Located just a stone’s throw from the World Trade Centre in the Pocitos district of Montevideo, there is a beautiful building that used to be the home of a very wealthy family. Now there are Kanban boards covered with post-it notes over many of the walls and windows. There is a steady flow of people coming through the kitchen in search of coffee, mate (the ubiquitous bitter tea-like drink of the region) or snacks to refresh their creative minds. In the garden, Daniel, the recent winner of the ‘best hair’ prize at the company awards sits at a table in the shade, hard at work at a laptop with a colleague. In the room overlooking the garden we admire the results of an out of hours Scrum project, a completed arcade machine built from scratch that, we are told, had functioning games after the very first sprint. These are the offices of UruIT, a web and mobile apps development company that we recently visited for our Scrum Around The World study.
UruIT works with clients based in Uruguay and the US, with offices in Medellín, Colombia and Miami, Florida. They are an interesting case study of a company that has transitioned to Agile ways of working. When we visited, the place had the feel of a start up and a company that had been doing Agile from inception. Teams are co-located in rooms just big enough for one or two of them to have their own space which they can decorate however they like. They are empowered to take ownership of their projects, collaborating directly with clients instead of through a proxy or tied to a contract with fixed deliverables. Teams are stable, turnaround low. People are free to work from home, but most of the time they do not as the people like to be together. They are like friends and family. This means that UruIT have mature teams who know how to work together. Scrum Masters are not embedded in teams, this is not needed. Instead, they work more as Agile coaches, across the teams and helping out when teams ask for it.
For a company transitioning to Agile, teams have been giving a lot of freedom and trust from senior management. Agile has been allowed to be implemented without command and control from the top down, or based on metrics produced to monitor progress. The teams have proven it has worked for them by the feedback from clients. From conversations we had with different members of the UruIT team, it became clear that trust is embedded. Team members feel they are trusted and empowered, they trust that each person will support the team. It is important for the people at UruIT to build relationships with clients based on trust.
They are also not afraid to experiment and innovate. Teams are involved in the recruitment process and sales process. While we were there, the whole office gathered in the large kitchen to hear about and discuss progress on prospective sales and projects, gathering around a Kanban board that gave everyone full visibility, naturally. There are other interesting and exciting experiments that are running – we will be staying in touch to see how these turn out, whether they are rolled out wider or what they have evolved into.
Scrum is not just being used for software development projects. As well as for the arcade machine mentioned earlier, it has been introduced into the marketing department. They admit that they are still learning, but the people there told us what a difference it has made in showing them their problems and helping them to focus on the most important work first.
It was really interesting and inspiring to see how committed and focused everyone we met was to the company and the work they were doing. Many thanks to everyone we met, and especially to Camilla, Martin and Andrea for showing us around, organising our visit and treating us to our very first Chivito!