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PALO IT Kudo tree

In downtown Singapore, both parallel to the Boat Quay and within walking distance of the Clarke Quay parts of Singapore river lies Circular Road. In the last few years especially, it has become one of the hippest places in the city, with quaint ramen bars, unpretentious burger joints, chic Italian pasta and pizzerias, Thai restaurants and quirky Irish pubs among other places to hang out. As such, Circular Road has become the go-to spot for many people in the area for a lunch time meeting.

It was here that I was treated to French crêpes by Sylvain, Agile Enterprise Coach at PALO IT, whose office sits in amongst the buzz of Circular Road. Sylvain had invited me to lunch and a tour of the PALO IT Singapore office after we had met at Scrum Day Bandung.

The international flavour of the dining options on Circular Road reflects that of PALO IT itself. With a leadership team from France founding the company in 2009, PALO IT now has 25 nationalities represented amongst its 360 employees. 30% of the company’s activity takes place in Singapore and Hong Kong, with further operations in Australia, Mexico, Thailand and of course their home country of France.

A Friday lunchtime is probably not the best time to get a feel for the activity taking place in any office. When Sylvain, originally from France himself, toured me around, there were a few empty desks, though the buzz of an energetic work space was still palpable from those that were in. It is a beautiful office, cosy furniture, exposed brick walls and large wooden desks, seemingly more used for hot-desking than as fixed work stations, made it feel every bit as nice a place to be as the bars and restaurants downstairs. I loved the decor of the place. On one wall, displayed prominently was the the office kudo tree in full ‘bloom’.

The majority of PALO IT staff were not at the crêperie however, nor were they at any of the other places on Circular Road for lunch. It all became clear once Sylvain explained how many of the teams at PALO IT operate. It is a model that I have not encountered anywhere else, but one that I myself have been pondering on as an effective way to work. They are not a software house, building solutions internally with a Product Owner proxy-like interface with the client. They do not send developers or consultants to clients to work on site. No, what they do is send fully formed Agile teams to the client.

The benefits are clear; these teams have worked together for a long time and reached a high level of maturity. They know how each other work. They know what they as a team are capable of. There is no period of team development as described by Tuckman at the client’s expense.

Teams work in close collaboration with the client at their premises. This is the embodiment of “customer collaboration over contract negotiation” from the Agile manifesto. What this means for the practical issue of actual contracts, I will address as part of a future blog. Of course, this model brings with it many other benefits that we would expect from teams embracing Agility; highly motivated and high performing teams, greater predictability of deliverables and transparency between the developers and the customer teams to name a few.

Its not just about producing lines of code though. PALO IT puts emphasis on “the emergence of disruptive ideas” and they encourage the mentality of a Lean Startup. A range of innovation practices such as Innovation Games, Business Model Canvas and Design Thinking and more are used. The Marmelab, a digital innovation lab, was created to work with clients on prototyping and analysis of ROI.

Outside of technology solutions, PALO IT are doing a lot to spread Agile thinking and adoption. They help companies with project organisation and governance, using Lean and Agile practices with pragmatism to get the buy-in of all those involved. Sylvain himself spends a lot of his time going to companies and giving training and advice all the way up to the executive level. He told me that he had a trip to Hong Kong for the following week to give some training and guidance at a client there.

With the success and continued growth of PALO IT, Circular Road is not just the go-to place for bars and restaurants, but for business and IT solutions as well.

Many thanks to the team at PALO IT for welcoming me, and especially to Sylvain for the tour and lunch!

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