The united intranet of the M.Video-Eldorado group of companies won the main prize Russian Intranet Awards in 2020 and silver Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards… This internal product was developed from the ground up in six months. The fact that this was done within such a timeframe and level of value recognized internally and externally is the result of a product approach and agile practices. We will tell you why they were chosen and what elements of this technique became key.
In 2018, M.Video and Eldorado merged, which by that time were the largest retailers of the entire spectrum of electronics and household appliances in Russia. The combined company employs about 30 thousand people. It has over a thousand stores operating in more than 200 cities in Russia.
It takes a lot of effort to create a unified company. For many years M.Video and Eldorado independently formed their corporate cultures, and they were not alike at all. And now, for almost 30 thousand employees, it was necessary to broadcast not only a unique strategy for each brand, but also a single vision of the group of companies.
Practically in every large company, and now in the group, an intranet is actively used, which serves as the main source of news for the staff, and, depending on its maturity, consolidates not only communications but also various levels of business processes.
It also has numerous employee services deployed. Its monthly audience exceeds 23 thousand people, the main users are salespeople and store directors, heads of the retail block, as well as line and middle management of the central office. And the most popular sections are indicators of financial motivation, self-service services, a built-in task manager, a news block and search by people.
Why does M.Video-Eldorado group need a unified intranet?
In principle, the answer to this question is obvious. The purpose of the intranet is to maximize the human potential of the company. To work with maximum efficiency and receive not only a salary, but also satisfaction from your work, you need to know how the company lives, how its business is developing, what values it professes, and be able to find prospects for yourself and your team. And all of this is available on the intranet.
In order to correctly prioritize, it was the Pareto principle that was one of the main in the organization of the backlog of the future product. In practice, this is achieved by the organization of high availability of 20% of key information about employees and the company, which gives 80% of the effectiveness.
For example, 10 key retail metrics available in a smartphone in the palm of a store manager will be more convenient for making an operational decision than a multi-level report in a BI system on a PC. A detailed report is certainly needed, but at the very beginning you need to understand the big picture, and this is always generalized and compact information.
The tasks that the group of companies are currently solving using the intranet: effective informing of employees, ensuring their access to key information, high-quality setting of tasks, availability of key metrics and services and, finally, the opportunity to use the knowledge base and expertise of the company and colleagues.
Formulation of the problem
Before the merger, each company used its own intranet platform. These were SAP FIORI and SharePoint. Each of them is a good tool, they allow you to aggregate and visualize information, and place services. But neither platform suited us in terms of scalability of support costs.
We aimed to create a fundamentally new communication space for employees. But we did not want to develop everything from scratch, we immediately considered this path too costly. Therefore, it was decided to create a hybrid – to use an independent application for the “front”, which integrates with master data from adjacent systems and pulls the necessary information from them.
One of the technical “chips” of this solution was the organization of its own application cache with the most critical data. On the one hand, this made it possible to organize high availability, autonomy and response speed, on the other hand, it unloaded the master systems from a large number of calls.
To be Market-Fit first of all, we talked with users. At the outset, it is especially important to understand what they require from the application or service. And we interviewed a representative group. Generally, we asked what was important for them to organize effective work, what did not suit them in old services, what functionality they still need.
Important: we did not try to “sell” an idea or product and talked about the intranet as little as possible. In such cases, colleagues may be biased and give socially expected answers.
If the goal is to create a good application, then you need to get honest answers, collect them into a matrix, identify the greatest coincidences in it. In this way, it will be possible to find out exactly what users need and what strategic goals the customer wants to achieve.
The second stage of preparation was “selling” the idea to the management. The top managers of the company, key customers and sponsors of the project, perfectly understood that the intranets “M.Video” and “Eldorado” should be combined. Strictly speaking, the initiative, the demand for innovation, came from them. But the fact that the project affected all aspects of the company’s life and all structural units left its mark.
We needed to find support in all verticals. And we actively communicated with the heads of structural divisions, explaining the essence of the project and talking about our approaches. We conveyed to each of the “business angels” the list of tasks the company faces and the calculations of how the project will affect their solution. The initial work of a product owner is very similar to that of an entrepreneur who must prove the viability of his idea to investors.
