The Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia (ZZZS) conducts its business as a public institute, bound by statute to provide compulsory health insurance. Its principal task is to provide effective collection and distribution of public funds to ensure the insured person’s quality rights arising from the said funds. 

Given its public institute role, it could traditionally not really be at the forefront of rapid change and innovation. However, the outside world with demographics, digitalization, and other changes keeps putting pressure on them. There were signs that their internal IT development needed to adjust to keep up with the pace of change and increasing scope and complexity of mandated projects. 

That need was also confirmed by a thorough external assessment done by Peter Graselli, AITSA, in cooperation with FRI and Vitron. One of the recommendations was to do a pilot project introducing Agile/Scrum to two of their teams. That’s where CorpoHub stepped in. 

Voranc and Matej from CorpoHub had a series of alignment and preparation meetings with Peter and Branko Rudolf, newly-appointed head of IT, and Tanja Lovšin, head of HR. Needless to say, strong support by the ZZZS general manager was a prerequisite and a good foundation for necessary changes that agile transformation brings to an organization.

As we kicked off in December 2020, it was obvious that we will be online/remote first, which later sadly turned into online/remote only. Combining that with the awareness that we are about to introduce agile changes in the organization where stability and rather strong adherence to hierarchy and authority is the name of the game, we proceeded slowly and cautiously. In the beginning, we could sense that – through our video meeting screens – on the other side, too. A bit of skepticism, a bit of fear, a bit of reservation, a bit of WTF. After all, unlike the core agile self-management principle, its start was still a top-down mandate.

Nevertheless, we proceeded with our fervent conviction – we know no other way – to distill and get across the Agile/Scrum mindset, values, principles, tools, and ceremonies. Slowly, but surely things started moving along, with Voranc and Matej acting as interim Scrum Masters for the two teams. Both teams settled for 14 days Scrum Sprints, with Sprint Review, Retrospective, and Planning on Wednesdays and Scrum “Daily” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We would meet in dedicated MS Teams rooms, all cameras on, all the time. That does make all the difference. For backlog and tasks, we used MS Planner, and for freeform debate – Retrospective and other – we used JamBoard whiteboard.

ZZZS Introducing Agile

Pretty soon, healthy debate, sometimes contentious, sometimes even conflicting, as it should be, started arising. Different views, different ideas, and different solutions. Self-management and team autonomy started forging to a certain degree, one of Agile/Scrum’s central tenets. Pretty soon, both teams renamed themselves (Wolfpack and SuperBus), readjusted their Daily frequency as they saw fit, and rearranged their MS Planner Backlogs and Kanbans to better align with other tracking and reporting needs. A good sign of ownership and initiative

From sprint to sprint, an increasing amount of laughter and good spirit was felt during team sessions. While Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives kept surfacing different issues to be addressed and resolved, it was clear that that’s very normal and actually expected in the Agile/Scrum way of working. While effectively planning and developing, maintaining a cool team culture and vibe that wants to and does relentlessly keep improving, from sprint to sprint.

We parted ways at the end of February, the overwhelming feeling on all sides was one of accomplishment, improvement, and growth and nobody actually wants to go back to the old ways. Job well done.

ZZZS Introducing Agile

Andrej, Marjana, Metka, Peter, Romana, Samo, Sonja, Boris, Jose, Jože, Martin, Mitja, Robert, and Žiga turned out to be a really cool gang, and we still plan to see them in person and have a beer with them after the lockdown. A “Beertrospective” 🙂 Cheers!