Human Potential

Infosys Using Distributed Agile for Continuity of Delivery in Face of COVID-19

Agile development has been growing in importance over the last several years as enterprises prioritize responsiveness and agility in their IT services. In various NelsonHall user surveys of large enterprises, around 60% of respondents globally have reported that increasing the agility of their core production applications is a high priority, and around half are placing a very high priority on reducing new application time to market. Having capabilities in agile development methodologies has accordingly become a key criterion in vendor selection.

Initially, agile development typically involved co-located delivery, with client and vendor employees working together at client locations. This was primarily driven by client concerns about control and visibility as well as the use of higher touch processes such as design thinking and collaborative planning early in the SDLC.

As agile delivery has matured, there has been an increasing use of distributed agile, which is needed to achieve scale. NelsonHall estimates that around two thirds of vendors’ agile skilled resources are located remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant dominance of work from home (WFH) has accelerated this shift to distributed agile.

Infosys has been building out its distributed agile capabilities for several years; in addition to focusing on building a skilled workforce it has put in place tools, assets and methodologies to ensure distributed agile is as productive and transparent as wholly co-located agile is. With the onset of the pandemic, Infosys was able to augment its existing delivery methods and continue to meet client demands.

Building a Foundation

Infosys began its focus on developing comprehensive distributed agile capability around two years ago with a major investment building agile capabilities and DevOps infrastructure. In parallel it has augmented these capabilities by introducing innovation hubs and design studios proximate to the client base, expanding experience design through the acquisitions of WONG DOODY and Brilliant Basics, and introducing its digital learning platform, Wingspan. The company has trained ~150k employees on agile capabilities while modernizing its delivery network to support agile team structures.

Infosys’ current client footprint demonstrates why it has been important to invest in agile development capabilities. It estimates 70% of its ADM delivery engagements use agile, of which 90% include components of distributed agile. At the core of its agile development and DevOps capabilities, Infosys has a distributed agile operating model covering seven aspects that shape delivery (see below].

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit operations, Infosys analyzed how scrum teams globally were being impacted to identify issues and challenges for different delivery personas. It then adapted its existing models to be able to operate effectively in a 100% remote model. This included both tangible enablers such as ensuring remote access to systems and collaboration tools and intangible enablers such as ensuring engagement, social bonding and conducting collaborative ideation sessions.

Infosys augmented its assets to operate in a WFH model, looking at these seven delivery components and modifying them to operate in a fully remote model and address client expectations such as how to maintain visibility of progress, quality of delivery and team productivity, and manage standard agile ceremonies. Augmentations to the operating model have included:

  • Governance. broader adoption of digital boards to provide visibility into progress and status across locations
  • Infrastructure and tools. ensuring all employees have all required tools in virtual agile workspace including ALM, collaboration and DevSecOps tools
  • Enablement. providing digital training for remote working and ensuring all employees have access to necessary tools and practices
  • Mindset and culture. defining dedicated time within weekly schedules to facilitate bonding and engagement
  • Work practices. modifying scheduled meeting and ceremonies for 100% remote teams
  • Collaboration. defining regular virtual team communications, expand use of collaborative and communication tools
  • Team model. revising definition of key roles to mitigate potential single points of failure within the delivery process.

Rapidly Applying Changes for Clients

The adaptation of the distributed agile methodologies rapidly in response to the pandemic has varied based on the maturity of the clients in leveraging remote operations. For some clients, such as an Australia-based telecom, digital boards were already in use and four to five hour overlap between Australia and India delivery meant teams already had remote interactions in place.

Infosys has been able to minimize the impact of the pandemic on service delivery, including achieving the following delivery milestones:

  • On-time rollout as part of global transformation program at a U.S. bank after pivoting from co-located to remote, distributed model
  • Implemented a new feature to support an auto manufacturer’s connected car platform
  • Adapted a planned program increment planning activity to be completed remotely from five global locations, rather than in-person at a single location
  • Delivered six production releases as planned for a European automotive major
  • On-time rollout of a critical release scheduled for April which reduced business risk and enabled cost savings.

Adapting to a changed environment

After the immediate crisis of the pandemic passes, there will not be a full reversion to previous heavily co-located models. While clients may revert to critical new products or applications being delivered through locally located agile teams, the majority of work will remain in distributed models. Infosys is accordingly continuing to invest to further develop its capabilities to address these changing demands.

The Lex digital learning platform enables rapid training and communication of new methods for talent development. And, while many IT services providers are dialing back or freezing hiring, Infosys is recruiting agile transformation consultants to drive further adoption of agile principles.

Other focus areas where it is investing for the post-pandemic world include:

  • Defining new engagement models for fully remote and hybrid co-located/distributed agile engagements
  • Enhancing capabilities for full-stack scrum teams
  • Expanding its digital learning offerings to enable further skilling up of employees in remote models
  • Embedding security capabilities more completely at the core of its DevOps capabilities
  • Transforming to output-aligned commercial models
  • Expanding the use of lean practices and automation to further accelerate delivery
  • Devise ways to drive employee engagement in a remote environment.

As the world emerges from lock-down, Infosys is laying the foundation to continue to evolve how it delivers distributed agile development services. While there will be no going back to the pre-pandemic business environment, there also isn’t a single end state target either. Distributed agile will play an increasingly core role in application development services and Infosys is looking to ensure it has the capabilities to meet client needs, regardless of the form they take.