It paid off when the MVP was ready and the metrics confirmed the idea’s viability. By this time, almost all managers knew about the project, we successfully defended it and the targeted intranet solution was included in the company’s portfolio of digital initiatives, having received serious investments.
We decided to apply a product approach – to build on the needs and end users and find internal points of business growth. This made it possible to narrow down the concept, find it easier to navigate in the interests of business customers, and avoid conflicts of interest.
At the very beginning, we selected the shop assistant as the key person. It is the sales force that is the key link in the value supply chain. Thus, the domestic product has become attractive for investment, encompassing and increasing the value of business metrics directly tied to salespeople and store managers.
By the way, not everyone in the central office appreciated this move, since for this person (office manager) at the MVP stage we did not have any significant features. The choice of a key person is crucial for the MVP stage. This was one of the challenges for the product management team.
In order to create such a system, we had to form its functionality. For this we used the framework Impact Mapping… It supports product principles in high-level design and allows you to find causal relationships between the goals of the product and its functional solutions.
Based on the compiled “map of influences”, we have formed product vision – a special document that describes the key goals, the impact of the product on the business and the target audience. This document is the most important product development tool. It is always kept up to date, constantly updated to reflect the current state of the project, and is regularly presented to both interested customers and the development team.
A product vision is also needed to create a prioritized list of requirements (top-level backlog) that apply to the product being developed. The product owner determines the priorities in it. This document will synchronize the expectations of the project from the side of management and customers. And it, like the vision, must be constantly kept up to date.
The complexity of our project lay in a very large number of introductory information. We also had a non-standard business context, burdened by the recent integration of two large companies, and the need to implement functionality atypical for an intranet (for example, setting massive tasks for marketing campaigns and other activities in stores).
They were superimposed on tasks unknown at the initial stage of development, which, as we rightly expected, would appear at subsequent stages.
One way to deal with uncertainty in such cases was to combine the agile approach and the Scrum framework.
One of the strengths of Scrum is the transparency it provides. It shows the real productivity of the team, gives predictability of timelines and returns on results. This is especially important in cases when the functionality is being implemented for the first time, when several paths are possible. You reduce delivery cycles for working parts of a product with many short iterations, and thus avoid serious design mistakes.
All these advantages do not mean that Scrum can be used as a universal tool. No – it will most likely be useless in structures with a rigid hierarchy, where managers are not ready to compromise and give freedom and decision space to the team.
It should be borne in mind that Scrum requires high qualifications, discipline, effort and even patience from the team. Switching to this framework can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts if it is wrong to “prepare” it.
We joined the ranks of those who were “burned” by the incorrect interpretation of the approach at the initial stages. As a result, a third of the development teams were lost from the system integrator who worked on the project: management remained non-transparent, and the load on developers was forced.
At the same time, the team itself was initially divided into “customer representatives” and “contractor representatives”. This happens when people do not see their deep meaning behind SCRUM events and turn everything into a formality. This is usually caused by a lack of patience, seeking profit or a desire to maintain the status quo by those who previously worked differently.
SCRUM training “in battle” led us to mistakes both in setting tasks and in design and development, but with the help of it we also solved all problems. No matter how much you say that a sprint includes work on refactoring and code review, it was only after several failures and painful contemplation of the volume of technical debts that the team decided to thoughtfully plan sprints taking these aspects into account.
If you are just going to this framework – please be patient, try to provide the team with a balance where 1 FTE of an experienced employee “serves” or mentor 1 or better 0.5 FTE of June / middle and find a competent Scrum-master with a technical background. You can dive into the details of our experience here: part 1, part 2, part 3…
And, nevertheless, Scrum allows you to form a real picture of what is happening and make the necessary adjustments in time.
A well-defined strategic focus and organization of work flow through incremental deliveries, admission of mistakes and timely conclusions allowed us to achieve outstanding results in the end. We worked on bugs, saved key team members, built an MVP in 3 months, and a scalable solution in 6.
Today our project and team continues to develop. We have mapped out the transition to LeSS framework, received a multiple increase in metrics and now we are moving to the paradigm of the intracorporate SuperApp.