Our Point of View

Pivoting Toward the Customer: Vodafone’s Story

This blog brought to you by Danielle Roper of the Agile Business Consortium.  See the video of Vodafone’s presentation here:  Vodafone UK Digital: A Blooming Success! Cultivating Vodafone’s Agile Garden

Pivoting means changing your business strategy to adapt to market needs or improve revenue. The process can involve changes to the product, service, target customers, platform, or revenue model and can be large or small. 

It is not however, a risk-free solution, especially for a company with a well-established brand.

How to pivot the right way 


It is important to know when to pivot and, when doing so, it helps to use a customer-centric approach. Let’s take a look at Agile Business Awards marketing agility winner Vodafone to see what they did and what the outcome was

Vodafone’s story

During the Covid 19 pandemic, life, for us all, seemed full of risk, but this didn’t deter one of the world’s best known mobile phone companies from undertaking one of the biggest changes in its history. 

An organisational restructure before Covid 19 hit had already resulted in a changing set-up and some colleagues leaving. This was then followed by the Covid lockdowns, something none of us could ever have anticipated.  But rather than bemoaning the inconvenience of working from home with remote teams, company leaders instead repositioned the pandemic as fertile ground for innovative ways of working. 

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Enter the Dragons!

Vodafone’s digital marketing team, or ‘Digital Dragons’, as they were known, spent their days working from home finding ways to deliver exceptional experiences for Vodafone’s customers, such as the company’s new market-leading 5G customer pages. 

But despite this great work, there were still issues that needed to be addressed. Dr Chris Spackman, Scrum Master Chapter Lead, uses a garden analogy to explain: “In the beginning, like a tender shoot emerging from the soil, the dragons required nurture and care. We faced challenges, uncertainties and the need for growth.” 


“Then, as the Digital Dragons soared, our sister team, known affectionately as ‘Drive By’, were struggling to find their wings.” 

Acknowledging this, the digital leadership team asked if they could replicate the success of the small, six-person Digital Dragons team by forming a mega-squad – ‘one single, aligned, agile team, to uncover better ways of working for more of our people’. 

Planting the seeds

Enter Creatrix, the new and bigger and (soon to be) improved digital marketing team! 


Dr Chris describes the progress: “ Whereas the Digital Dragons had one colleague go through Scrum Master Light, 4 members of the Creatrix team, including our Product Owners, immersed themselves in it.  


“Through this initiative we empowered individuals to become advocates of agile practices, igniting a flame of innovation that spread throughout Creatrix. Those individuals were also encouraged to view themselves as leaders in their own right, both within the team and within our wider business area.” 


But there was still some metaphorical ‘watering’ to be done.   


Dr Chris recalls: Our stakeholder engagement required a change in mindset and approach, so we introduced daily 15 minute stakeholder calls which became a bridge, fostering open dialogue and transparency between the team and the stakeholders. 

“The forum gave the team space to share their challenges, questions or queries directly to the stakeholders who often had the answers to those questions, whilst on the flip side, stakeholders themselves could receive the status updates so often craved for, whilst giving space for recognition and celebration.  


“In this way, Creatrix began to send up these shoots of growth.” 


So what were the other seeds of this growth? 


Dr Chris highlights the strong bond between the product owner and the scrum master. He explains: “They were clearly aligned on their roles and responsibilities and worked together with people in the team at the heart of decision making. 

The Scrum Master Light programme, ‘a programme of discovery to nurture advocates and embrace acts of leadership at all levels’ was also, he adds, instrumental.  

The next challenge

So, great progress had already been made but the garden wasn’t ready yet… 


The content management system had been pushed to its limits so the leadership team decided the organisation needed to migrate more than 600 pages of content from the old content management system to a new one called ‘Contentful’. 

The strategy for this required using the Vodafone intelligence solutions team. ‘VOICE’, based in Hungary.  


