassador!
The Olympus team wants to support our ambassador on his journey to Paris.
Consequently, you will see some posts appearing on our social media throughout the year with #TimsJourney.
Would you like to support him as well? Make sure to follow us on your favourite social media channel: LinkedIn – Facebook – Instagram.
On this page we keep track of developments related to: Tim Brys’ upcoming competitions, results …
You can follow everything closely. A bit like ESPN, actually, or even a dedicated fan page.
4/02 – GRS indoor competition
Our ambassador spent the last few months preparing with his teammates. After three stages, the time had come: the first race of the season, the ergometer championship in Ghent.
248 rowers competed, each in their own ranking, for the best time on the indoor rowing machines. Tim rowed the 2000 metres in 6 minutes, taking 5th place.
His teammate and world indoor rowing champion Ward Lemmelijn lived up to his title and came first.
Congratulations to all the rowers!
March 12 – International Riverhead
Gold! At the international skiff competition in Seneffe, Tim Brys secured first place.
After a 6-kilometre battle, our ambassador won with some 20 seconds ahead of fellow Belgian Shark Ruben Claeys.
That’s not the first time, by the way.
In both 2019 and 2022, our ambassador could also call himself the winner. In the process, he also improved his time this year (24:17 in 2022, 22:59 in 2023).
In Tim’s own words: ‘Good race. 😊’
Practice in Varese (Italy)
Behind the scenes of the stage in Varese to prepare for the race in Piediluco. 🚣🏼♂️
1 – 2 April – Outdoor competition Piediluco
Two bronze medals!
The Belgian Sharks took third place in the international rowing competition both Saturday and Sunday. 🥉
Congratulations Tim, Ward, Ruben and Gaston!
21 – 23 April – Belgian Championship Hazewinkel
Our ambassador is on a winning streak!
He found himself on stage “amongst the youngsters”, as Tim likes to call them.
Congratulations on your silver medal, Tim!
6 to 7 May – Ghent May Regatta
Nothing like a win in your own city. Except for two wins, that is. At the KRSG Regatta in Ghent, Tim Brys could call himself the winner twice. A wonderful achievement, Tim!
25 to 28 May – European Championship in Bled
The European Championships in Bled was the first competition where Tim competed against the other European heavyweight skiffeurs. In 2022, he made a switch from the lightweights, a choice that clearly suits him.
With the Olympus Mobility sticker on his skiff, he rowed four races throughout the weekend. In the B final, where six European skiffeurs compete for places seven to 12, Tim led for most of the race. With silver in the B final, he secured a nice 8th place at the European Championships.
A beautiful race, Tim. On to the next!
15 to 18 June – World Cup Rowing in Varese
Tim continues to perform strongly. At the World Rowing Cup in Varese, our sculler took fourth place.
6 to 9 July – World Cup Rowing Luzern
Tim proves to be a fixed value in the top 10. After an exhilarating B final, he took second place. Good for eighth place in the final standings.
With the results of the past World Cups, our ambassador clearly built a solid foundation to qualify for the Olympics.
But first: the World Championship in Belgrade. Good luck!
1 to 10 September – World Championship Belgrade
This year’s World Cup in Belgrade was the moment to secure an Olympic ticket. When you land in the top 9, you’re in.
Tim landed in 13th place, but: “My place does not reflect my performance.“
In the first race, our ambassador secured second place. A smooth start, but due to bad luck in the draw, he was up against the number 1, 2 and 4 of the past World Cup season in the quarterfinals.
When you don’t finish in the top three at that point, you also lose your spot in the semi-finals. Tim finished fourth, with less than a second difference to his predecessor.
The further races he won convincingly. He finished in 13th place.
Unfortunately, therefore, no spot for the Paris Olympics yet. But his sights are set on the European Continental Qualification Regatta in April 2024.
“I am going to give everything. The chances of placing are great,” Tim said.
Not up to speed about the new legislation yet? Read briefly about the tax changes here:
Tax deductibility for fuel cars will be systematically reduced after 1 July 2023.
For plug-in hybrids, this rule has already applied since 1 January 2023.
Cars purchased after this date are in a transitional phase.
During this period, tax benefits will be systematically phased out until 2028.
What if you buy a car after 2026 and it runs (partly) on fossil fuel? Then it is no longer tax deductible.
Mobility trend 2. The implementation of a legal mobility budget
This seamlessly brings us to the second mobility trend, as electrification goes hand in hand with the legal mobility budget. And here’s why.
