Enabling creativity and innovation to come to the fore of the digital strategy at Boots

November 12th 2021

6 min read

For a brilliant example of an organisation that’s reaping the benefits of agile digital transformation, we can look to the leading UK health and beauty retailer, Boots.  

To meet the digital-first consumer needs and the post-pandemic changes to how healthcare is delivered, Boots needed to find effective ways of driving innovation and releasing digital products to market in a fast and value-driven manner.  The consistency of digital product delivery across many teams and suppliers was the key to achieving this goal. 

With that in mind, and with a booster shot of agile consultancy from MMT Digital, Boots was able to quickly deploy a scalable SAFe agile delivery process, focused on value-based prioritisation and bringing creativity and innovation to the fore of their digital strategy.  

As an example of the benefits of this approach, Boots have recently designed, built and released a chatbot that previously would have taken several months to build, in just several weeks.  
 

MMT Digital & Boots: 6 months and counting 


Boots welcomed MMT Digital onboard in May 2021, when they tasked us with providing digital transformation consultancy and hands-on coaching to the Boots engineering teams, focused on Agile Lean Product Delivery best practices to help drive a faster speed to market of high value deliverables.  

We joined the Boots team face to face for the first time at their Program Increment (PI) planning meeting, which was a perfectly timed start. PI sessions are that crucial point where all the incremental planning for the months ahead happen and it’s a perfect opportunity to get the teams aligned strategically, enable cross-team collaboration, and set objectives and priorities. 

Boots Digital Awards Agile Champions category winner MMT Digital
Photo: MMT Digital at the Boots Digital Awards ceremony. © MMT Digital.


When we started, we knew that the Boots engineering teams were was under pressure to deliver multiple digital products very quickly. To begin working on these goals, MMT’s team of Agile experts were brought in to assess and establish industry best practices and align multiple teams and suppliers to a single delivery framework.  

Before MMT Digital joined, Boots had recently setup an engineering capability centre and needed support in re-deploying an effective  SAFe implementation. MMT immediately provided value by course-correcting some of the ways of working across the engineering team and business stakeholders. 

Willliam Hunter, Senior Account Director at MMT Digital, commented: “It's really about finding the right principles for the organisation. We're never going to say you've got to follow Agile practices by the book. Instead, we bring in confident Agile practitioners to the organisation and let them assess where the organisation is at in terms of Agile best practices. Being empathetic to how the organisation is working is the key and the starting point to any further engagement.” 

NorthStar, Compass & Engine  - MMT Digital’s Agile Delivery Frameworks 


MMT Digital provides three digital strategy and delivery frameworks that combine Agile best practices and our nearly two-decade-long experience helping clients successfully build digital products: 

  • North Star – Digital Strategy – Identifying value 

  • Compass – Lean Enterprise Consultancy – Maximising ROI 

  • Engine – Agile Delivery – Delivering value faster 
     

When Boots engaged MMT Digital, they already had a clear vision for their digital transformation, so the North Star work was a light touch to ensure we were aligned on the Boots engineering vision and direction. As Boots were looking to land their new agile operating model into IT, they deployed our Compass Framework to establish business agility, optimise speed to market and maximise return on investments.  

Steve Westgarth, Head of Engineering at Boots, shared his experience of the MMT’s frameworks in action:“MMT Digital have provided value to Boots from the moment we engaged them. Their Compass framework, specialist knowledge and experience running complex agile operating models at scale has been immensely beneficial to Boots as we establish our new Engineering Capability Centre.  This is a partnership that really clarifies the value within our digital portfolio.” 

As part of the Engine engagement MMT deployed their market leading Agile Maturity Index (AMI) to gather key insights on how the engineering teams were performing and collaborating. By utilising AMI, we made actionable observations on the existing Boots SAFe implementation, resulting in 25 key improvement activities. With Compass, we implemented SAFe standards for PI Planning, which resulted in discovery of 95 dependencies and 57 risks identified and 122% completion of committed features. We defined a single demand management process from 3 conflicting demand management processes and identified 3 clear areas of immediate improvement. 

MMT Digital Ian Greentree gives presentation on agile transformation
Photo: Ian Geentree gives a presentation on Lean Agllie Product Delivery. © MMT Digital.

Willliam Hunter, Senior Account Director at MMT Digital, commented : “From the early days of Agile when it was a new thing, people thought it was a silver bullet that could solve everything. And actually, it turned out to be a process requiring lots of discipline, commitment and practice to get the desired results. It’s about making people aware of what challenges you could potentially find down the path to building that perfect digital product.” 

Creativity to Strategy - Boots Engineering Away Day 
 

One of the highlights of our time at Boots so far was the Boots Engineering Away Day, led by the Boots Head of Engineering and one of the best digital innovation advocates out there, Steve Westgarth. The day was designed to address four areas of successful digital product delivery: 

  • Demand / Stakeholder Management  

  • Delivery / ART Management  

  • Solution Design 

  • Application and Platform Build / Test / Release 

Within this full-on schedule, MMT’s small team of Agile experts were part of  workshops that  explored the themes outlined above.  

What MMT Digital brought to the table on this occasion alongside our expertise, was a hint of creativity. We invited Boots to add some innovative approaches to running the meeting, and because they were open to our (perhaps crazy-sounding!) solution, it enabled us to discover some new, fascinating ways of strengthening communication, trust and inspiration within the Boots engineering teams, which ended up being a highlight of the day for many. 

The solution we provided revolved around inviting a seemingly unlikely participant to the team that usually consists of engineers, developers, digital product owners and project managers. We invited visual artist Anthony Greentree to paint the day’s progress in real-time, depicting its objectives, actions, discussions, findings and, most importantly, people.  

The result of this artistic form of meeting documentation was a large mural that beautifully captured Boots values, aspirations, aims and future initiatives. The mural was such a success, that it was decided to exhibit it at the Boots HQ as an inspiring reminder that creativity and strategy go hand in hand, especially in the digital-first world that opens up an ever-expanding realm of possibilities and new approaches to the way we live, play and do business. 

A mural for Boots UK by visual artist Anthony Greentree
Photo: '"Boots Engineering Away Day" mural by Anthony Greentree. © MMT Digital.

Ian Greentree, Head of Consulting at MMT Digital, shared his reflection: “The most effective method for delivering value is to create a shared understanding of that value across the business. It encourages every team member to ask: ‘What if?’ This important question drives innovation and is key to delivering meaningful digital experiences. Boots is a great example of doing just this – they connected their teams to an engaging vision and a consistent Agile operating model that delivers value to customers in the shortest time possible, before their competitors. It’s been a privilege to work with them.” 

As we continue to assist Boots in their stunning Agile transformation journey, we're proud to see them emerging as a digital thought leader in the healthcare and beauty industry. We look forward to further growing and optimising their digital portfolio while discovering new ways of delivering outstanding services at the digital experience, security, innovation, business and customer service levels.  

Furthermore, we’re excited to make a positive impact not only for Boots as a business, but for the industry as a whole by using Boots a shining example of the possibilities that digital transformation opens for organisations that want to reap the full benefits of the digital world. 

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