Spencer Allen, Senior Scrum Master, remembers: “We had the budget and the people but the challenge was how to replicate the same elements of the successful Creatrix culture and make the new team as effective in 5 short months during our busiest trading season of the year.” 


“Following our garden analogy, we took a glasshouse approach for the migration squad, taking the essence of what made Creatrix a success and delivering to the new recruits in a simple, concise way.  


“Our product owner Linda and I provided the newly assembled team with a vision, deadline, sprint framework, reporting and framework process, as well as expert support from the creative team to ensure consistency and the quality of pages being converted. Most importantly, we ensured that both teams had time for fun and bonding because a team that plays together stays together!” 


Continuing the fun and games that Dr Chris had already begun to bring to his team’s work, Spencer introduced quizzes and games where team members could win points. 


He adds: “I also introduced Thankful Fridays across both teams in the final daily scrum of the week. I’d record points for each team member thanked by a colleague, or a stakeholder, for work completed. This really helped bring the team closer together and the stakeholders closer to the team. I’d then reward the team member with the most points at the end of the quarter with a £10 Amazon gift voucher and a trophy money can’t buy!” 

How successful was the pivot?

Spencer describes how both the Creatrix and the VOICE team excelled: “The VOICE team constantly delivered their target within plus or minus 10 per cent for a consecutive 16 sprints. 


“This team also registered the highest recorded mood scores of any team using the tool in Vodafone – a massive 7.8 out of ten compared to a 6.3pc Vodafone average. They said this was because it was easy to understand the process they were working with and they felt super supported by the Creatrix core team throughout.” 


He recalls how, despite being located remotely in Budapest, the VOICE team consistently reported ‘feeling like they were one team with those in the UK’.  


And the Creatrix team? 


Spencer explains: “The final quarter of the year at Vodafone is massive. From a commercial viewpoint, it is the busiest time of the year with a team delivering ‘the 3 peaks’: the Christmas, Black Friday and Winter Sale campaigns over an intense 2 months.  


“These 3 peaks have become multi-peaks, each commercial launch being multi-phased, meaning a lot more work than the previous year, with essentially the same size squad. 


“To meet this challenge, we invited the Scrum Master Light graduates to step forward to own their own launches, with each volunteer being responsible for forming their own small team to deliver their designated campaign.  


“So while the VOICE team were in full flow, the Creatrix team had another 3 Peaks to deliver as well as supporting their colleagues delivering the migration. 


“The pressure was well and truly on to deliver multi peaks and the migration all before last Christmas!” 

The Outcome

But happily, both teams rose to the occasion. Spencer explains: “For the first time we were able to assemble the throughput and mood data for this period and present it along with the commercial data. In doing so, we were able to celebrate the biggest month of effort and value delivered by the team. During the same period we also had the highest mood score posted by Creatrix so far, proving they had been busy but happy.” 


He adds: “The conversion rate for the site has also risen by 0.2 percentage points and we had our most successful training months in October and November, right in the middle of migrating the most valuable pages on our commercial journey. 


 “It has been a bountiful harvest for a hard Winter’s work!” 

Great trees from little acorns grow…

Looking back on their agile journey, Dr Chris sums up their recipe for success: “We embarked on a journey akin to tending a garden. We needed to cultivate trust, foster camaraderie and establish different ways of working. 

“It was here that the journey to expand our ways of working and ethos began and leadership placed trust in me and the team to deliver without any explicit direction.” 

Attributing the team’s flexibility, and positive response to change, to the great foundations and the pivotal role played by team members who demonstrated acts of leadership, he concludes: Teamwork has made our agile garden grow. “Make sure you take the time to smell the flowers and harvest what you’ve grown!” 

Watch the full video here: Vodafone UK Digital: A Blooming Success! Cultivating Vodafone’s Agile Garden (agilebusiness.org) 

Read more case studies from the Agile Business Consortium of how people have used business agility in their organizations here: Agile Business Case Studies | Agile Business Consortium