When you implement the legal mobility budget in your company, you start by calculating the Total Cost of Ownership. This is done based on the current cost of your employee’s fuel car.
Your employee can then spend this budget on 3 pillars:
Pillar 1: an environmentally friendly car
Pillar 2: sustainable means of transport or rental costs
Pillar 3: cash
When you look up the term ‘environmentally friendly car’ on Google, you will notice that the focus is on electric models.
Your employees are free to use the remainder of the budget for sustainable means of transport, rental costs and international train journeys with the family. Weekend in Berlin, anyone?
So, weekend getaway or even something else: you will find that the legal mobility budget brings with it a wide choice of mobility options. Your employees are therefore free to go wherever they wish, each time using the most optimal means of transport.
You may think that this sounds good, and indeed it does. Bank Van Breda and numerous other companies are very much in favour of it, and according to the coalition agreement employees without a company car will also be able to enter this tax advantageous framework in the future!
Mobility trend 3. Employees opt for sustainable mobility
If the figures from VIAS Institute and FPS Mobility and Transport are to be believed, the number of teleworkers has doubled in four years. This is reflected in fewer kilometres travelled, as well as opting for alternative means of transport. This trend continues to grow.
Let’s look at the numbers.
One in three Belgians opted for public transport or cycling more often in 2022.
Young peopleare also increasingly ditching the car in favour of commuting by bus or train.
The Olympus Mobility product development team is a multi-disciplinary team with backend developers, a web developer, mobile app developer, product designer and with the CTO and CEO sharing the product management role.
At the beginning of 2022 the product development team decided that it wanted to deliver faster because it had become harder to meet release dates. We wanted to take a step back to find out what was going on and find ways to improve.
1. Visualise work
Work Item Level
First, we figured out how to get useful data about the work done and found ways to visualise the last month’s work with the hope that it could lead us to insights.
We started looking at work item level and exported data from JIRA. A work item can be a story or a bug.
We exported the cycle time for work items for our delivery process for the period between the 1st of October 2021 and 15th of April 2022. Cycle time is the time that a work item spends as work in progress within a predefined set of process boundaries. As process boundaries we took the moment a developer picks up a work item for implementation until it is finished and ready to deploy to production. This includes time to implement the work item, have a peer review and a QA stage. We focussed on this part of the process because the people in the team felt stressed out because of the workload, context switching and lack of focus and we had reliable data.
The cycle time we calculated didn’t include the deployment to production itself because that happened every two weeks and it wasn’t tracked in JIRA with a separate workflow state.
The cycle time for all our feature work is visualised here in a cycle time scatter plot :
In a cycle time scatter plot every dot represents a work item. The horizontal axis on the chart indicates when the work item was completed. The vertical axis indicates how long the work item spent in progress within the process boundaries we’ve chosen. In this plot we chose days as the unit of time.
What this chart shows us is that 50% of the work items that were completed between the 1st of October 2021 and 15th of April 2022 were completed within 3 days. 85% of all work items were completed within 11 days and 95% of the items were completed within 32 days.
The less variability there is in cycle time the more predictable you are as a team and in our case we think that 85% of work items completed in 11 days doesn’t look bad at all.
The learnings we took from this exercise:
We should pay attention when ‘in progress’ work items cross the 8 – 10 days of age because it looks like once they cross this threshold they often stay in progress for a long time. We need to pay more attention to work item age and act to prevent long cycle times.
We can also look into the outliers to find out why they took so long and find out if they have something in common that we need to pay attention to.
In general we are very pleased with the cycle time of individual work items for this part of our product development process and we don’t think we need to dig any deeper right now.
Next we looked one level up to the feature level. With a feature we mean a larger deliverable that needs many work items to be completed before delivering value. Some examples of features are: extend our mobile app to let users use a car sharing service or order a train ticket.
The team felt that they were working on many things at the same time and when we looked at the data this is what we found:
In October 2021 we worked on 5 features in parallel
In November 2021 we worked on 4 features in parallel but 2 of the features were new ones. For 3 of the features that we worked on in October we paused the work.
In December 2021 we worked on 6 features in parallel, luckily none of them were newly started.
In January 2022 we also worked on 5 features, none of them new.
In February 2022 we worked on 8 features in parallel of which 3 were new.
In March 2022 we worked on 8 features in parallel.
