November 13, 2023
MTN, the leading telecoms provider in Africa, has always been synonymous with innovation and transformative change. In recent years, the company has taken a significant step toward driving digital transformation across its entire enterprise with an ambitious vision: to become a fully Agile organisation.
In this article, we describe the successful Agile journey of the Global Sourcing and Supply Chain (GSSC) procurement department, which was supported by onsite Agile coaches from Agility Arabia.
If you’d like to embark on your own Agile transformation journey, get in touch with us today for a free initial consultation.
MTN Group is Africa’s largest mobile network operator, providing voice, data, fintech, digital, enterprise, wholesale and API services to more than 285 million customers in 19 markets across the African continent. Our purpose is to enable the benefits of modern connected life to everyone.
MTN’s Ambition: An Agile Enterprise
While GSSC's Agile transformation was pioneering and revolutionised how the Procurement department operated, it was a part of a wider organisational vision. MTN aspired to weave the Agile fabric throughout its entire global enterprise.
MTN’s Agile Transformation Objectives
GSSC embarked on this journey with a clear set of objectives:
- Increase responsiveness: With a presence across multiple countries, MTN's regional Operating Companies (OpCos) and business units have diverse and time-sensitive requirements. Agile would enable GSSC to cater to these needs rapidly and with some flexibility, whilst still ensuring that the procurement service was compliant with internal and external regulations.
- Reduce time to market: In the telecoms world, reducing time to market is paramount so that emerging consumer trends can be capitalised on rapidly. Agile's iterative approach would provide quicker roll-outs of customer-facing products and services that meet the expectations of both the OpCo and the end consumer.
- Culture of empowerment: GSSC leadership envisioned a workspace where teams are self-managed, decisions are decentralised, and the traditional "task push" methodology gives way to a more efficient "task pull" system.
- Data-driven decision making: Agile's emphasis on regular data and feedback loops would enable GSSC to introduce precise, relevant procurement performance metrics. Additionally, regular feedback loops with OpCo stakeholders would ensure that their opinions and needs would be constantly considered throughout each project.
- Transparency: the Scrum Framework champions transparency. Implementing it would ensure a clear view of the project roadmap and live initiatives, and the goals/objectives behind each.
The Transformation Approach
Implementing Scrum properly requires focus, patience and commitment. MTN’s approach was thoughtful and undertaken over a period of 1 year.
The high-level approach was as follows:
- External Scrum coaching expertise was brought in (from Agility Arabia) to work alongside teams and leaders to help facilitate both cultural change and Scrum skills adoption
- Goals and objectives were mapped
- GSSC teams were restructured to ensure that the core Scrum Accountabilities were present in each (one Product Owner, one Scrum Master and cross-functional team members (called Developers in Scrum, even if they are not developing code) to do the work)
- A high-level strategic roadmap of all known projects was created - this acted as a forecast for the upcoming project milestones, around which projects could be created
- A formal training program was initiated to get the department certified in Scrum
- With the help of the Agile coaches, each team was assessed on an Agile maturity matrix to enable progress to be independently tracked
- Training sessions were conducted on a weekly basis to embed key Scrum concepts.
The Outcomes: An Agile Success Story
- Consistent Maturity Development: All teams showed strong progress from ‘beginner’ level through to high levels of Scrum maturity across the 12 month period.
- Professional certification: 100% of the GSSC team achieved the globally recognised Professional Scrum Master certification (PSM-I) from Scrum.org within the 6 month period.
- Team Involvement: 84% of GSSC is now actively participating in Agile projects, showcasing a remarkable shift in operational methodologies.
- Positive Feedback: Anonymous employee surveys were carried out to measure both the team’s sentiment towards Agile and the degree to which it was helping people do their jobs.
- NPS scores for the Scrum framework went up significantly from +12 to +23 across the first 6 months. This was as a result of the consistent coaching and training provided by the Agility Arabia coaches.
- 80% of the department reported high confidence levels in using and understanding the Scrum Framework.
- 74% felt that Scrum was helping them to do their jobs better.
- A substantial majority (75%+) acknowledged the efficacy of the onsite coaching and training.
- Operational Excellence:
- Efficiency metrics, like the reduction in procurement time by over 55% for crucial RFPs, illustrated the tangible benefits of the transformation.
- Legacy processes were also streamlined with (i) a reduction in the number of approval gateways required, and (ii) increased frequency of approval gateways that remained to enable faster organisational decision making.
Speaking about the success of the initiative, Andrew Savage (Global Lead & General Manager of Supply Chain Excellence) said:
"Agility Arabia's team played a pivotal role in setting up and aligning all teams with the prescribed methodologies and guidelines. Their responsibility extended to coaching, guiding, and mentoring each team member, fostering active participation from over 80% of our organisation in agile initiatives. Within three months, our agile Net Promoter Score (NPS) doubled, reflecting the success of our collaboration."
In November 2023, the Agility Arabia and MTN partnership was recognised with an award for Partnership Excellence at GSSC’s prestigious ConnectToCreate awards.
MTN’s GSSC's Agile transformation stands as a shining example of how traditional departments can innovate and transform their processes for the better. Their journey demonstrates that with clear objectives, expert guidance, and an unwavering commitment to change, Agile frameworks can bring about significant improvements, even in non-software environments. With this transformation, GSSC has set a benchmark for other MTN departments to follow suit.
Contact us today to see how you can adopt Scrum within your organisation. As MTN proved, with the right mix of commitment, patience and coaching support, every organisation that works on solving complex problems and delivering complex problems can benefit from Scrum.