Leading Transformation: 1-800 Contacts Swarm Strategy

As organizations to push to innovate within their unique industries, CIOs are challenged with leading IT departments to deliver efficiently at an ever-increasing pace. Revamping teams, adopting agile methodologies, and shifting from a project to product-centered mindset are just a few of the ways technology leaders are making it happen. But, finding a solution that works for you could take a little creativity.

Take a look at how one digital service provider changed the game for their organization and increased employee productivity and satisfaction along the way.

1-800 Contacts “Swarm” Methodology

1-800 Contacts is a Utah-based contact lens retailer seeking to improve their digital interactions with clients. As an innovator in their space, the 1-800 Contacts team had plenty of projects on their plate with promising potential. But despite well-intentioned goals and ideas, issues with efficiency began to hold the team back. Siloed teams had difficulty making quick progress as work was handed off from team to team. Inconsistent processes also led to a lack of continuity across various projects.

IT leaders needed a way to become more efficient and handle the various projects going on at once. Their answer came in the form of restructuring into small cross-functional “swarms” that could see a project through from start to finish.

These “swarms” were essentially cross-functional teams designed to meet all the needs of a specific product, and contained every unique position needed to get a project done. Everything from software engineers to product managers, data scientists, and marketers were assigned to a single product, which, in turn, boosted communication, minimized handoffs, and increased ownership over time.

The goal of organizing teams in this way was not only to simplify the work process, but to also offer employees more autonomy, giving them everything they’d need to see projects through from start to finish, and the freedom to decide how to get there.

Maintaining Continuity

While creating autonomous teams can be empowering for employees, 1-800 Contacts still needed to way to keep the many moving parts all on the same page. They did this in a few different ways.

First, teams were directed to focus on specific KPIs that would lead the decision making of their swarm. This allowed team members to take ownership and make decisions around the way they’d complete certain projects while keeping individual teams on track and working toward common goals.

Ensuring that each team had a project manager was also a big step in achieving continuity, as project managers could help swarms see the bigger picture of the business, and ensure their efforts were in line with organizational goals.

Finally, the 1-800 Contacts team instituted standard tracking and reporting practices to keep the larger group all on the same page. To do this, each individual member of a swarm would report back to a “hive,” or a larger group of their departmental managers and teammates. Despite the complex projects and deadlines in the works, this swarm and hive mentality kept teams in check, while continuing to innovate and push forward at a rapid pace.

Success by the Numbers

The swarm methodology at 1-800 Contacts turned out to be a huge success in more ways than one. Some direct results of the swarm project include:

  • A reduction in production time from seven days to just two
  • An increase in employee satisfaction for those assigned to a swarm (based on surveys distributed within the company)
  • A huge spike in productivity, jumping from roughly 1,500 releases a year to being on track to surpass 4,200.
  • Diminished failure rates for product launches with the ability to correct errors much faster than before

Innovation often requires creativity and the ability to step outside the box. By committing to the unique idea of a swarm mentality, 1-800 Contacts has improved their operations and ability to deliver at a high level, thus improving relationships with their customers.

Leading transformation is just one of the areas in which Veracity Solutions has years of experience and expertise. For more information on how your teams can move from a project to product-centered mindset, download the white paper: The Project to Product Transformation.

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