In April 2022 we also worked on 8 features in parallel.
We were working on more features in parallel than we had people in the team during this timeframe (7 people were part of the product development team).
So although the team did a great job at finishing individual work items we worked on many features in parallel which resulted in a long cycle time for each of the individual features.
My expectation was that we would have a low flow efficiency for the individual features due to lots of context switching. Flow efficiency for a feature is the ratio of the total active time a feature was worked on to the cycle time it took to complete the feature.
For example, if a feature took 10 days to complete but it only required 2 days of active work the flow efficiency is 20%. It means that the work spent 8 days in some inactive state.
Flow efficiency is often difficult to measure because it means we need to be able to distinguish active from inactive time. If your workflow has wait states in between every state, for example ‘development in progress’ → ‘waiting for review’ → ‘review’, and the state changes are kept up-to-date reasonably well you can calculate flow efficiency. Our workflow doesn’t have wait states but we are required to do time tracking for accounting purposes. This means we track daily how much time we spent per feature and this allows us to measure flow efficiency quite accurately.
So based on these worklogs / timesheets we were able to both calculate flow efficiency for every feature and visualise how we spent our time as a team :
The image above shows a Gantt chart which is often misused to represent a project plan. Misused, because Gantt charts are typically created before the work starts. However during the product development process we still learn new things that affect the work that needs to be done and so laying out a detailed plan and estimating how long it will take beforehand is hardly ever accurate. The project plan also typically assumes 100% flow efficiency which is almost never the case.
The Gantt chart that I show here represents how we actually spent our time as a team based on the work logs. It is not at all how a predefined project plan typically looks like.
Each line in the chart represents a different feature we worked on. For the purpose of this blog post the actual feature descriptions have been renamed to generic values ‘Feature 1’, ‘Feature 2’,… If a day is coloured for a feature it means at least someone in the team logged time on the feature. It shows really well how scattered our time was spent and how it increases the cycle time for each of the features. You can see this by the many gaps and a lot of context switching.
The flow efficiency for these features for this time frame is, sorted ascending: 7%, 9%, 12%, 14%, 16%, 22%, 36%, 53%. This is because on average, things are waiting somewhere 4 times more than they’re being actively worked on!
On top of this, one stream of work that isn’t visible in the drawing is operational support. The team spent 25% of its time on unplanned work to support the operations team or help answering questions from customers or fix bugs.
As you can imagine, the team was very busy and we had a very high resource utilisation but a low flow efficiency. As a result, delivering value to our customers took longer than it should and the feeling of being overwhelmed was high due to constant context switching and feeling busy all the time without time to recover.
Some reasons why we worked on so many features at the same time:
Features got pushed to the team instead of pulled by the team when they were ready for new work. The reason features got pushed to the team was because release dates were agreed with partners when the work wasn’t clear yet and without leaving enough slack time for unplanned work. When a feature was agreed to be delivered 6 months from now and after 3 months a new customer wanted to sign a contract but really needed an extension to our platform it became the same priority as the planned feature and it was pushed to the team. This is totally understandable (we like new customers!) but to make it less stressful for our small team we should have left some slack in the schedule to be able to cope with unplanned requests in a sustainable way and not fill the schedule for months upfront.
Features got paused because some partners have release cycles with predefined dates. If a feature was almost but not completely ready for release on the predefined date it was only up for the next release in 3 months time. This meant that even when only one more week was needed to complete the feature it went dormant for almost 3 months until the partner’s release schedule allowed it to pick it up again to do final integration tests and release it. These fixed release schedules mean we unnecessarily delay bringing value to our users and also results in more work in progress and secondary needs (context switching, new people are put on the product after 3 months which lack context and need more guidance,…).
Gathering metrics and visualising the work helped us to realise something needed to change. It was clear that there was a big opportunity to deliver value sooner and with lower stress for the team.
The first thing we decided as a team was that we should first finish what we were working on and not start anything new unless we needed to meet an earlier agreed release date.
In the following weeks and months we were actually able to finalise most of the ‘work in progress’ features and make them available to our users which was very welcome.
In an ideal world we would work with the team on as few features or topics as feasible and focus on releasing the value to our users as soon as possible with good quality and learn from feedback. Once the team is ready for new work we decide what’s the next most important or impactful topic and we repeat. Deciding as late as possible about the next priority means we have the most context to decide what’s the most important at the moment we are ready to pick up new work.
