Smooth Digital Sailing: Charting the Course for Your Agile Transformation 

  • Insights
  • Digital transformation

Nick Rudd, Director of Consulting at MMT, recently spoke at the Digital Leaders Innovation Week 2022, where he shared his experiences of implementing agile transformations for clients like Boots and Vodafone.

In this blog, we break down Nick’s key insights, which took inspiration from the world of sailing to hypothesise how agile methodologies allow crews both in business and at sea to reach their goals efficiently.

You can also watch the video recording of Nick’s full talk here. 


When you start any journey, whether you’re heading out to sea or implementing a digital transformation, having a clear idea of your destination is crucial. Otherwise, you risk being blown off course and ending up with the wrong product. 

Successful transformations begin with an overarching vision, your anchor to tie all the work together, which flows down through the goals of different teams and departments. We help organisations define this with our North Star framework, a critical tool that ensures everybody understands the goals they hope to achieve before embarking. Alongside clarifying your vision, establishing agile mindsets at all levels of your organisation at the start of its transformation will ensure the potential of innovation is fully realised. For example, when we worked with Boots, their clear goal was to develop agile engineering teams, but that wouldn’t be possible without the support and understanding of senior leadership, which we developed through agile framework coaching sessions.


On large projects in big, complex organisations it’s easy to lose sight of its foundational principles. As the conduit between customers, clients and IT, product owners play a key role in keeping development teams close to the customer and their needs, during an agile transformation. 

If a task being carried out isn’t helping to achieve the product and departmental objectives that flow into your business vision, agile frameworks allow resources to be redirected to higher value jobs that will contribute more effectively to overall goals.

There are a number of industry standard frameworks you can adopt to deliver an agile transformation, from scrum to SAFe, that embed vital governance structures. Whichever you decide to use for your business, they will enable you to tweak and refine your journey to your North Star


Every journey has its challenges. Life at sea and in business never stands still and is subject to influences beyond anyone’s control. The key is how you react.  

Economic storms, shifting customer requirements and new waves of innovation can all have an impact on your digital transformation. Working within agile frameworks gives you the ability to respond quickly to them. By constantly refining your products in short sprints, you can incorporate feedback loops from customers. This enables you to implement improvements incrementally in real time, rather than launching your product without testing it on the open seas and immediately hitting the rocks. 

Just as on a boat, communication is key. For example, the Ineos Britannia team, which competes in the America’s Cup, use several communication loops to ensure the entire crew can communicate effectively and are working seamlessly together when they’re racing, no matter what the conditions. When they’re not racing, support crew on chase boats and in the design office are listening in to provide their thoughts on how to improve. It’s this kind of detailed communication that your organisation should aim to replicate. 


Although speed is one benefit of using agile methodologies, they also give you the space to reflect and reassess the work you’ve done and identify areas for improvement. 

In this sense failure is a key part of the process and should be embraced, even welcomed. To continually improve you need to learn fast, fail fast and take what you’ve learnt into the next phase of your planning or delivery sprint. 

By breaking a digital transformation down into smaller tasks and regular product deliveries, you can monitor all the impacts they have on your business both large and small. You can then rapidly pinpoint where improvement is necessary and drive the required change to release value back to the market.


Once you have built stable, predictable teams and solutions that are operating effectively, you can begin to scale them up to really propel your business forward.

During our work with Vodafone we started with a very small team, bringing in agile methodologies to support their digital transformation programme. We then helped them scale up by building multi-disciplined high performing teams and embedding a culture of engineering excellence that embraced innovation.

The evolution from that early stage was huge. Through a process of continual improvement they moved from an environment build time of circa eight weeks, to under 30 minutes. The change didn’t take place overnight, it took hard work and several years, but the end results are truly transformational. Whether you’re sailing across the Atlantic or kicking off a digital transformation in your business, you’re more likely to reach your destination ahead of the competition if you continually evolve to overcome challenges and grasp opportunities as they emerge. Agile is the most effective way to achieve this.

If you want to build this agility into your business, we’d be happy to discuss our sector leading agile transformation service. To find out more email Nick at or get in touch on LinkedIn:

Watch Nick’s full talk at the Digital Leaders’ Innovation Week 2022, here