North Highland with Marks & Spencer

Change and Transformation in the Private Sector

Over the last three years, the retail industry has faced into increasingly turbulent times. The Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently a global energy crisis and rising inflation, has meant that value has become the top priority for customers.

As the pandemic took hold, the M&S Digital & Technology (D&T) team, found themselves wanting to pivot quicker to meet changing customer and business demand, but were constrained by a project led delivery approach. Their D&T Portfolio Management Office (PMO) was not set up to support the pace of transformation, focusing on the financial health of projects and measuring traditional waterfall and agile metrics, with little focus given to outcomes being delivered.

In Q2 2020, M&S engaged North Highland (NH) to partner the PMO to design and embed product and DevOps ways of working across the enterprise, transforming the PMO function to enable greater product short-term value and long-term product health.

NH delivered lasting value from the start, challenging existing thinking and operating as one collaborative team. Our success has been grounded in embedding long-lasting and sustainable change iteratively into the business, delivering the greatest value against transformation OKRs agreed with D&T leadership.

Initially, NH focused on expanding the use of OKRs across all of D&T’s 210 products to measure the impact of moving to product ways of working, ensure products delivered against the expected outcomes and aligning product objectives to M&S’s enterprise strategy. The use of OKRs enabled M&S to gradually introduce product funding, pivoting away from traditional business cases to fund products on a quarterly basis, based off the value delivered in the last quarter and planned for the following quarter, Enabling D&T & business stakeholders to make effective prioritisation decisions based on value.

To enable products to focus not only on short-term value but also the long-term health of their products and foster a culture of continuous improvement, NH introduced a Product & DevOps maturity assessment. This assessment supported products to prioritise 2-3 improvements in the quarter that would add the greatest value. Products then used a suite of product health metrics designed by NH and compiled through analysis of industry best practices, including DORA and flow metrics, to measure the outcomes of continuous improvement efforts. To make it simple for products to capture data and provide total transparency, NH built a digital reporting suite that automatically compiled data across multiple systems.

NH worked with M&S Partner Strategy teams to embed a new partner engagement model centered around product and DevOps ways of working and a greater focus on outcomes. This success acted as critical groundwork to set teams up for success on their DevOps journey, and following leadership alignment and a successful pilot phase with 9 product teams, driven by NH, is now a focus across D&T, leading to immediate improvement in product throughput, stability and security.

M&S’s Product & DevOps transition continues at pace, and NH as a trusted partner are continuing to support the M&S PMO and wider product teams on their journey of continuous improvement.

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