Unfortunately we can’t always stick to this ideal way of working because we work with partners who want to commit to release dates and intermediate milestones (e.g. integration testing phase) long beforehand so we don’t always have the freedom to decide as late as possible what’s the next most important thing to work on. We need to live with these constraints and what we’ll try in this case is:
take past cycle times for features into account to try to get to a realistic release date
prioritise the work with predefined release dates first so we’ll have a high change of meeting the external constraints without too much stress
be cautious of new work getting pushed to the team. Switch to pulling of work when something finishes as the default mode of operation
This should result in positive outcomes for both our team (deliver with quality and without much stress) and our partners (Olympus Mobility is reliable and is meeting release dates).
3. Test case: VAB one-off breakdown assistance
Soon after we came up with our findings and actions described in the previous two sections at the end of April 2022 a new release date came in sight which was already agreed upon at the end of 2021. We committed to bring the one-off breakdown assistance (OOBA) product by VAB to the KBC Mobile Banking app.
OOBA is a product that allows car drivers to get help when their car breaks down.
By the end of April 2022 the discovery phase (or Fuzzy front end phase) for OOBA was finished and we were expected to be ready with the development by the 16th of July 2022. This marked the start of the end-to-end integration test phase. The integration test phase was followed by pen tests on the 15th of August, a pilot release on the 31th of August and finally a public release on the 12th of September 2022.
We decided to let a small multi-disciplinary team focus on building the product. We thought this was the option with the best chance of getting the delivery of OOBA ready by the 16th of July.
The team started its first work item on the 12th of May and also introduced some practices which helped us meet the release dates and which I’ll describe in the next paragraphs.
We made sure we got faster feedback by introducing concurrent development. Backend and frontend developers started and worked together to get a functioning end-to-end slice ready as soon as feasible. This involved starting with API’s which returned mock content which got replaced by the real implementation as backend development progressed.
Implementing the end-to-end functionality also included integration with external parties (VAB and KBC) as soon as we could. We didn’t wait until the planned integration test phase that was scheduled months later. This all with the purpose of spotting possible integration issues sooner and to be able to finish work items and not postpone feedback.
Once some work was ready to demo we showed it at our weekly status meeting with all stakeholders. This was much appreciated and gave us valuable feedback which we often could incorporate by the next meeting.
During our daily status meeting with the Olympus Mobility team we focussed on removing blockers to prevent work from aging. We focussed on finishing what already started before starting anything new.
The ability to focus and the introduction of the practices described earlier resulted in a cycle time of 7 days for 85% of the work items and 10 days for 95% of the work items. Compared to what we showed for the period 1st of October 2021 – 15th of April 2022 the cycle time improved and we have less variation which means we are more predictable. The flow efficiency for the OOBA work ended up being 60%.
Mid may 2022 we also switched from our biweekly releases to Continuous Delivery (CD) for our backend and web developments. Each developer became responsible to deploy their changes to production. The cycle time for OOBA above includes deploying the changes for work items to production. Switching to CD saves us about a half a day every two weeks that we needed to deploy all changes to production in bulk. By introducing CD, we deliver value to users sooner and it has no negative impact on our availability.
We did organise our team for fast flow but we were also hugely dependent on the support of the partners we integrated with, VAB and KBC. It’s only thanks to their fast response time and feedback when debugging integration issues that we could meet these challenging release dates.
We met the release dates and the OOBA product is available from the 12th of September 2022 in the KBC Mobile Banking app. Delivering OOBA was definitely considered a success both for the product development team and the stakeholders. We are taking the learnings from the JIRA data and the process changes with us when planning and delivering future product initiatives and we’ll continue to inspect and adapt to keep improving the speed and quality of the mobility services we deliver to our users.
Copying these practices might not give the same results in your product development context but it might give you some inspiration on how to evaluate and if needed improve flow. Thanks for reading.
 : The cycle time scatter plot was created using the jira-agile-metrics github project. It provides data that gives more insight compared to what you get out of JIRA without additional extensions or apps. You get for example percentile data about cycle times which is important as cycle time data doesn’t have a normal distribution and so the averages Jira provides aren’t helpful. Generating the data is easy but cleaning the data took quite a bit of time. We for example had work items that were used for time tracking outside of the software delivery process and which went from Todo → Done without going through the actual workflow. These and other tickets needed to get filtered to get more accurate results. Take this in mind when trying to come up with useful metrics.