Rashim Arora, the vice president, operations – India at CDK Global, a global provider of integrated technology solutions to the automotive industry, is a seasoned and result-oriented professional with over two decades of experience in global roles across India, the US, and multiple other geographies.
In an interaction with People Matters, Arora dwells upon ways to achieve a successful agile transformation for an organisation, the future of agile thinking, data-driven HR and the importance of using people analytics in the post-pandemic world and how a 'skill-based approach' is helping in modern-day talent management.
What are the important aspects of a successful agile transformation for an organisation?
To respond to rapid changes in technology, consumer demands, workforce dynamics, and regulatory requirements, the most successful businesses will need to become more adaptable in all aspects of their operations. As a result, the need for agile transformation is increasing more than ever.
Agile (transformation) brings in a culture where everyone focuses on continuous improvement, embracing change, and constantly delivering value.
There must be specifically defined key focus areas for technology leaders to accelerate successful enterprise transformation journeys and develop an agile culture. Embracing agility is a transitional process that affects not only the product development team but also the way that personnel across all departments thinks and behaves.
There are some important aspects for a successful agile transformation like coaching, mentoring, and multiple pieces of training of basic and SAFe agile practices, adoption of essential SAFe and Leaders playing RTE (release train engineers) role.
While a strong focus on core and advanced levels of processes is needed, a great deal of focus is also required in terms of building a mindset. It takes a strong commitment to an organisation's most valuable resources, its people, and talent, in order to become truly agile.
Making a roadmap of the transformation's important components can be useful for tracking progress, determining where and when to reroute, and gauging how well the transformation is going.
What is the future of agile thinking?
Since the time agile (thinking) was introduced, I’ve seen it foray into different industries as a problem-solving tool as currently, organisations intend on adapting to a customer-centric model. Over the years, agile has expanded its scope and has grown beyond domains and teams.
As organisations are moving towards a data-driven approach, it is necessary to combine agile with technology, which is also considered to be its future. In my opinion, agile must be very closely married with technology to expect maximum output. As we aspire to adapt ourselves to a customer-centric model, it becomes increasingly important for us to not look at agile as just a two-week sprint, but rather as a mindset around which we are able to convert customer aspirations.
Organisations need to be more flexible with their approach to agile and the purpose that they want agile to have, in the future. They need to build roadmaps according to the priorities, which they attach to different software. For agile to develop from a framework to a mindset in the future, the focus areas should be shifting from working software to delivering value, outcome orientation over defining features, and solving problems over implementation solutions.
Precisely generating value is going to be the highest measure of success. Agile is going to focus on short releases – A week to even day, shift leftwards, dedicated capacity for innovation, strong DevOps, and 100% measurement of outcomes.
What are the various ways to structure your product team for maximum efficiency in the new era of work?
All leading software companies that build great products constantly focus on anticipating the evolving needs of their users by concentrating heavily on growing their product management capabilities and creating processes and functions that help them deeply understand their customers.
To get there, it’s important for organisations to become more agile and stay focused on how they develop products.
To be efficient in the new era, it’s important to transition to a more product-oriented organisation that simplifies the team structure, defines clear accountability, and evolves into a place that drives industry-leading innovation.
At CDK Global, to restructure our product team efficiently, we have a new operating model that positions product managers (PMs) as the main orchestrators and product decision owners who are empowered with end-to-end accountability across the product development lifecycle.
These PMs also closely collaborate with marketing, sales, and customer success to support commercialisation-scaling activities. To enable this new model, we have also made several changes around centralising the product and engineering teams, evolving portfolio planning and strategy, integrating the P&L structure, and establishing a new platform and architecture function to improve consistency and utilisation of these capabilities across our portfolios. This allows us to build on an integrated common foundation.
What are your views on data-driven HR and the importance of using people analytics in the post-pandemic world?
People often mistake people analytics to be the same as HR reporting.
People analytics is an approach to apply data-driven insights to enable better decisions, better talent outcomes, and finally, achieve better business objectives. Nowadays, HR professionals have shifted from an operational to a strategic role, by partnering with the business and using people data to support the business objectives. In general, not just because of the pandemic, people analytics does have a critical role in strategic workforce planning.
People analytics means focusing on the engagement of employees, and it is supported by business analytics, thereby linking it to the KPIs and metrics for the business.
On the business side, as an example, for the agile teams, there should be agile-related metrics, defect-related metrics, burnout charts, velocity metrics, etc. While the metrics give a sense of direction, outcomes are what should be measured in order to see whether a company is going in the right direction.
Organisations are facing a challenge to embed data analytics in day-to-day HR processes consistently. Collection of data isn’t just enough, instead, organisations need to focus on building an analytical mindset for HR professionals and ensure to equip them with analytical skills.
Recruiting and hiring, and employee management are the areas where AI and data analytics are being used the most to improve workforce management decisions.
How is collaborative tech-driven learning a key to the future? How can you promote it?
At least 50% of the entire working population will need reskilling by 2025 as the adoption of technology increases. Now, many companies are realising this and appreciating the benefits of upskilling their internal talent to fill skills gaps. This requires a holistic HR vision that is supported by an innovative learning architecture. Organisations are also increasingly interested in initiating metric-based approaches where they are able to measure the impact that L&D is creating on business growth.
The strategy should be closely aligned with the learning roadmap of the organisation. Not only the L&D initiatives but also cross-learning of technology-based initiatives and programmes are an important element as a part of tech-driven learning.
The outcome-based development programmes create a positive impact on our ability to lead change. The programmes can be a leadership development framework, which is designed to explore possibilities for growth and development: with a larger purpose of providing a career path and growth track for employees so that they see a career instead of a job.
How is the 'skill-based approach' helping in modern-day talent management?
While the traditional approaches to learning are great, in the times to come, they are not going to be much relevant. Learning will become more research and development-based, more proof-of-concept-based, and it will have more of a pull approach instead of a push.
Any employee will be capable enough to project their own ideas and in the entrepreneurial era, they will be the ones taking the idea forward. Right now, most organisations use a push approach for learning, where they’d educate the employees about the programs through training but if we intend to stay ahead of the curve – we must really get used to a pull-based learning approach.
And at the end of the day, we want to build a culture where the employee’s career is driven by them, and amply supported by the organisation. If it is the employee’s prerogative, they must decide – what, how, and when they want to learn, and in the process, they will duly benefit the organisation as well.
With the rapidly expanding gig economy and knowledge gap, L&D serves the triple purpose of reskilling and upskilling employees and enhancing the innovation quotient.
The top two areas of development in today’s times are leadership & management development and role-based upskilling and reskilling. Attracting and retaining talent across workspaces currently, is an impact of effective learning and development, as employees only stay in a role if they feel they are valuable to the organisation, and the role is of value to them and their career development. HR managers have quoted how training is beneficial for employee attraction and retention.