The value of co-creation

The teams at Rally Software and Getty Images demonstrate the kind of business relationship that is possible, and likely necessary, to be a success in business today. Theirs is a story of co-creation. Rally is an agile project and program management technology and services company. The stock photography organization, Getty Images, needed to bring their business goals and software development process together in a real time (a key tenet of agile project management). The two companies met at the perfect time: Rally was in the process of building out its latest offerings, and it was able to get feedback early and often from Getty Images.
The result for Getty was a 20 percent increase in the efficiency of its software development throughput. At Rally, they gained increased insight into what tools their customers need to manage portfolios of information technology projects.
Nina Schoen, Getty’s senior director, planning and program management, describes their introduction to Rally’s preview of its upcoming agile portfolio management offering, Rally Portfolio Manager, as an “amazing coincidence.” Explains Schoen, “We were about to start moving to this new portfolio management workflow, and a team member knew that Rally was interested in a portfolio management offering … the feedback loop was instant. I’d never participated with a software partner like that. Catherine Connor [product manager at Rally] has amazing listening skills. She was really able to fit into our shoes.”
Getty had started the transition to lean/agile software development three years before meeting Rally. Getty was excited about the benefits of the new development approach, but Schoen notes that they felt their business stakeholders were distrustful and frustrated with the process. “We used Alan Shalloway from Net Objectives [consulting services] to understand what was at the root of the business dissatisfaction,” Schoen says. “It wasn’t around the technology, but rather around how we organized the work. It hit every single way we organize the work — new roles, how we manage the portfolio of projects at the exec level, how we set expectations around delivery.”
The Rally/Getty co-design highlights how technology and organizational practice can be built together to achieve clarity around needs and expectations. Schoen says that before the technology and organizational redesign,

Our planning process was flawed. ‘Here’s what we’re going to do in Q1, Q2 …,’ but when we looked at the list it was probably four years worth of work. The priorities were unclear. Our businesses didn’t know who to contact to get what done and how things got decided. We had steering meetings where we came to consensus, but it was a very imperfect model.

The situation improved after the process change and the implementation of the Rally Portfolio Manager preview. “We now let lines of business set their own priorities,” says Schoen. “There’s less disruption as things are more visible. Accountability is back in the hands of the business where it should be. We don’t set time frames until we’ve started something and know a lot more. So many companies build road maps that are just plain wrong. Now we have the trust from our executive team — things are going to change, we’re going to learn more …”
Schoen says that they didn’t receive any pushback from the businesses:

We’d gotten to a point where the problems had become clear to the company. This change was really a process change that had a toolset … Changing how people think about how things work is always hard, but we got through it. It helped that we have a culture of change at Getty Images — that [the businesses] have a voice.

Co-creation is a deep form of transparency. With transparency, you can see the project developing. With co-creation, you can tailor the design.
Getty was able to rebuild, a Getty Image website that is critical to the entertainment area of its business. Schoen says, “That site had a lot of functionality that was unique, but we wanted to make that functionality available on other sites. Because of the new workflow we were able to bring that to customers a ton faster, potentially six months faster, a bit of wild guess but probably true. And they love it.”
And what did Rally gain?
Rally could see the explicit and tacit needs Getty had in its process. “This led to the delivery of Rally Portfolio Manager, which makes Rally a single system of record for both business and agile development teams to gain visibility into development progress,” said Catherine Connor, product manager.
Co-creation, available to use through better communication and changing norms, is one more step in reducing barriers between what a business needs and what it can get from its suppliers.
How else can co-creation speed up and improve our professional relationships?
Image courtesy of Flickr user lumaxart.