About a month ago I was speaking at DevExperience in Iasi, Romania, and I had the absolute pleasure to meet Georgiana Ghiciuc – an inspiring and charismatic lady, the founder of Beaglecat, and her team. We had a nice conversation around the impact of Lean and Agile on the IT sector and business in general. With Beaglecat’s kind permission, I am publishing a transcript of the interview.
Beaglecat: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do on a daily basis? We’re really curious to learn about your work and how you deal with your daily challenges.
Zornitsa Nikolova: My background is in IT. I have spent more than 15 years working in corporations. Last year I decided to move out of corporations and start my own business, and also to try and help smaller businesses to leverage what corporations do and know. Basically, I try to bring all of the knowledge I have to communities. I started with the company I’m currently a managing partner of. We offer Agile coaching, training, Agile implementation services to companies. Apart from IT businesses, very few companies are aware of this. I find this way of thinking and working with what Agile brings to the table really crucial for the advancement of IT, and I think that somehow we need to make it popular outside of this industry, because other businesses could benefit a lot from it.
BC: Do you have clients that are outside the IT industry?
Z.N: We are currently working with a few financial businesses, but mostly with their IT departments, actually. But it’s OK. If we start with the IT departments, it can expand outwards. I know that in other countries the banking sector is very aware of Lean and Agile, but in our region it’s still a new thing and there’s potential to influence and do stuff for all of those companies.
BC: What is the one tip you would give companies wanting to implement Agile?
Z.N: The first thing that companies need to be aware of when they go for Agile is that it’s not just changing their process or operations. In order for Agile to work properly, it requires a change in the organizational culture. In Agile we talk about openness, transparency, but it’s actually easier said than done. Many people still have a mindset and a mentality that sometimes prevents them from being open and from admitting where things went wrong or what could have gone better. Organizations are concerned about how it could possibly work for them if they don’t have strict timelines and a fixed goal. The old-fashioned way of running projects doesn’t work very efficiently, but they’re still reluctant to taking the Agile approach because without experiencing it, it’s hard to fully understand its benefits – how it works, the dynamics of an Agile team.
When we go to a customer that has no experience with Agile, what we normally suggest is to start with something small, so that there is a success story that can actually help later with making Agile popular within the organization.
BC: What are the technologies that could influence the way you work and the services that your company provides?
Z.N: A crucial thing would be any technology that enables us to reach people faster and in a more efficient way – both us as trainers and consultants, but also within virtual teams. Nowadays there are many tools, but I’m still missing a really robust way to work virtually.
BC: How much does your customers’ feedback matter in how your services turn up?
Z.N: In Agile, there’s a lot of focus on the customers. All the services that we offer are personalized, so we rarely go for a standard set of techniques or a standard service. What we do is first try to understand the need of the customer and then suggest what we can do for them.
BC: What will the world look like in 2030 in your opinion?
Z.N: Everybody knows that the world will be connected, but apart from that I think that all this technology boom that we’re experiencing right now is really great. I really believe what people say that we are on the threshold of a new industrial revolution. What usually happens after an industrial revolution, historically speaking, is a leap in the standard of living and in the wellbeing, overall, so what I’m really hoping for is that we, as businesses, will be able to leverage what will be going on in technology to create a much more sustainable way of doing business. And by that I mean sustainable both for the environment and for the people. We see a lot of people burning out these days because of all the pressure, so I really hope that we’ll start using technology in a smart way in order to move to a sustainable way of doing business and of living.
BC: Agile methodologies are not restricted to the IT sector, but do you think that they would be applicable to the publishing industry or to a marketing company such as ours?
Z.N: Absolutely! The basic principles of Agile bring a lot of sense to any business. We are currently talking about the human-to-human side of businesses, and I think that in marketing, for example, it’s even more so. Agile is bringing some tools and some frameworks that support you in this way of doing business, in being close to your customers, being more flexible to accommodate the changes in the environment. Being in this dynamics that we are now in any area of business, I think it makes sense to look at Agile practices. Maybe they cannot be taken 1:1 in any industry, but if we follow the basic principles, I’m sure that these practices will also emerge in other businesses.